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Semester Outside in the City Summer 2015: Semester in Dialogue

Belzberg Library welcomes students in the Semester in Dialogue to SFU Vancouver. This guide will help you to use our library to find and evaluate research material for your projects.

If you need help, please contact Karen Marotz, Head, Belzberg Library at 778.782.5054 or or Ask a librarian.

Dialogue resources

Belzberg Library - your home branch

  • Belzberg Library has developed collections and services to support courses at the SFU Vancouver campus, such as the Semester in Dialogue.
  • Today Belzberg Library is OPEN until 5:00pm. See Hours: Opening & Closing Times for hours information for all SFU libraries.
  • Reference librarians are available at the Belzberg Library to assist you. Please don't hesitate to come in or Ask a Librarian.
  • Students at the SFU Vancouver campus may request delivery of books and journal articles from Bennett Library (Burnaby Campus) or Fraser Valley Real Estate Board Academic Library (Surrey Campus) to Belzberg Library (Harbour Centre building, SFU Vancouver). Delivery usually takes 2 working days.
  • If the item you want is not available at SFU, it can be requested from another library (Interlibrary Loan) for delivery to Belzberg Library. This usually takes one to two weeks. See Borrowing Materials From Other Libraries for more information on using Interlibrary Loan services.
  • Electronic article indexes and databases and e-journals are available on Belzberg Library workstations and most are also available from off campus with your computing ID and password. For articles not available online or at Belzberg, you may request delivery of a photocopy.
  • Reserves (if any) for your courses are available at Belzberg Library.
  • Books borrowed from the Bennett Library or the Fraser Library (except for course reserves and special loans) may be returned to the Belzberg Library (and vice-versa).
  • Check your due dates, holds or renew your books online. If you make use of SFU's Connect email system, you can renew items from within Connect without entering your SFU Library barcode.
  • All library notices for SFU students, including holds, recalls and overdue items, are automatically sent to your official SFU email address.
  • Individual and group study space is available for SFU students.
  • The Student Learning Commons provides workshops and individual consultations to support academic writing, learning and study strategies for SFU Vancouver students.

See the Belzberg Library web page for more information and take the virtual tour. The Belzberg Brew newsletter will tell you about new library services or check out the list of new books added to the Belzberg collection.

Research sources

Library research involves selecting your topic, identifying the best sources and appropriate research tools, accessing the items found and evaluating your results. Start Your Research Here is a brief guide that will help you with this process.

Start your hunt for information "at home" by visiting the SFU Library home page. This gathers all the best research tools, guides and research help in one place. Try our Library Search engine from the home page to quickly find books, articles and information on the library website in one search.

Books, articles and web sites on your course reading list or course outline can also provide a good starting point, particularly if the items include bibliographies, references or links to related material.

1. Books, ebooks, films, sound, images

Search the catalogue to find all books, reports and media materials in the SFU Library at all three campuses (Belzberg - Vancouver; Bennett - Burnaby; Fraser - Surrey).

Searching by KEYWORD is generally the best way to start. Once you have found some good results with your keyword searches, use the subjects on those items to focus your search.

Try the following SUBJECT headings:

The main SUBJECT heading for information about Vancouver is: Vancouver (B.C.) Note the list of SUBHEADINGS for more specific aspects of the city.

Limit your search to items at Belzberg Library by checking Belzberg Library (Vancouver) under "Keyword search with optional limits."

If the item is not available at Belzberg Library, or is out on loan, please request it! Find electronic books, films, dvds, cds or slides on your topic by searching specific collections or by checking off the optional limit.


For a step-by-step interactive guide to searching the SFU catalogue, see the SFU Library Catalogue Search Guide.

2. Journal and newspaper articles

All print and electronic journals subscribed to by the SFU Library are listed in the catalogue. Electronic journals are also listed in the Electronic Journals Database by title, subject and by the association/organization who publishes the journal.

Connect to Journal Articles and Databases to find articles in academic journals, trade magazines, reports and newspapers, as well as financial and statistical data. Many indexes provide online access to the full text of the articles or allow you to directly request copies of articles through the "Where Can I Get This?" link. Browse by subject area to identify useful databases for your topic.

Suggested article databases for Outside in the City:

  • Academic Search Complete - multidisciplinary index to academic and popular journals
  • Alternative Press Index - alternative and radical media
  • Canadian Newsstream - fulltext of major Canadian newspapers and Canwest's small market BC papers
  • Canadian Public Policy Collection - monograph publications from policy and research institutes, think tanks, advocacy groups, government agencies and university research centres
  • Canadian Research Index - Canadian government publications
  • CBCA Complete (Canadian Business and Current Affairs) - covers news, business, and academic sources with a Canadian focus, including resource & environmental management
  • Education Source - the largest collection of education journals, including outdoor learning 
  • Environment Complete - environmental aspects of subjects including energy, renewable energy sources and natural resources
  • Geobase - key human and physical geography database with interdisciplinary coverage for researching environmental and development issues
  • GreenFILE - research database focusing on the relationship between human beings and the environment
  • Sociological Abstracts - sociological aspects of community development and urban studies; includes cited references
  • Web of Science - multidisciplinary source that indexes thousands of social science and humanities journals in addition to science journals. It also includes cited reference searches

Try the same subject terms as suggested for books, or check the thesaurus or list of subject terms within the database. For help with searching databases, check Finding Journal Articles and/or Moving From Citation to Article.

For books and articles not online or at SFU, request an Interlibrary Loan.

3. Statistics and government sources

4. Selected Internet sources

In addition to the library catalogue and databases, you will find a lot of good information on the web. Governments, research institutes, non-profit organizations, industry and other associations and companies all have web sites - many with publications freely available. Use a web search engine such as Google, Google Scholar or to find additional information, including the web sites of interest groups and other organizations. Check the library's Internet Research guide for additional help in finding and evaluating web sites.

General websites:

Local websites:

  • EcoUrbia - portal for initiatives/programs organized by sustainability-driven organizations in the Vancouver area
  • Institute of Urban Ecology - based at Douglas College, the institute lists resources on urban ecological sustainability
  • NewCity Institute - promotes best practices research and implementation focused on cities, sustainability and citizen participation, and includes links to local projects
  • SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development - teaching and research unit that aims to integrate economic, social and environmental objectives in community development
  • Vancouver Public Space Network - an advocacy group concerned with all aspects of public space, including a section on Parks  and Greenspaces for creative (re)-greening of the public environment and public access to the decision-making process around public space
  • Wild About Vancouver - first week-long outdoor education festival held April of 2015, with the goal of creating Outdoor Experimental Learning Networks

Subject Research guides are produced by SFU liaison librarians to point you to the best external sources as well as providing information about publications available in the library. Try these guides for further suggestions.

Evaluating information

Virtually all information has some sort of bias or inherent assumption about the world.  Since you cannot avoid it, you need to practice looking for it and taking it into account when you form your own conclusions.  Aside from watching for biases and assumptions, you also need to critically evaluate all information sources (regardless of whether the source was a book, an article, a Web site, or a person) for accuracy, currency, completeness, and several other criteria. 

The following list covers some key questions that you should ask of any information source and offers a few more sources for further information on evaluation. Don't despair that you will never find anything that meets all of the criteria: remember that decisions are made with such information all the time -- you just need to make a judgment call about how far out of line a piece of data is (e.g., is it so old as to be useless? is the bias extreme?) and about how much of it you can use.  You should also try to find as many alternative sources/viewpoints as possible. 

Don't forget to clearly document any judgment calls or assumptions that you make based on the imperfect information you find.

  • Methodology and intent
    • Why did they conduct this study, and precisely how did they conduct it? How does this match what you think should be done? What flaws do you see in how the information was gathered?  Is any of this information available?  (Possibly not if the report or data you found has been published by someone other than the original researcher.)
  • Authority
    • What are the qualifications and reputation of the writer/speaker/publisher? Are they experts in their field?
  • Completeness
    • Is the information presented complete or does it seem that something might be missing? An information source that deliberately leaves out important facts, qualifications, consequences, or alternatives, may be misleading or even intentionally deceptive.
  • Currency
    • Up-to-dateness is especially important for statistical or scientific data or political or socioeconomic studies.
  • Documentation
    • Does the book/journal/Web page explain the sources of its information and how the information was obtained?
  • Precision
    • What units did they use? Are these the units you would have used?
  • Accuracy
    • Are the facts presented accurate? You may want to cross-check statistics or other facts against other sources.
  • Level
    • Who is the intended audience for the information? Is the level of treatment academic or popular, expert, or novice?

Evaluation is particularly important when finding information on the Web. For more information, see the Evaluation section of the library's guide to Internet Research.

Writing and citing

Ask us!

If you would like any further assistance or information about the library or your research, don't hesitate to Ask a Librarian in person, by phone, email or interactive reference.