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HIST 407: Latin America during the Cold War

This guide brings together resources that will be helpful for your research project on the Cold War in Latin America


This photo was taken on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service march for victims of the La Coubre explosion. Pictured left to right are Fidel Castro, Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, Che Guevara, Regino Boti Leon, and ntonio Núñez Jiménez; picture is public domain.The resources here will help you to find primary and secondary source materials for your research project in HIST 407 Latin America during the Cold War.

The library’s reference collection is a good place to start research on your project. Reference books, located on the first floor of Knight or online, can provide you with ideas and help you find materials. Examples of useful books include:

Building a Search Strategy

Because your topics are broad, it’s necessary to create tight, structured searches. Most catalogs, databases and indexes follow a similar structure. Once you master this structure, you can maximize your search effectiveness and outcome, no matter what the topic.

Structuring your search

When you are beginning a research project, it is helpful to jot down some keywords and concepts for which you will be searching. Remember, different authors use different vocabulary; it is important to use different words describing the same idea or concept (e.g. Black, African American, Afro-American, Colored or Negro) or describing an idea at different levels of specificity (e.g. Amerindian, Native American, indigenous, Aztec) may lead you to different results in the same area.

Determining Search Terms

In most databases, you can search different fields (author, title, subject, etc.) or do a keyword search, in which every field is scanned. In researching a broad subject, it is important to consider the value of subject vs. keyword searching. Subject headings are created and pre-assigned to books when they are cataloged, whereas a keyword can appear anywhere in a record. Subject headings are more precise but must be entered in the correct format, whereas keywords will get more results.  Keyword searches may include materials that are appropriate but have different subject headings, but they also can include useless results. I usually start with a keyword search, find materials I like and use the subject headings assigned to those books to refine my search.

Any complex research project draws on the intersection of words, phrases and ideas. This is expressed in a search using AND, OR and NOT.

Books as Research Tools

Books are useful beyond the author(s)’ coverage of a topic. You can use a book to further your own research.

  • Look at the book’s bibliography. An author who writes about your topic undoubtedly used articles and books that may be of interest to you. Always look to see what materials the author(s) cited.
  • Books about history and historical events are secondary sources and the authors rely on primary sources to build their arguments. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to find primary sources is to look at the footnotes in the secondary sources you’ve found.
  • Look in the library catalog and other databases for other works by the author(s) of the book you’ve found. Chances are they’ve done other work in the same or a similar area.

Search for annotated bibliographies, books that compile a list of materials on a given subject (e.g. Glimpses of India : an annotated bibliography of published personal writings by Englishmen, 1583-1947 / compiled by John F. Riddick). But remember, a compiled bibliography is out of date as soon as it is published and may miss materials, so only use this as one tool. To search only for bibliographies, do an advanced search with one field set as a subject search for “bibliography.”

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David Woken's picture
David Woken
University of Oregon Libraries
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1299
(541) 346-1883

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