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A method for generating coherent, polarized, and tunable X-rays using a single laser pulse is provided. An ultrashort laser pulse is fired into a plasma. As the laser beam travels through the plasma, some of its photons are backscattered, e.g., through Raman backscattering, to generate a counter-propagating photon beam that is co-linear with the original laser beam. When the backscattered photons interact with high-energy accelerated periodic electron bunches, coherent X-rays are generated through Compton backscattering of the photons off of the electrons. The energy of the backscattered X-rays can be tuned by tuning one or more characteristics of the laser pulse and/or the plasma.