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US Latinx History Research Guide

A guide for patrons researching the history of U.S. Latinx communities at the UO Libraries.

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Selecting the Right Number of Keywords (Video Tutorial)

Check out the video from Kimbel Library to help you locate scholarly journal articles in library databases. 

The video is licensed under a Creative Commons (CC) BY-NC-ND 3.0 license: http://tinyurl.com/2t9all

Keywords and Latine Identities

Keywords: A Critical Reflection

Research in Latinx Studies requires critical attention to the keywords you use--perhaps even more so than other fields.

People of Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese descent in the United States are not a monolith. Therefore, no one term will ever fully capture the diversity of identities, ethnicities, nationalities, races, and experiences which are grouped under terms like "Latinx," "Latine," Latino/a," "Hispanic," and "Hispanic-American."

The very desire for one all-encompassing term to describe this diverse mix of people comes from academic, governmental, and activist impulses and strategies to identify labels for groups--despite the fact that many individuals within those groups do not use or prefer to describe themselves with those terms. 

Variations in Keyword Use Related to Identity

Here are some essential keywords to keep in mind, depending on the kinds of sources you are looking for:

A table of terms used for various Latine identities

Term Explanation Searching Tips
Latino, Latina, Latin@ Commonly used adjectives in books, book chapters, articles, and mass media that allow gender binaries of masculine (o), feminine (a) and masculine/feminine (@). Latino as an adjective reflects the acceptance of the -o ending in Spanish to describe a group of people that includes men, or as a default when gender is not specified. Latin@ is used to encompass masculine and feminine.

Use a wildcard symbol like * to search for latin* or latin?s, depending on your database's preferenes

Latinx, Latine Latinx and Latine both reject the gender binaries of masculine/feminine to embrace gender neutrality. Latine is a more recent development that reflects a preference to use the "e" rather than "x" as a gender-neutral ending because it is easier to pronounce in speech. Both tend to be used in progressive and activist-leaning publications, whether academic or popular/mass media. Either search Latin* with the wildcard, or use multiple terms (Latine OR Latinx) in your searches
Hispanic Term used by the U.S. Government to collect census data, thus a common keyword in demography, politics and media. It is also a term that many use to self-identify, along with the Spanish hispano/s.  
Hispanic-Americans Key term to use when looking for books, since this continues to be the standard Library of Congress subject heading used to catalog books about Latines in the United States.  Learn more about LCSH from Wikipedia and how to use them to locate items
Chicano, Chicana,  Chicanx, Chicane Refers to Mexican-Americans, particularly in relation to activist movements of the 20th century.  

Afro-Latino, Afro-Latina, Afro-Latinx, Afro-Latine

Terms used to describe people of African and Latin American descent. Not a Library of Congress subject heading. Search also for African AND (Hispanic OR Latin*)
African-American, African-Americans Library of Congress subject headings that may be used in combination with others for books about Afro-Latines.  
Black, Blacks Library of Congress subject headings that may be used in combination with others for books about Afro-Latines.  
Puerto Rican, Puerto Ricans Commonly used across publications, including Library of Congress subject headings. Also try boricua, which may appear in titles and texts, but not subject headings.  

Mexican-American, Mexican Americans

Cuban-American, Cuban-Americans

Venezuelan-American, Venezuelan-Americans

etc.

Hyphenated nationalities are commonly used across publications and in Library of Congress subject headings (often without the hyphen):

Search for both hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions by using ("Mexican Americans" OR "Mexican-Americans") in your search

Detail of a book in LibrarySearch showing Subjects: Mexican Americans; Additional subjects: Mexican Americans

Cubans -- United States

Mexicans -- United States

Venezuelans -- United States

Colombians -- United States

etc.

Try subject searches for nationality AND country when looking for academic resources.

Use LibrarySearch to search with all or part of LCSH. Combine parts of subject headings with AND to find materials with both terms

LibrarySearch for Cubans AND "United States"

A screen capture of a book's details showing Subjects: Cubans -- United States; Additional subjects: Cubans; United States

Thanks to Rachel Stein (Tulane) for allowing re-use of this table under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

Boolean Searching Infographic

Thanks to IUPUI University Library for allowing reuse of this graphic under a Creative Commons license.

Boolean search infographic - text description available at link

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Choosing the Right Keywords Matters

Green key icon from Noun Project

The keywords that you type into any search box makes a difference, especially when finding academic or scholarly work.

Why? For example:
  • Researchers and those in the field may use a subject-specific word.
  • Not everyone uses the same word to describe the same topic. Consider how many words there are for "job" and their slight meanings.
Tips:
  1. Make Sure you Get it All
  2. Avoid Sensationalism
  3. Be Skeptical - Write Down Your Questions As You Read
  4. Choosing the Right Words for Academic Conversations
  5. Check Google or Wikipedia to learn what Terms Researchers use
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