SA 100 Perspectives on Canadian Society


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




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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 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      
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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
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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.  

Other encyclopedias


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Find Books in the SFU Library


Two places to search for books:


1. SFU Library FastSearch

SFU Library Fast Search


  • canad* AND society AND (race OR racism OR ethnic*)
  • Canad* AND immigr* AND ( visible minorit* OR ethnic*)
  • canad*  AND government*  AND policy  AND immigr*

- 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.
- use the "subject" listing (left hand column) to narrow your topic.

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2. SFU Library Catalogue Search

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

  • 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.



From the search results, select a relevant book and check its "subject headings".  E.g.

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.


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Subject Headings

From the search results of a "keyword" search, look at the relevant book titles, and examine their "subject headings" more closely.  You can click on these headings to find similar books on the topic.  

Note, if the list of books is very long, use the "limit" icon at the top of the search box and "limit/sort by newest first".

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Find Journal Articles in Databases

Choose Databases

Library's Home page / Find / Journal articles & databases / Browse databases by subject

Some databases will have fulltext of articles within them.  For others you may need to use the "Where can I get this?" link to find the articles in electronic, print, and microform formats.  If SFU Library does not subscribe to a particular journal, then you can fill out the "inter-library-loan" form to request a copy.

If you have a reference (citation) for a book or journal article from another source, you can also use this tool to locate a copy. 
From Citation to Article

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)

Other databases

Primary Source database

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


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Statistics are collected by a variety of agencies and organisations 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)

  • Canadian Research Index  - Search for Canadian federal, provincial and local government publications, including Statistics Canada publications. The library owns a microfiche copy of the documents as part of the Microlog microfiche collection on the 6th floor of the Bennett library.  Use the "Microlog number" listed in the database.  Frequently a government department may also have an electronic copy on their site.  Try an internet search for that specific report.
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Directories of Websites

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Books About Writing Essays

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