Writing in Chicana/o Studies

“Why am I compelled to write?... Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger...To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit... Finally I write because I'm scared of writing, but I'm more scared of not writing.” -- Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Students in Chicana/o Studies (CHS) courses will be compelled to write, because as cultural theorist Gloria Anzaldúa points out, writing allows us to come to terms with the self, gain self-confidence and courage, and to imagine a better world not yet born. Some will be scared and will hesitate to write, but even more frightening is remaining silent and accepting a world that is not quite right.

Chicano/a Studies focuses on the people of Mexican and Latin American descent within the Western Hemisphere, in particular within the United States and the wider diaspora. Thus, it is important to understand the sociolinguistic diversity of this population. Some may have grown up without speaking Spanish because it was prohibited in schools, others may have spoken Spanish at home, English at school, and may have learned “Spanglish” as a third language, and still others enrolled in bilingual programs or dual-language programs thus became fluent in both languages, and finally there those who are Spanish dominant and learning English as a second language.

Writing Expectations in Chicano/a Studies

Faculty in Chicano/a Studies expect that entering students will come with some foundational writing skills, including the ability to write a clear, concise and complete sentence, to write a topic sentence, compose a thesis statement, and compose an introduction and conclusion. We also expect students to use multiple pre-writing strategies, understand your target audience, have familiarity with one citation format, revise written work, and of course respond to essay questions.

By the time you complete your coursework, you will have further developed your writing skills. We expect that upon graduation from Chicano/a Studies, you will have become familiar with different types of writing assignments (i.e., Counterstories). You should be able to use critical reading strategies (see the Critical Reading Guide that follows for assistance), revise and edit written work and resubmit to an instructor, and provide good feedback about writing and research to your colleagues. We expect that you’ll meet with instructors for help with writing assignments.

By graduation, you should be able to complete an original 8-10 page research paper that includes formulated research questions and a developed thesis, an argument built with evidence and data, original conclusions, and a response to the “so what” question which refers to the implications of your topic. You should also be able to write a community engagement reflection paper and incorporate interdisciplinary perspectives into your writing assignments. You will be expected to cite sources appropriately using different citation formats. Finally, you should be able to present your research findings to class and campus audiences.

Types of Writing Assignments

As a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary field of academic inquiry, Chicana/o Studies contributes to all fields in the humanities and social sciences, including professional programs such as education, business, nursing, and health sciences. CHS does not have one standard citation format but uses a wide variety of formats. For this reason, students will find a wide variety of writing assignments in Chicana/o Studies courses:

  • Identity Reflection Papers
  • Collaborative Writing
  • Testimonios
  • Book reviews
  • Counterstories
  • Lesson plans
  • Comparative Analysis papers
  • Community Study Papers
  • Journal
  • Neighborhood Radius Assessment Profiles
  • Photo Essays
  • Creative Writing
  • Research Paper
  • Journal Article Critiques
  • PowerPoint Presentations
  • Community Engagement Reflection
  • Literature Reviews
  • Position Papers
  • Research Proposals
  • Daily Writing
  • Abstracts
  • Response Papers
  • Film Reviews
  • Summaries

Student Resources

CI offers tutoring (both drop-in and appointment-based) at the University Writing and Multiliteracy Center located in the 2nd Floor of Broome Library.

Check out UC Berkeley’s Writing Resource Guide

Check out Purdue’s Online Writing Lab

Check out UNC’s Online Writing Center for handouts

Faculty Resources

Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. (San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987)

Gutierrez Jones, Carl, ed. Rebellious Reading: The Dynamics of Chicano/a Literacy (UCSB Center for Chicano/a Studies, 2004).

Ybarra, Raul, Learning to Write as a Hostile Act for Latino Students (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2004).

Harklau, Linda and Kay Losey, Meryl Siegal, eds. Generation 1.5 Meets College Composition: Issues in the Teaching of Writing to US Educated Learners of ESL (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1999)

Kalmar, Tomas Mario, Illegal Alphabets and Adult Biliteracy: Latino Migrants Crossing the Linguistic Border ( New York: Routledge, 2000)

Kells, Michelle Hall, Victor Villanueva, Valerie Balester, eds. Latino/a Discourses: On Language, Identity, and Literacy Educatio (Porstmouth, NH: Boyton/Cook, 2004)

Kirklighter, Cristina, Diana Cardenas, Susan Wolff Murphy, eds. Teaching Writing with Latino/a Students: Lessons Learned at Hispanic-Serving Institution (State University of New York Press, 2007)

Villanueva, Victor and Geneva Smitherman, eds. Language Diversity in the Classroom(Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition 2003)

Critical Reading Guide

By Prof. Jose Alamillo

  1. What is the study about? A critical evaluation of book cover & introduction.
    • Does the book’s content adequately reflect the book title? Was there a content bias towards certain groups, locations and time periods?
    • Analysis of the image(s) and text in the front and back cover? Which audiences is the book targeting and why?
    • Do you agree with the author’s main argument in the introduction.
    • Why does the author organize the book in a particular way?
  2. How Does the Study fit into what is already known? A critical review of the existing literature (in the Introduction) situates the book within an academic context and introduces major theoretical concepts. (Usually located in the first chapter)
    • How does the study fit into what is already known about the subject matter?
    • How does this study fill in the gaps in previous studies?
    • Which books or articles are most closely related to this study?
    • Explain whether the author identifies the main problem(s) that remain unresolved and how the book attempts to resolve it.
  3. How was the Study Done? A critical evaluation of theory and methodology. A brief section (at the beginning or end of a book) that explains whether quantitative or qualitative methods were used.
    • Explain the author’s rationale for choosing the methods.
    • Explain how the author’s disciplinary background in relation to the methods used.
    • Why did the author choose certain individuals or groups to study?
    • Identify and explain which theoretical approach(es) were more effective.
    • Identify and explain which theoretical approach(es) were less effective.
  4. What Was Found? A critical evaluation of main findings.
    • Explain the main findings in relation to the main argument of the book.
    • Do you think the findings support the author’s main argument?
    • Which data presented (numbers, graphs, tables, interview excerpts, field notes, observations, and photographs) is more effective in supporting the main argument.
    • Explain an additional finding that the author overlooked.
    • What is missing in the book’s findings?
  5. So What? What do the book’s findings really mean? This section is the conclusion with the author’s commentary about what lessons have been learned.
    • Who cares? Why is this important? Why is this not important? What does it matter? Will it ever matter?
    • Explains the social, economic, and political implications of the study?
    • How will the subjects benefit from this study?
    • Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?
  6. Now What? How can we implement the book’s findings?
    • What do we do NEXT? What future research is needed on this subject matter?
    • What kind of game plan do we need? Do we need a game plan?
    • How we take what we learned from this book and convert it into action in the community we’re working in?
    • How can the general public be more informed regarding the book’s content.
    • What is the plan of action for communicating the book’s findings to the general public?