Researching Topics Associated with Women and Migration and the United States

There are many starting points for conducting research.

What's the first place most people turn to for any "research" question today?
You guessed it, the free Internet.
It may be first, and it may have some good leads, but real "research" can't end with free Internet sites.

Starting First On The Free Internet

Things the free Internet is good for:

  • Buying things
  • Quick fact short answer questions, such as driving directions to a particular location, time a women's basketball game starts, hotels and restaurants in a city, etc.
  • Rather precise searches: "National Organization for Women"| "Duke Journal of Gender, Law & Policy" | "women immigrants" "United States" health care OR "healthcare"
  • Quick way to find out something about just about anything
  • News. Exs: CNN, NY Times, etc. --- and also women's news sources, such as Women's Enews, Feminist Majority News Search
  • Getting information from organizations (.org sites) about issues. Ex: Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence
    • Keep in mind: They offer their particular perspective/opinions/slant on issues
Things the free Internet is not so good for:
  • Rather general searches. Ex: women's studies
  • Careful standardized, indexed terminology and usefully organized presentation. To be comprehensive, you need to think up lots of synonyms and permutations; variants make a difference. Try the search women immigration and then the search "women immigrants" and compare the results (A fuller search using synonyms would be women OR gender "immigrant women" OR "women immigrants" migrant(s) OR migration OR immigrants)
  • Getting to academic/scholarly/analytical articles and other research that is on the free web, but weeding out extraneous, outdated, non-scholarly, personal statements, ads, and factually incorrect information -- results are a hodgepodge

Things that make free Internet searches somewhat better, for academic assignments:

Examples of using the free Internet for ideas and as a springboard to academic/scholarly info:
Search : "women immigrants" Latina OR Latino in Google.

Some of the results:

... that often contained extended family members; they ... social services influenced Latina
immigrants' intentions ... LATIN AMERICA, WOMEN, IMMIGRANTS, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ... revue83-84/11-83-84_a.html - 10k - Cached - Similar pages

This item is a table of contents from -v.31, no. 1 (Spring 1997) of the journal International Migration Review. Use the browser "find" tool and see where "women" occurred on the page. The article is "Undocumented Latina immigrants in Orange County, California: A comparative analysis" (p. 88-107). If the article is of interest, then look for the journal by name in Madcat. The Madcat record tells us that it is available in Proquest (1994-present) and JSTOR (back issues -- not the last 3 years). Go into either one and search for the journal, then the volume/issue. In Proquest, the links for this issue of the journal are in alphabetical order, stretching over 3 web pages. The 3rd page has the link to the fulltext of this article.

This is an academic article. What makes something an academic article?

"Sí se pudo, sí se pudo"
... bowling alley June 22, where more than 100 friends, family and supporters ... The 38 workers,
primarily Latina women immigrants, ended their eight-and-a-half month ... 412/412_11_Carousel.shtml - 10k - Cached - Similar pages

This item reports on the success of a strike by Latina women immigrant workers in a linens service for union recognition. Is this an academic article?
If not, this report could still be a source of ideas for a topic to research and keywords to use in a search. You might also want to see if and how this strike was reported in other news media besides the Socialist Worker (For mainstream papers, try Lexis-Nexis/ news category: U.S. News/news source: Midwest regional news, search for Carousel Linens in fulltext and previous two years in date range. For the perspective of the Hispanic American press on workers rights, try Ethnic NewsWatch, Spanish-language publications.). If you decide you'd like to research the topic of immigrant women workers and their rights and unionizing efforts, try a keyword search in Madcat for women and workers and immigra? and union? and in various databases, using the correct format for searches in those databases.

Databases to try for this and other searches: Academic Search and Proquest among the general (all topics) databases and GenderWatch, Contemporary Women's Issues, Women's Studies International among the women-focused databases.


Starting First in Madcat

Notice how often we needed to consult Madcat above. In many ways, Madcat is a better place to start researching a topic.

Things Madcat is good for:

  • General searches, starting with keyword(s) anywhere in the record
  • Standardized subject headings -- no need to put in a variety of synonyms once you see subject headings on point.
  • Academic/scholarly books and book chapters
  • Finding location on campus of books, journals, etc., including links to electronic versions
  • Finding some content-rich items on the free web that have been catalogued

Things Madcat is not good for:

  • Finding articles within journals
  • Very current topics that have not yet been researched/analyzed by scholars (exs: Howard Dean's campaign, the movie "Kill Bill"
  • Getting to most of the items in the catalog electronically (most are for print materials) and immediately (need to find most physically in libraries)


Keyword "women immigrants" and "United States"


  • The list retrieved has a high degree of relevance to the search.
  • All the books with the author space blank are anthologies, works with many contributors and one or more editors. Each chapter or essay is about as long as a journal article.
  • There is some variety in the types of subject headings the cataloguing records use for the books retrieved.
  • Keyword: (communit? or network?) and American? and women and immigrant?

  • Where do the keywords turn up in the cataloging records?

  • Starting First in Women's Studies International Database

    Advantages to WSI:

    • Combined index to books, articles in women's studies journals, dissertations, reports, conference papers, and some websites on women/gender
    • If you've tried a variety of search terms and nothing turns up on your topic in this database, that probably means there isn't anything written about it -- or enough to do a paper on it, and you should consider changing topics.

    Disadvantages to WSI

    • Items indexed require further look-up through .
    • WSI is a composite database from several sources, including the UW System Women's Studies Librarian's Office, and the subject terms are retained from the sources (not standardized across all of WSI), so best to add synonyms in your search


    ALL WORDS search: immigrant* "United States" violence

    ALL WORDS immigrant* "United States" AND ANY WORDS network* community* social*

    ALL WORDS immigrant* "United States" AND ANY WORDS activism organiz* empowerment

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    October 14, 2003.