All Research Guides

CHST 222 The History of the Caribbean Guide

Subject Librarian

Val Lem Val Lem
(416) 979-5000 x6891

What do I need to use the library resources?

To access library resources, you need to start from the library website (here) or from Blackboard.  You will be prompted for your my.ryerson id and password when you attempt to access the library's subscribed resources (journals, databases, ebooks, etc.).   If you start with Google and are working from off campus, you won't be able to get in to the resources we pay for you to use. 

The my.ryerson id and password are the same for Ryerson email, Blackboard, and the library.

To check out physical books from the library, or to use Interlibrary loan, you will need a library card.

Where do I start?

If library research is new to you, look at the Research 101 tab in this guide.  If you need some help planning out the steps of your research assignment, or with time management, use the Assignment Calculator to give yourself deadlines for each stage of the research process.

You may want to also look at the multi-disciplinary Subject Research Guide for Caribbean Studies that includes resources for historical, literary, social and cultural studies of the Caribbean.  It has a Quick Facts page that identifies some print and electronic reference works that may be useful when beginning your research.

The steps below outline the basic steps for completing a research paper.  We also have an assignment calculator that you can use to manage your time and schedule these steps based on your deadline.

1. Start by Defining your Topic

Identify the main concepts in your topic, then phrase them as keywords and try to think of synonyms for your keywords. Use Boolean logic to formulate an effective search strategy. If you need help with defining your topic, ask at the Reference Desk, 2nd Floor, Library, or if you are off-campus, use the Ask a Librarian chat reference service.

2. Determine what Resources you Need

Consider what kinds of library resources you need. For example, does your assignment require you to find books? Journal articles? Peer-reviewed journal articles? Primary sources?  If you are looking for books, go to the Library catalogue. If you are looking for journal articles, including peer-reviewed journal articles, then click on the Articles tab in this guide, and then select an appropriate database from the listing. 

3. Identify Relevant Library Resources

Once you've executed a search and are reviewing results to determine relevancy, consider the following: How current is the resource - was it published recently, or is it dated? Is there a bibliography or footnotes? How often do the keywords you searched occur in the item record? If you are looking at journal articles, are they published in peer-reviewed journals? Asking these kinds of questions will help you identify which resources will be of use.

4. Manage your Resources

There are many citation managers (i.e. RefWorks, Endnote, Zotero) available that allow you to save the citations you find in library databases.  As you are discovering relevant library resources, you may wish to use RefWorks to create a folder of items you intend to use for your paper.  This will also help when you cite your references (see below).

5. Read your Resources and Write your Paper

Ryerson's Student Learning Support provides some excellent online resources to help you with this stage of the research process.  Check out their writing support services.  

A selection of online presentations, handouts, and tutorials of particular interest to this course are:

Critical Reading for Better Writing [powerpoint slides]

Getting Started on an Essay [online writing module]

Integrating Sources [online writing module]

Additionally, the Ryerson U Library and Archives has created the RU Search Tutorial that will guide you through the research and writing process.

6. Cite your References

Remember when preparing your bibliography to cite all of the references in your paper using the citation style required by your instructor. For CHST222, you will be using the Chicago Manual of Style.  The library provides access to the complete Chicago guide online.  For a shorter guide that highlights the most widely used rules of Chicago style, you may find the OWL at Purdue helpful.  Please also see the information available on RefWorks, a web-based bibliographic citation manager which allows you to create formatted bibliographies in the style of your choice.


Boolean Searching

Boolean Searching is an excellent technique to know in order to search databases like Historical Abstracts or America: History and life.  Knowing how to use ANDs and ORs to narrow or broaden your search can be great for improving the relevancy of your results and can save you time in the long run. 

Introduction to Boolean "operators"

When searching a database, first think of keywords that best describe your topic. Then combine these keywords using Boolean "operators" to broaden or narrow your search.

The Boolean operators are:




They determine how the computer searches for your keywords, and what information is returned to you.


The "and" operator tells the computer to search the database for every entry or record that has each of the words somewhere in the same entry or record. For example, if you want information on female slaves you might search the appropriate source in this way:

female and slaves

Venn Diagram of a boolean AND search

As illustrated in the above diagram, the computer goes through its database and first retrieves every record it finds with the word female and every record with the word slaves. It then combines the searches, and gives you only the records in which both words appear somewhere in the same record. This is a way of narrowing a search and making it very specific.


The "or" operator tells the computer to search the database for every record which has any of the words specified. Both words do not have to occur in the same record. For example, if you want information on either stress or anxiety, you might search the appropriate source in this way:

female or women

Venn Diagram of a Boolean OR search

As the above diagram illustrates, the computer then goes through the database and retrieves every record with female, and every record with women. This results in a very broad search.


The "not" operator allows you to remove a word from your search. It tells the computer to search for every record with your first word, and remove any record which also contains your second word. For example, if you wanted information the Caribbean, but not Caribbean cruises you might search the appropriate source in this way:

Caribbean not cruise

Venn Diagram of a Boolean NOT Search

As the above diagram illustrates, the computer goes through the database and retrieves every record with the word Caribbean. It then removes any of these records which also contains the word cruise, and gives you only those records with Caribbean, not Caribbean cruise. The not connector thus narrows your search.

Phrase searching :

This is the most restrictive type of proximity operator. You specify that the keywords will appear beside each other in the specific order. For example, West Indies. Depending on the database, the phrase may have to be enclosed in parentheses.

Truncation / wildcard symbols:

Truncation or wildcard symbols allow you to search for a root word and all of its various endings, or variant spellings. The symbols vary in depending on the database, but are usually *, ?, or ! Truncation symbols are usually used at the end of words, but in some databases can be used within words. For example, fem* would retrieve all words with the root design and any other endings, such as female, feminine, feminism, females, etc., wom?n would retrieve all records with women or woman.

Boolean Search Strategy - Putting it all Together

Planning a Search

  1. Identify the concepts in your search. 
  2. Think of synonyms and alternative ways of expressing each concept.
  3. Use truncation or wildcards where your word has various spellings or endings. 
  4. Arrange synonyms for the same concept in a group.
  5. Connect your synonyms with "or"s, and place in parentheses.
  6. Connect your concepts (or groups of synonyms) with "and"s, "not"s.

For example, if you are looking for information on female slaves in the Caribbean, you might search as follows:

(female* or wom?n) and slave* and (caribbean or west indies)


Peer Reviewed Journals

Scholarly journals have the following characteristics:

  • articles are reviewed by a panel of experts before they are accepted for publication
  • articles have footnotes and references
  • articles often contain diagrams and charts but few glossy pictures
  • articles are written by a scholar or specialist in the field
  • articles report on original research or experimentation
  • contain very limited advertising
  • are often published by professional associations
  • use terminology associated with the discipline

Video Tutorial: Finding Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Articles

Finding scholarly journals

Many of the indexes that the Library subscribes to support subject searches that limit results to peer reviewed articles.

If you are uncertain that the article you have found is scholarly, search for the title of the journal in Ulrich’s Periodical Directory. The full record of the journal will indicate if the journal is peer-reviewed/refereed.

Full record for a journal in Ulrichs


You can search for books and ebooks in the library catalogue. If you are having trouble finding books, ask a staff member for help. If Ryerson doesn't own a book that you need, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan or search the catalogue of a library you can visit.

Other sources for Electronic Books:

Scholars Portal Books (access to over 500,000 ebooks)

Internet Archive

Project Gutenberg

Hathi Trust Digital Library


To check out physical books from the library at Ryerson, or to use Interlibrary loan, you will need a library card.

If you are not living close to Toronto, but are close to another University in Canada, you may use their library collection through a direct borrowing agreement.

If you have trouble finding books on the Ryerson library shelves, try book finder or check out our video about reading call numbers.

Secondary Source Databases

Secondary sources are written after an event occurs. Books, films and journal articles are common examples.

Search Everything

Search Everything is a new search tool that will let you access the majority of the Library’s resources (online and print) with a single search.  It is extremely multi-disciplinary, so if you only want History or Caribbean Studies articles, you will probably also want to search one of the other databases listed below.

Search Everything searches across the entire full-text content from Ryerson’s authors in the Digital Commons Institutional Repository plus millions of full-text articles.  The search box below will include scholarly as well as trade, popular, and news articles.  Click on the scholarly button to exclude popular, trade, and news items.

Ebsco History Databases

Covers journals relating to all aspects of U.S. and Canadian history, culture and current affairs from prehistoric times to the present and the history of the rest of the world from 1450 to the present.

Primary Source Databases

Use these databases to find primary sources (diaries, letters, interviews, memoirs and other resources created by the person you are studying, or that were created in the time and place of your research topic),  Newspapers, photographs, maps, and manuscript documents and artifacts are also primary sources.  Additional sources may be found in the library catalogue.

Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, 1490 - 2007 

This resource on trans-Atlantic slavery and abolition brings together original manuscript and rare printed material from dozens of libraries and archives across the Atlantic world. Documents are presented alongside contextual essays contributed by leading academics in the field each essay will have hypertext links to the primary sources it discusses. Topics covered include the African Coast, the Middle Passage, the varieties of slave experience, religion, revolts, abolition, and legislation. The collection also includes case studies from America, the Caribbean, Brazil, and Cuba. This project provides access to many thousands of original manuscripts, pamphlets, books, paintings, maps and images.

A YouTube tutorial video explains how to use the Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice database with an emphasis on the Caribbean content.

Empire online
Empire Online brings together thousands of images of original manuscript and printed documents from libraries and archives around the world. Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Oceania and South Asia are covered. Published in five thematic sections, Empire Online is fully searchable and offers thematic essays by leading scholars, embedded with hypertext links which relate directly to the documentary evidence provided. The five sections concentrate on Cultural Contacts, 1492-1969 (Section I) Empire Writing and the Literature of Empire (Section II) The Visible Empire (Section III) Religion & Empire (Section IV) and Race, Class, Imperialism & Colonialism, c.1607-2007 (Section V).

Eighteenth Century Collections Online
Bearing witness to what many scholars consider the three most significant events in world history - The American Revolution, The French Revolution and The Industrial Revolution - this resource features: Full-text search capabilities Canonical titles of the period as well as contemporary works that analyze and debate those titles Works by both well-known and lesser-known authors. Ryerson has both original ECCO and ECCO 2.

Nineteenth Century Collections Online
The nineteenth century was the first great age of industrialization and technological innovation. It was an age of political revolution and reform, nationalism and nation building, the expansion of empire and colonialism, growing literacy and education, and the flowering of culture both popular and high. NCCO consists of monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, photographs, statistics, and other kinds of documents in both Western and non-Western languages. The content and its rich metadata is fully cross-searchable. Ryerson has access to Archive 1 (British Politics and Society), Archive 2 (Asia & West Diplomacy & Cultural Exchange) and Archive 4 (Corvey Collection of European Literature)

Globe and Mail, Canada's Heritage from 1844 Resource has Canadian focus
ProQuest Historical Newspaper The Globe and Mail (1844-2011) offers a wealth of historical resources through over 150 years of day-to-day history. The online database consists of the digitized full-image archive of The Globe and Mail newspaper dating back to when it was founded by George Brown in 1844 as The Globe. The content includes every news story, photograph, map, advertisement, classified advertisement, political cartoon, birth, marriage and death notices and letters to the editor from The Globe and Mail. Coverage of issues from early life in Canada West (formerly Upper Canada), Confederation, through the World Wars, major conflicts, first flight of man, and the sinking of great ships are all detailed and covered.

New York Times (1851 - 2006)
ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times is a unique full-image archive that brings you the entire historical run of The New York Times, the definitive voice of American journalism since 1851. It offers complete coverage from 1851-2006, with a new year’s content added annually.

Pages of the Past : the Toronto Star Resource has Canadian focus
This is an archive of Toronto Star, which includes over a century of regional, national and international events. It is available online, fully digitized, and searchable by date, keyword or subject. It is an electronic, full-text and full-image database of recorded history in Canada, dating back to January 1, 1894. The coverage is from 1894 to 2012.

Times Digital Archive, 1785-2006
Researchers can search through the complete digital edition of The Times (London), using keyword searching and hit-term highlighting to retrieve full facsimile images of either a specific article or a complete page. The entire newspaper is available, with all articles, advertisements and illustrations/photos divided into categories to aid searching.

Washington Post (1877 - 1992)
Includes all the articles published since the first issue of the paper in 1877. Provides full text and full image articles with digital reproductions of every page, every article and every issue in PDF format. In addition to news stories, includes editorials, letters to the editor, obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, photos, and advertisements.

Wall Street Journal (1889-1991)
This database offers full-page-images and article images from the Wall Street Journal from its first issue in 1851 to 1991. The collection includes digital reproductions of every page from every issue, cover to cover, in downloadable PDF files. The database is an ongoing project.

General Research Tutorials

RE:Search Modules (Help with the research process; select Ryerson History from the pull-down menu)

Finding Library Resources with Search Everything

Finding Scholarly Library Resources with Search Everything

Sources for your Research Papers:  What's the Difference between Primary and Secondary Sources?

The following YouTube video from the Hartness Library defines Primary and Secondary sources, when to use them, and examples of each.  Running time is 3:29.



Ryerson Theses and Dissertations

The Ryerson University Library and Archives (RULA) is a repository for major research papers, theses and dissertations produced by graduate students at Ryerson University.

RULA and the Yeates School of Graduate Studies are migrating to online submission of major research papers, theses and dissertations.  During this transition phase, there may be graduate work that is only available online, or only available in print.  To ensure as comprehensive a search as possible, please check both the Library catalogue and RULA Digital Repository.

1. Catalogue - to find graduate work related to a specific program of study, perform a keyword search in the catalogue using “ryerson university dissertations” AND a couple of key words from the program name, such as “civil engineering” or “communication culture” or “immigration studies”.  For example, to look for graduate work in Nursing, type in: “ryerson university dissertations” and nursing

2. Digital Repository - online copies of most of Ryerson's theses and dissertations are available in RULA Digital Repository.

Theses from other Universities

1.  Google -  to locate a specific theses or dissertation, enter the title in Google or Google Scholar, as many universities are digitizing graduate work. 

2. Theses Canada Portal: provides electronic access to the full text of many Canadian theses and dissertations.

3. Proquest Dissertations and Theses: provides access to the full-text of over 400,000 Masters and PhD theses from 1997 onwards. In addition, citations are provided for over 1.6 million doctoral dissertations and master's theses from 1,000 North American and European graduate schools from 1861.

4. Open Access Theses and Dissertations (OATD): provides access to open access research from over 800 colleges, universities and research institutions around the world.

5. DART-Europe E-theses Portal provides access to research theses from 555 universities in 28 European countries

6. NDLTD-Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations is an international nonprofit organization promoting the dissemination of electronic theses and dissertations.  It includes finding aids for digital and some print resources.

7. Canadian Theses = Thèses canadiennes [1947-1980 print; 1985/86-1995/96 on microfiches]: indexes masters and doctoral works from Canadian universities.  Most of the masters works and some of the doctoral works are not listed in PQDT nor Theses Canada Portal.  Other print bibliographies of Canadian theses may be of value including Canadian Graduate Theses: 1919-1967: An Annotated Bibliogrpahy (Covering Economics, Business and Industrial Relations) and Jesse J. Dossick's Doctoral Research on Canada and Canadians, 1884-1983.

Naxos Music Library

Naxos Music Library is the most comprehensive collection of classical music available online. It includes the complete Naxos and Marco Polo catalogues of over 130,000+ tracks, including classical music, jazz, world, folk and chinese music. Whilst listening, you can read notes on the works being played as well as biographical information on composers or artists in Naxos’s extensive database.

You can select works by composer, artist, period, year of composition, instrument or genre. Playlists can also be easily created for educational use. Naxos’s new releases (currently around 200 CDs per year) are continually added to ensure that the music library is always complete and up-to-date.

It is not possible to download or burn to CD any music on Naxos Music Library.

Naxos Video Library

The Naxos Video Library brings you an extensive streaming video library of classical music performances, opera, ballet, live concerts and documentaries. It includes the Naxos DVD label, Opus Arte, Arthaus, Dacapo, EuroArts, among others and is continuously updated to offer the best selection of performing arts videos.

An online search engine, allows users to search by composer, production, artist, venue, role or genre.

Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries

Produced in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, this is a virtual encyclopedia of the world’s musical and aural traditions.  It includes in the world music section a collection of albums from South America and the Caribbean that has content from many distinct parts of the Caribbean.

  • The Danish West Indies - Danish State Archives
    Records created before 1917, concerning the small Danish colony consisting of three islands, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix that were sold to the U.S.A. in 1917 and are now know as the United States Virgin Islands.
  • The National Archives (UK) – Caribbean Histories Revealed [Open Access]
    Provides brief history of the British Caribbean through government documents, photos, and maps dating as far back as the 17th century. Covers topics including: People’s migrant, social, and cultural history; slavery; region in global context, and perspectives on current social and political climate for the region. Glossary of relevant terms as well as useful reference and external links list.
  • The National Archives (UK) - Caribbean Through a Lens - Explored! [Open Access]
    The National Archives has been working with community groups to share and explore our collection of Caribbean images. The National Archives’ collection of Caribbean images are drawn from the Ministry of Information (INF 10) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (CO 1069) and span over 100 years of history.
  • Virgin Islands Digital Collection [Open Access]
    Powered and created by The University of the Virgin Islands Division of Libraries, Archives & Museums. The collection includes items such as: funeral booklets, historical photos, newspaper articles, project introspection materials (educational packages for grade school students, covering regional history and customs), research reports and occasional papers.
  • Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC)
    “A cooperative, digital library for resources from and about the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean. The website provides access to digitized versions of Caribbean culture, historical, and research materials currently held in archives, libraries, and print collections” (cf. about page).
  • Historical Maps of the Caribbean Basin
    More than 500 historical maps from the State University Libraries of Florida.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are documents or objects created at the time of an event or shortly afterward.  They contain first-hand accounts of events.  Primary sources may exist as original documents or in mass produced formats.  All of the following can be primary resources:

  • diaries
  • letters
  • memoirs and autobiographies
  • photographs
  • interviews
  • speeches
  • sound recordings
  • video or film
  • art and artifacts
  • maps
  • newspapers
  • documents such as laws, statutes, and treaties

Secondary sources are second-hand published accounts of events and are created after an event occurs.  They often interpret and analyze primary and other secondary sources to support arguments about the past.  Common secondary sources include:

  • books including textbooks
  • biographies
  • documentary films about historical events
  • magazines and journals

The following YouTube video from the Hartness Library defines primary and secondary sources, when to use them, and examples of each.  Running time is 3:29.

Finding Primary Sources in the Ryerson Library's Main Catalogue

Use keywords for your topic or historic person along with one of the following words:

  • archives
  • charters
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • documents
  • interviews
  • letters
  • manuscripts
  • notebooks
  • oratory
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • pictorial works
  • sources
  • speeches


slavery caribbean sources

caribbean speeches

caribbean documents

jamaica history sources

Databases that include primary sources and some secondary journal articles are listed on the bottom half of the Articles page in this research guide.

© 2021 Ryerson University Library & Archives Research Guides