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SA 100 Perspectives on Canadian Society


If you need help, please contact Moninder Lalli, Liaison Librarian at 778.782.4264 or or Ask a librarian.





Steps in the process

At the start

  1. Think about your topic and
  2. Look for background information (encyclopedias, handbooks, introductory texts).
  3. Formulate a research question
  4. Brainstorm about keywords for each concept for your topic
  5. Create a search strategy before entering words into the search engine(s)
  6. Make a note of any key authors or references (citations)

Research question:

What is the effect of the Anti-terrorism Act and how is it used for national security?

Brainstorm about your question.   

  • Why was it introduced?
  • When did it come into effect?
  • How has it been applied by the police or Canada's Border Agency? 
  • What is the effect on people?
  • Has any particular group been the focus or target or has there been racial profiling?
  • Has it affected people's rights?

Identify Key Concepts

Create A Concept Map

Library Research Concepts Worksheet (Concept Map / Keywords)

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3 Concept 4 Concept 5
anit-terror* act canad* islamic human right*
Related Terms Related Terms Related Terms Related Terms Related Terms
border security law or laws or regulations federal* racial profil* civil rights
national security legislat* provinc* "people of color" deten* or detain*
public safety policy or policies      

Search Tips & Techniques

  • Use "or" to combine same concept
    • When using one line search box, also put braces "()" around your synonyms.  E.g. (elderly or seniors or aged)
  • Use "and" to combine different concepts
  • Use "quotation marks" to search for an exact phrase
  • Use asterisk (*) the truncation symbol, for variation on endings of words (child* will find: child, children, childless, childlike)
    • "$, ?, *, !" are common truncation symbols. Most use asterisk.
  • Alternate spellings: most databases use American spelling - try both versions (i.e. honour or honor)
  • Alternate words: youth or adolescents or teenagers or young adults // aged or elderly or seniors or old people
    • Modify your terms when during your searches you become aware of new terminology to describe your topic.
    • Subject headings, descriptors or thesauri words
      • Examine the relevant references (citations) more carefully. Check their subject headings, descriptors or thesauri words that describe the key concepts contained within that article/book reference.  These concepts are the "main focus" of that book/article so your search results will be more relevant.
    • General or specific concept words: North America or Canada or Vancouver or Downtown Eastside
  • Abbreviations: TV or television


Find Background information

Start with sources that provide an overview or summary.   Encyclopedias, handbooks or textbooks provide overviews, definitions, and identify key authors and ideas.  

General Reference

Subject-Specific Encyclopedias

Other encyclopedias


Tip:  Check out the Further Reading lists at the end of each encyclopedia entry for citations to key works on that topic!


Find Books in the Library

Use either FastSearch or the library catalogue to find books, ebooks, etc.

SFU Library FastSearch

Choose "FastSearch" tab to find books, encyclopedia entries, journal articles, newspaper articles, etc. Then use the limiters on the left-hand side to narrow your results.

SFU Library Fast Search

NOTE: From FastSearch, if you need a "group code"  to bring items into your account, please check here:

SFU Library Catalogue Search

Use the Books, journals, media (catalogue) to find materials owned by SFU. 

Search by Author or for topics by using either the Simple Keyword Search or the Advanced Keyword Search.


Search for Books by a Specific Author or Organization

Select Author  from the pulldown menu in the Books, journals, media (catalogue)

Use the Library Catalogue to find materials owned by SFU.
Use the Advanced keyword search

Search by author (last name first, then first name):


Search for Topics Using Key Words

Select Advanced Keyword Search  (located just below the search box) from the link for Books, journals, media (catalogue)

Research concepts worksheet

Tip: Think about each line as a "different" concept.  Join different concept words with an "or"


Tip: asterisk at the end of a root word picks up various endings of that word.

      E.g. canad* will pick up "Canada", "Canadian", "Canadians", "Canadien", etc.

Keywords To Consider:

  • canad* AND society AND (race OR racism OR ethnic*)
  • Canad* and immigr* and (visible minorit* or ethnic*)
  • canad* and government* and policy and immigr*
  • canad* and society and social policy
  • foreign work* and canad* and governm*
  • seasonal work* and canad* and governm*
  • social assistance and Canada and policy
  • live-in care and canad*
  • Anti-Terrorism Act
    • (anti-terror* or national security or border security)
      (law or legislat* or regulat*)
      (race or racial or islam*)
      (human rights or detain* or deten*)
  • The Indian Act

You may also want to examine the -First Nations Terminology guide.


Sample search:

canad* AND society AND (race OR racism OR ethnic*)

book jacket To right historical wrongs : race, gender, and sentencing in Canada

Subject Headings:

Subject Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- Canada.
  Prison sentences -- Canada.
  Indigenous peoples -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Canada.
  Minorities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Canada.
  Reparations for historical injustices -- Canada.
  Race discrimination -- Canada.
  Canada -- Race relations.


Tip: Use subject headings associated with relevant books to find additional items.



Browse Books in the Library Catalogue Using Subject Headings


Tip: For a really long list of books: Limit/Sort by "newest first"


Find Journal Articles in Databases

Try using databases to get the perspective of different disciplines.

  • How to Find Journal Articles. The majority of our databases have a link
    • Where Can I Get This? Use this link to find a copy of article (print or fulltext) but if SFU Library does not own the journal, then you can request a copy through Document Delivery (free).


Canadian topics

  • CBCA Full Text Reference
    • Access to popular & business magazines as well as scholarly journals. 
  • Canadian Points of View Reference Centre 
    • provides a series of essays that present multiple sides of a current issue
  • Canadian Public Policy Collection--
    • Full text of public policy documents from Canadian institutes, think-tanks and research groups.  Since it is fulltext, you can search for very specific concepts such as "foreign trained credentials"
  • Canadian Research Index -
    • Index to Canadian government publications (federal, provincial), parliamentary committees, royal commission reports, etc.  A microform copy of the documents is available through the "Microlog" number which is attached to each record. 
    • All documents found in the database are available in the Microlog microfiche collection (JL 044 37) on the Sixth Floor of the Bennett Library. Individual reports are filed by the MICROLOG NUMBER.
    • For the more recent years, once you have identified a title, try an internet search for availability.
  • Canadian Newsstand
    • Covers the major Canadian dailies, including the Vancouver Sun.
  • Globe and Mail Newspaper (1991 to current)

Sociology / Anthropology perspectives

Other databases

Primary Source database

  • Books & pamphlets on English and French Canada from first contact to late 19th century.


Statistics are collected by a variety of agencies and organizations on a variety of topics.   After collection, the data is processed and packaged for publication.  Part of the processing involves grouping the data (i.e. age groupings such as 15-19).

Statistics (sources)

Directories of Websites


Books About Writing Essays

For help with writing essays, check the link to:  Student Learning Commons

SFU Library Books