Skip to Main Content

SPA 353 Introduction to the Study of Language: Spanish (Cabrera)

A research guide for Professor Cabrera's class, Introduction to the Study of Language: Spanish.

Some tips for getting started

1)  Generate search terms for your topic in both Spanish and English. 

2)  Remember to think about using synonyms/related terms.  For instance, if you are working on something related to language in education other words that could be used for education might be school, classroom, teaching, learning, etc..

3) Start by searching for articles in Spanish using your Spanish search terms.  You will likely get far fewer results as our databases have a strong English language focus for scholarship.  Look in the left hand column of the database for a Language menu where you can select Spanish.

4)  Now switch it over to looking for articles in English.  Make sure you undo the limit for Spanish!  You will likely find a lot more materials and may need to make your search more specific at this point to narrow things down.

5) While searching try a trick called truncation.  Truncation means cutting a word down to the stem and then adding an * (asterisk) to the end.  It tells databases to search for all forms of the word.  So typing in bilingual*  will search not only for bililngual, but also bilingualism.  If you cut it down all the way to biling*, you will also be including the Spanish word bilingue.

6) Try cross searching several databases at once!  Many of the databases below come from the same vendor-- EBSCOhost.  After you log into one, look for a link that says Choose Databases right above the search boxes.  You can use that to add other databases from the list that apply and search them all at once!

7) If you run into an article we don't have, use our ILLIad interlibrary loan system to request it!  It is a free service for students and only takes 1-2 days to get most articles.


How language affects the research process

  • Library tools use their own type of language for searching that uses keywords and subject headings instead of long phrases, sentences, or questions.  Using the latter type of language will often result in very few results, since the database search algorithms can't interpret it.
  • Scholars often use very specialized language.  If you can figure out what that language is for your topic, you will often have better results.
  • Some topics will have fixed terminology that makes them easier to research (e.g., "code switching").  Others have extremely variable terminology (e.g., depending on context, someone writing about language use in the business world could also use words like workplace, at work, employment, career, or job).  Topics with variable terminology are often harder to research, at least at first.

Finding WCU Libraries' books

Don't forget to look for books on your topic!  They are more likely to provide and overview!

You can find books via the search box on library homepage.  

Step 1:  Enter your search terms and use the pulldown menu labeled "All Items" to select "Books".

Library homepage showing main search box and All Items limiter

Step 2: You will see results for both ebooks and physical books.  Links to full text and/or location information are located under each title.  If you forgot to limit to books, you can still do it on this page right under the search box.

Library search interface showing results and option for limiting to books under search box.

Step 3: Want to see books that WCU libraries don't own, but could get for you?  At the top of the left-hand column, click on "Expand results beyond my library."  When you see "No full text" under an entry, click it to see options for requesting it from another library (you will need to log in to do so).

Expand results beyond your library is an option iunder Narrow My Results


Databases for finding journal articles

Core Database

Supplementary Databases

Databases from other disciplines that might have articles related to language and language usage.

This is not a comprehensive list of our databases!  If none of these match up with your topics well, please email me your topic and I can advise on databases for other subject areas!
If you are not finding enough, you can also try our library search tool, which cross-searches all these databases and many more.

Advanced Research Strategies

Plan on several rounds of research As your thesis evolves, you will find that you need more sources to support your arguments.  Most big research projects include at least 3 rounds of research: 

  1. gather general sources to help you narrow your topic
  2. find more sources that exactly match your refined thesis
  3. a third round to fill in gaps that may not be obvious until you start writing.

Check the footnotes/bibliography of every book, article, or website you find that is even vaguely on your topic.  This is a big part of how professors do research and can save you a ton of time.  See Finding Articles from a Bibliography  and Finding Books from a Bibliography for a reminder of how to find the full text.

Interlibrary Loan is essential.  If you complete your LIN 411 project without getting anything from outside this library, you probably haven't done great research.  If we don't own an article that looks good to you, request it!

Search in multiple databases.  This is especially essential for the topic of this class.  Bilingualism is a topic of interest to many disciplines and the best databases will vary by topic.

Always read the abstract.  It can be hard to tell what an article is really about based on just the title.  If it looks like it is anywhere close to your topic, it is worth taking that extra minute to read the abstract. 

Search using both Spanish and English search terms.  Do Spanish first, because you will likely get fewer results (because of the focus of our databases on scholarship in English).  Then repeat in English.

Keep organized.  You are going to have a lot of sources.  Set up a system for keeping track of them that works for you.  Some of our databases have folder systems for saving sources.  We also have a university subscription to Endnote or you could use a free option like Zotero or Mendeley.

Love Google Scholar?  You need to set it up to talk to WCU Libraries (find Library Links under the Settings option). That will allow you to access articles for which .

Ask for help!  If you feel stuck in your research, set up an appointment with me.

Strategies for when you get stuck!

  • Go back to looking at websites (or books) to get some concrete examples or more specific terminology.
  • Talk to your professor about your topic.  They may be able to help you adjust your topic or come up with more concrete examples or terminology.
  • In a database, grab a couple of the closest matches you have found (make sure they are recent) and look through the bibliographies for sources that look good.  Look up the titles in the Library Search tool to see if we have access to them.
  • Or search for the titles of the articles in Google Scholar and see who has cited them.
  • In a database, look at the results that are coming up for your searches.  If something catches your eye, you may be able to realign your topic a bit to match the existing scholarship.
  • Stop by the research help desk, chat with a librarian, or make an appointment with me! 

Did you know that you can get posters printed at the library?  The IMC on the lower level of Green Library has a high quality poster printer and low fees for printing.  See their page on poster printing for details, as well as lots of great tips on what to do (or not do) on your poster!

West Chester University   ---    WCU Libraries  25 West Rosedale Avenue, West Chester, PA 19383  610-430-4400