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Research Guide Department of Spanish and Portuguese: Research Process

Research Topic

Your topic should facilitate a critical approach that integrates some of the theories covered in your course.

Your research topic may be born through different channels:

  • Read your syllabus carefully and pay attention to a topic covered in class that you found interesting and that you do not know much about it.
    • You may choose a topic that is related to the central theme of the course and is of interest to you.
  • Expand on a subject that is highlighted in one of your readings.
  • Browse online media to gather topic ideas.
  • Browse background sources to gather topic ideas.


Finding a research topic may take time, so ask yourself some questions:
  • Do I have a strong opinion on a subject?
  • Is there a topic that interested you from your readings?
  • Is there a topic that keeps coming to your mind?
  • Did you learn of a topic that called your attention in discussions with friends?
Sometimes topics change as you move forward in your research process and this is normal.

Research Question

Your research question will be related to your topic. This question usually answers a matter that has not been covered by previous scholarship.

Developing Research Questions: Your Purpose

Consider where your questions will lead you. Will your questions:

  • Compare and contrast
    • How is topic X alike or different from topic Y?
    • How is your contribution different from other authors?
    • How is the same topic covered by different authors?
  • Associate your topic with another 
    • How did a topic happen in relation to another topic?
  • Interpret the state of your topic
    • Explain the significance of X and how you can measure this significance
  • Explore possibilities or outcomes
    • What are the consequences of X
    • How does X affect Y
  • Lead to a call for action or change
    • What are the recommendations you may offer to the issue presented in your paper?
  • Argue for a particular stance
    • Present opposing views and argue in favor or against a view


Topic: The Power of Semantics in Contemporary Mapuche Poetry: Interpreting meaning in the poetic work of David Aniñir and Jaime Huenun Significance: Latin American Indigenous authors have emerged profusely in the 21st- century mastering poetry and short stories. However, there is a need for linguistic scholarship that refers to word meanings and word relations in the literary work of current Latin American Indigenous authors.

Exercise: Your Research Topic

See Strategy: Formulating Questions for more information.

Keep your Topic Manageable

Remember that a research topic can change over time if you are not finding sources to corroborate your argument.

Tips for keeping it manageable

  • Select a geographical area: country, region, state
  • Select a societal group: First Nations in South America, LGBTQ, Latinxs
  • Select a time period: Latin American dictatorships in the 1970's and 1980's
  • Select a subtopic: If your topic refers to economic success in the Southern Cone, your subtopics may be copper, export growth, trade

background Information

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators help you connect, expand or exclude your searches. There are three Boolean operators, which must be written in capital letters to differentiate them from conjunctions:

AND: This operator helps you connect. In a search with the operator "AND" all the terms must appear in each article or book on the response page. Your search terms may appear in the title, the abstract, or the content.
OR: This operator expands your search. The operator OR works well when using synonymous of a search term, related terms, and other terms related to your topic.
NOT: This operator excludes search terms. The operator NOT is useful to filter searches.



Note that I am using mostly nouns as search terms.

Amazonía AND Brasil  AND conservación OR "pérdida ecológica"

Amazonas OR Amazonía OR selva amazónica

yeísmo AND Uruguay OR devoicing OR diachronic approach OR dialectology

cine argentino AND 1930's OR Argentine national cinema

transnational features OR influences of jazz AND early Brazilian film musicals

Cine indígena AND identidad NOT Méjico

fricatización AND /r/ OR fricación OR frication OR genre OR género

seseo OR ceceo AND Granada OR Sevilla OR Andalu* 

variación lingüistica OR linguistic variation AND préstamos AND cambio de código

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