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Spanish 101: Disappearing Spanish Culture

3. Narrow Your Topic

Narrow SignOnce you've done some initial background reading, it's time to narrow down your topic to what traditions you really want to focus on.  Remember your assignment requirements and consider what you've read thus far.

Ask yourself:

What aspect of the tradition do I want to focus on?

What interests me about the tradition?

What do I want to write about?

As you start to narrow this down into a topic/thesis, you'll want to continue to look for more sources. As you research, you might tweak or adjust your topic/thesis.  In order to help you find more related sources about your topic, you'll want to identify keywords to help you search.

Keywords

As you think about what concepts you want to research, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic.  

While this assignment is using the general term of "Spanish" to include all parts of the world where Spanish is spoken, the library databases will not use that same definition. If you were to search "Spanish customs" in a library database, you would get results related to the culture of Spain. You may also consider searching a term like "Hispanic customs" to find resources about Spanish-speaking countries other than Spain. Try searching some of the below keywords to get started:

  • Spanish traditions OR customs
  • Hispanic traditions OR customs
  • Latin American culture
  • Day of the Dead OR Dia de los Muertos
  • Spain AND siesta

You can also combine different search terms to find articles connecting the two ideas. Unlike Google, library databases work best using connector terms, such as ANDOR, and NOT.

AND OR NOT
  • AND means you are searching both terms together.
  • Searching Spain AND siesta will get you results related to both the country of Spain and siestas.
  • OR gives you more results.
  • OR tells the database that you want results related to Day of the Dead OR Dia de los Muertos because those are similar terms that can mean the same thing.
  • NOT excludes terms from your search. 
  • NOT tells the database that you want to search one term, but you want to exclude any results that mention another term.

Keywords work best by trial-and-error. Never do only one search. Some keywords will work better than others, and some keywords may lead you to different articles than you found in your first search.  Search the databases with the keywords you selected to find relevant articles. And remember to ask a librarian if you need assistance coming up with keywords or looking for sources.