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Caribbean Studies Guide

Subject Librarian

Val Lem Val Lem
(416) 979-5000 x6891

When using the Search Everything tool, you can refine your results to scholarly and peer-reviewed journal articles.  See the Boolean Searching tab for tips on effective searching.  Specific indexes and databases that include articles about the Caribbean are:

Sociological Abstracts
CSA Sociological Abstracts abstracts and indexes the international literature in sociology and related disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences. The database provides abstracts of journal articles and citations to book reviews drawn from over 1,800+ serials publications, and also provides abstracts of books, book chapters, dissertations, and conference papers. Records published by Sociological Abstracts in print during the database's first 11 years, 1952-1962, have been added to the database as of November 2005, extending the depth of the backfile of this authoritative resource.

Historical Abstracts
This database contains abstracts of articles from 2,000 journals relating to the history of the world (excluding Canada and the US) from 1450 to the present. Also included are abstracts of important books in this field. This database provides indexing of more than 1,700 academic historical journals in over 40 languages.

America : History & Life Resource has Canadian focus
America : History & Life is an index of literature covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. With indexing for 1,700 journals from 1964 to present, this database is an important bibliographic reference tool for students and scholars of U.S. and Canadian history. Strong English-language journal coverage is balanced by an international perspective on topics and events, including abstracts in English of articles published in more than 40 languages.

The KITLV catalogues contain references to books, periodical articles, manuscripts, maps, charts, videotapes and audiotapes owned by the KITLV Library. The Institute's objective is the advancement of the study of the anthropology, linguistics, social sciences, and history of South East Asia, the Pacific Area, and the Caribbean. Special emphasis is laid on the former Dutch colonies of Indonesia, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

Academic Search Premier
Academic Search Premier provides full text for over 2,000 academic, social sciences, humanities, general science, education and multi-cultural journals. In addition to the full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for approximately 3,500 journals. Most journals are peer reviewed.

ProQuest Research Library
ProQuest Research Library provides access to full-text journals across a wide range of subject areas, including business, education, literature, political science, and psychology. Over 2,600 journal titles are covered. Nearly two-thirds of the titles covered in Research Library offer complete articles in the ASCII full-text, full-image, or Text+Graphics formats. An extensive backfile dates from 1986 onwards for many publications.

CPI.Q Resource has Canadian focus
CPI.Q provides comprehensive coverage of over 400 Canadian and international periodicals. All subject areas are represented, with an emphasis on mainstream and academic titles available in Canadian libraries.

Project MUSE
Project MUSE Premium Collection offers 300 humanities, arts, and social sciences journals from 60 scholarly publishers. Project MUSE covers the fields of literature and criticism, history, the visual and performing arts, cultural studies, education, political science, gender studies, economics, and many others.

JSTOR is a full text digital archive of core scholarly journals with complete back runs of many titles. As part of JSTOR's agreement with publishers, current issues (usually the last 3 - 5 years) are not digitized by JSTOR and may be obtained elsewhere. The Ryerson University Library has access to the entire content of JSTOR's archival journal collections: Arts & Sciences I Collection, Arts & Sciences II Collection, Arts & Sciences III Collection, Arts & Sciences IV Collection, Arts & Sciences V Collection, Arts & Science VI Collection, Arts & Science VII Collection, Life Sciences Collection. Also Current Subscription collection: access to individual subscriptions by University of Chicago Press, University of California, etc.

Search for books and films with Caribbean content using the Library Catalogue. If you are already aware of the specific item you’re searching for you can simply search by Title or Author, by selecting the appropriate tab. If you do not have a particular item in mind you can perform a Keyword search. When you find some useful items, open the complete catalogue record and consider modifying your search by using the types of words used in assigned subject headings for the item.

Be specific.  If you want to restrict your research to one geographic region such as Jamaica, use the word Jamaica in your search rather than only more general phrases such as "west indies" or "caribbean area".

When searching an exact phrase, place it in quotation marks.

Use the truncation symbol (an asterisk) to broaden a search.   Thus, "west indi*" will search for west indies, west indians, west indic and any other phrase starting with the letters: west indi.

Books published prior to 1923 or otherwise out of copyright and in the public domain may be found online from sources such as:

Internet Archive
Hathi Trust Digital Library

Google Books is great for works in the public domain.  For works still under copyright, you may be able to preview a few pages.

For background information on your subject, you can consult reference books (dictionaries, encyclopedias, directories, handbooks). Reference works on various sub-genres of Caribbean Studies include:

Caribbean Literature:

Caribbean History, Culture & Sociology:

French/ Spanish Studies:

Encyclopedia of Latin American and Caribbean Literature 1900-2003
The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Latin American and Caribbean Literature, 1900--2003 draws together entries on all aspects of literature including authors, critics, major works, magazines, genres, schools and movements in these regions from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day.

Oxford Reference
Reference library that includes subject dictionaries, the World Encyclopedia, English dictionaries, including the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, bilingual dictionaries of French, German, Spanish, and Italian, and entries from Oxford Companions and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

AV materials are located on the 5th floor, and are listed in the Library Catalogue. For a quick way to find videos, search by Keyword, and type in your keyword(s) followed by the word "videorecording"; i.e.:

            (Caribbean OR “West Indies”) AND “videorecording”

You can also use the AV/Multimedia Search bar and simply type in a related Keyword or perform a movie title search.

Selecting and Evaluating Your Sources

Peer Reviewed/Scholarly Journals (video, 2:43)

Evaluating Internet Resources

Cite Your Sources and Use a Standard Format for Your Bibliography

Understanding Citations

It is important to cite all your sources and use a standard format for your bibliography.

Format the citations in your bibliography using examples from sources such as the Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) standards. These are available on the Web. Check Citations and Style Guides.

When searching databases, including Search Everything,  make use of the Boolean Search operators AND OR NOT. 
You may want to nest synonyms within parentheses to ensure correct search results.

Use these operators in conjunction with Quotation Marks to identify exact phrases, and the Truncation Mark (usually an asterisk) to broaden your search to various words starting with the same letters.


Topic:  Recount the origins and current socio-economic conditions of Guyana's East Indian residents.

Search strategy: ("East Indian" OR "South Asian" OR Indo-Caribbean) AND Guyana AND history 
In the example, various terms that may be used to identify the ethnic group East Indians are grouped into one concept separated by the word OR; all are nested in one section by the parentheses. 
Instead of Guyana, you may want to try Guyan* in order to pick up similar words like Guyanese.  You may even consider alternate spellings and former names of the area in a search such component such as (guyan* OR "british guiana")

Historical/ Cultural/ Sociological

  • 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.
  • Caribbean Cultural Studies. Com
    A scholarly website that engages in an informed discussion of cultural studies and the Caribbean. A valuable guide to relevant literature, paintings, sculpture, photos, film and video, and performances. Also houses information and links to Caribbean Studies journals and organizations.
  • Small Axe
    Home to the independent journal of Anglo-Creole content, which is devoted to social, cultural, and political criticism. The website also showcases creative visual work by Caribbean artists working in the region and elsewhere. These pages provide artist profiles and bios, as well as photos and digitized versions of their work. Library has: online edition of Small Axe journal from 1998.
  • Latin American Studies Association (LASA)
    LASA is currently the largest professional association in the world for institutions and individuals engaged in the study of Latin America. Website provides information on the LASA International Congress, special exhibits and important dates, and also links to their publications: Latin American Research Review (scholarly, online access through library from 1965-current) & LASA Forum (open access online from Fall 2006).
  • 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 numerous archives, libraries, and print collections” (cf. about page).
  • Digital Library of Trinidad and Tobago

Immigrant/ Racial Studies

  • Trans Africa Forum
    “The oldest and largest African American human rights and social justice advocacy organization. The organization promotes diversity and equality in the foreign policy arena and justice for the African world” (cf. about page). Website provides links and additional information to campaigns, educational resources, relevant media, and library resources.

Language Studies

General Interest/ Current Events

  • The Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CALACS)
    “Founded in 1969, CALACS aims to facilitate networking and the exchange of information, to foster especially within Canadian universities, colleges, and other centres of higher education, the expansion of information on and interest in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to represent the academic and professional interests of Canadian Latin Americanists” (cf. about page). Links to and information on The Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CJLACS): available via library catalogue online from 1998 and in print from 1996 v. 27(42) – current.
  • Caribbean Studies Association
    “The Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) is an independent professional organization devoted to the promotion of Caribbean studies from a multidisciplinary, multicultural point of view” (cf. about page). Website provides a link to the newsletter, up-to-date news announcements, and links to relevant networking websites.

Additional Resources:

  • Caribbean Studies @ Ryerson University
    This website was created in conjunction with the launch of Ryerson's new G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education certificate program in Caribbean studies.
  • Caribbean Studies Reference Sources
    From the University of Illinois, African American Research Center, this is a broad guide covering humanities and social science aspects of Afro-Caribbean life and culture.  It is a selective list of reference sources on Caribbean Studies.
  • Share News
    Online news resource aimed at Black and Caribbean community of the Greater Toronto Area. In circulation since 1978. Digital versions of last fifteen months available online.

Please note that Scholars Portal hosting of RefWorks will be discontinued August 15, 2015. Ryerson faculty, students and staff will no longer have access to their RefWorks accounts after this date. Ryerson University Library has created a list of citation management alternatives and is encouraging users to begin the process of exporting references from RefWorks into another software tool. Learn more about how to migrate your references and citations from RefWorks to Mendeley, Zotero or Endnote Web. You also have the option of purchasing an individual subscription to RefWorks.

RefWorks Help

Is your question a frequently asked questions? View FAQ. If you need help with using RefWorks, please contact the reference desk, your subject librarian or email refworks.support@scholarsportal.info.

Primary Sources are identified a bit differently by practitioners of specific disciplines. 

Historians and social scientists may define a primary source as first-hand historical evidence or an original account of an event. Documents created at a the time of an event may include correspondence or letters, diaries and journals, treaties, legislative debates, photographs, posters, maps, and artifacts.  Personal narratives, often written after an event but by someone present at the time the action took place may include memoirs and other types of autobiographical essays, and interviews.  Historians normally consider newspapers to be primary sources since they report news events by frontline journalists.

For literary scholars, primary sources are the literary works themselves: poems, plays, fiction or even prose, and works such as journals/diaries/autobiographies, letters or correspondence by the literary creators plus interviews that they have given to others.

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