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ETHN/SOC 207 (Lopez) SP24

Picking a Topic

1. What are your Interests?

  • Be Curious: Reflect on course topics that intrigue you.
  • What topics resonate with your personal experiences, community issues, or societal concerns you're passionate about?

2. Background Research

  • Test your topic by searching websites and reference databases, like Gale eBooks, to learn foundational knowledge on your topic. Do you see sources written about your topic? After reading them, are you still interested in it?
  • Identify Keywords: While conducting background research, pick out important terms, historical events, key figures, and relevant concepts that will help you delve deeper into the topic.

3. Narrow Topic

  • Consider specific issues, events, or aspects of your initial topic. Use the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) to help.
    • Broad topic -  Hispanic heritage in the United States
    • Narrow Topic - The role of Hispanic heritage in shaping community identity in Southern California.
  • Test this narrowed topic in databases and Google.

4. Create Research Question

  • Apply the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) to create a research question.
    • How have traditional Mexican culinary practices influenced community connection among Mexican American families in Southern California?
  • Evaluate Question: Check in with your professor to get feedback on your question. MiraCosta librarians can help too!

Scholarly Articles

What is a Scholarly Article?

Scholarly (or Academic or Peer-Reviewed) Articles are:

  • Written by experts in the subject
  • Published in an academic/scholarly journal and may share the expert's original research
  • Peer-reviewed (checked by other experts prior to publication)
  • Use technical language
  • Use many in-text citations & cite many sources
  • Often include data, tables, charts, and graphs 


1. Locate keywords in your research question by identifying the main concepts


What role has American media played in furthering the anti-immigration movement?


2. Create synonyms/related terms of your main topics.




United States




Fox News


  Facebook Border wall




Social Media



Creating Good Keywords

  • Spelling counts! Not seeing many results? Double-check your spelling.

  • Try "Phrase Searching" - Place quotation marks around keywords you want to keep together.

    • Examples: "social media" "Mexican American"

  • Use AND to link terms in the database. For example: "Mexican Americans" AND "social media" combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms.
  • Use OR to find either term; this is especially useful with synonyms. For example: Latina OR Chicana combines terms so that results contain either of your terms.
  • Think about how experts in the field would phrase the concepts you're researching and try those terms in your search.

Keyword searching is not an exact science and you'll need to experiment with many different combinations to find the best ones.

Popular vs Scholarly

Suggested Databases