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SPAN 402: Nineteenth-Century Latin America: Finding Criticism

Best Practices for Identifying Scholarly Secondary Sources

Selecting the best or most appropriate finding aid for identifying sources depends almost entirely on the context of your research project. There is no single database or web search interface that will work for every research context; instead, you'll need to match your specific research needs to a variety of options. 

1. Start with the information provided in tertiary sources!

  • Look up specific titles of books in Primo, or journal titles (not article titles) in Primo Journal Search.
  • Use the vocabulary in the subject encyclopedia entries as search terms in databases.

2. When searching Primo or a database, pay attention to the subject headings in your results. You can use the vocabulary or click to do a new search for that heading. You'll be surprised at what you discover this way! 

3. Mine the bibliographies in other secondary sources. You may find one secondary source that is not quite right for your project; however, it may cite another scholarly source that would be just right!

4. Select the best sources, not just the most convenient sources. This may mean requesting a book from SUMMIT and/or an article from Tipasa, both of which take about two to five days to arrive.

5. Make sure you have a method for keeping track of your research (what you searched and where) and organizing your sources. Using a citation manager (e.g. RefWorks or Zotero) or a synthesis matrix to organize and evaluate what you've found.

Search Primo

Search Collins+Summit+Articles

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Collins Library, like most academic libraries in the United States, uses Library of Congress Subject Headings to describe the content of books. 

You only need to be an observant user of Primo -- not an expert in the use of subject headings -- to make them work for you. Availing yourself of frequently used subject headings will help you locate secondary sources easily. Use subject headings to search for resources related to a specific author or work, in addition to literary themes or movements, genres, and/or critical approaches.

Here are several examples of the various ways you can use LCSH to help pinpoint what you need:

Blest Gana, Alberto, 1830-1920 -- Criticism and interpretation

Latin American fiction -- History and criticism

Latin American fiction -- 19th century -- History and criticism

Literature and society -- Latin America

Nationalism in literature

Reading a Call Number

Collins Library uses the Library of Congress classification scheme to organize books on the shelves. Follow these tips to find the book you need.

Example:

Foundational Fictions PQ7082.N7 S58 1991

  • Start with the top line. It is in alphabetical order. Ex. PQ
  • The second line is a whole number.  Ex. 7082
  • The third line is  a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal, eg. Y.23, Y.34, Y.344, Y.4, etc. Ex. .N7 S58 (*Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.)
  • The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order. Ex. 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015, etc. Ex. 1991

Use the library location chart and map to find where the book is located.

Featured Books

A sampling of potentially relevant books is listed below.

Subject Databases

Key Resource

Need help navigating the MLA International Bibliography? View the following tutorials for in-depth explanations of MLAIB's search functionality:

 

You may wish to search these additional subject databases. 

E-Journal Collections

These e-journal collections provide access to many journals in the humanities, but they are more limited in coverage compared to subject databases. In most cases, it's better to search subject databases to identify articles, and then search the journal title in Primo to link to the materials in these e-journal collections.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches open access materials as well as items from many publishers, including some of the resources to which Collins Library subscribes. However, Google Scholar only searches a fraction of the published scholarly literature. 

Google Scholar can also help you find articles which have cited an article or book that you have found. Frequent citation is often (but not always!) a marker for a particularly influential scholarly work.

Step 1: When looking at search results, check for the 'Cited by X' link underneath each result. That will tell you how many subsequent articles (that Google Scholar is aware of) have cited this particular article or book.

Step 2: Click that link, and you will be taken to a new set of results, all of which have cited the original article, which will still be listed at the top of the page.