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Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Topic Searching

An efficient way to search in the library catalog, WorldCat or any database of articles is to use subject terms, which are standardized.

Subjects can be combined to narrow a search focus, e.g., Colombia AND Panama. Or to broaden : (Nicaragua OR Honduras) AND ecology.

In the library catalog "begins with" or WorldCat Advanced "subject phrase" searches names must be [last name], [first name]. For example : Kirchner, Néstor.

subject search for Kirchner, Néstor

Use topical subject headings to pinpoint specific topics. For example :

  • Brazilian literature -- Black authors -- History and Criticism
  • Music -- Caribbean Area
  • Women -- Peru -- Social Conditions -- Statistics
  • Maya architecture

(You can combine subject headings most easily in WorldCat if you use the "more like this" link.)

Working with Latin American & Caribbean topics often means that you have to be more creative. For example, the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) used in most American libraries, divide geography or time periods up in ways that may mean you need to look at different sets of subject headings.

  • Panama -- Politics and government -- 1981-
  • Panama -- History -- American Invasion, 1989

but, from the other direction,

  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Panama
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1945-1989

If you are working in an index, such as HAPI, or a hispanophone catalog, you'll get to learn different formulations, "Panamá -- Historia -- 1989 (Invasión norteamericana)," for example.

And the difference between Panama and Panama (Panama) ? The former is the country and the latter is the city.

Questions? Take advantage of your friendly local librarian's years of experience and contact Sarah!


Bibliographies, especially annotated bibliographies, gather together articles, books, and other materials about a particular topic, individual or theme. They are particularly useful for covering research in English done before 1980, books or articles not published in the US, or research in languages other than English.

The subject heading for bibliographies is Bibliography. Because it's singular (unlike Dictionaries or Handbooks), you have to be careful to make sure you search for it as a subject or else you'll also see every book that includes a bibliography at the end of it.

Examples :

Important Microform Sets

Other Library Catalogs

Terms for primary sources

The following terms are found in the subject headings of records for published primary sources.

  • sources
  • diaries
  • correspondence
  • personal narratives 
  • biography
  • pamphlets
  • oral histories
  • speeches
  • interviews
  • maps
  • census
  • archives
  • caricatures and cartoons
  • pictorial works (for compilations of photographs or other visual materials)