You are here

BUS 272: Behaviour in Organizations: Research guide

Only 4 Steps! Researching in Academic Business Journals (video)



Scope and purpose of this guide

This course guide has been designed as a starting point for the research you will need to do to complete your course assignments.  It focuses on resources you can use to find articles, web sites, and books on organizational behaviour topics, and it includes techniques for planning your searches so that you can use these resources effectively. Don't hesitate to make use of the library's Ask Us services if you need help.

BEFORE you start searching

Analyzing your topic

To begin your research, analyze your topic and break it down into concepts. Think of keywords that describe your concept. Synonyms are very useful.

When searching library catalogues or other electronic databases, use truncation symbols to find all variations of a term.

  • The asterisk ( * ) is the most common truncation symbol. It's used by many of the databases available through the SFU Library. For example, Business Source Complete and the SFU Library Catalogue both use it.   A search for "forest* " in either of these databases will result in items containing any of:  forestry, forest, and forests

Sample topic

Topic: How is the financial services industry handling organizational change?

Concepts: financial services AND change

Synonyms: (financial institutions OR banks or credit unions ) AND restructur*

Your research will be much more successful if you think of several synonyms for the words in your assigned topics.  For "learning," try also "training;" for "team," try also "group;" for commitment," try also "loyalty."  For company information, search for different variations of a company's name.   For example, try "Coca-Cola" as well as "Coke."

Adding the term "case stud*" to your concept terms will often find books and articles giving actual company or organization examples (case studies). This will work in keyword searches in many of our main article databases.

Read your textbook carefully to find more synonyms (and more company or organization examples).

Researching a term paper

Start your research here (a step-by-step guide to the library research process): reviews the process of researching a term paper from identifying a topic through gathering information to writing the paper.  This guide includes directions on how to use the SFU Library in particular.


Before you start researching your topics in the Library (or from your computer at home!), it's important to decide where you are going to look for information. For this assignment you will need to find books, reports, newspaper and journal articles, and possibly company information. You can look for all of these by searching the Library Catalogue, electronic databases, and other resources listed below.

Books and reports

To find books and reports in the SFU Library, search the Library Catalogue by KEYWORD or SUBJECT  using the terms analyzed from your topic.

It's always a good idea to do a WORD SEARCH in the catalogue first, then look at the subjects that show up on the most relevant items and re-do your search. SUBJECT searching is more precise but you might miss useful titles if you don't search the exact subject heading(s) used by the catalogue or other databases.

For example, if we were looking for books on the reaction of employees to change, a word search in the catalogue for change employee* would return over 1100 items, many of which are completely irrelevant, but a quick scan of some of the items closest to the topic would reveal such subjects as...

Organizational change, Communication in organizations, Job satisfaction, Organizational behavior, Employee motivation, Organizational change -- Management, Work environment, Quality of work life, and Job stress ... all of which may be useful for further, more targeted and efficient searching.

The SFU Library Catalogue search guide will give you a step-by-step guide to searching the Catalogue.  You could also try some of our online tutorials covering many research resources and strategies.

Business journal articles

For articles on your topic, connect to these databases by clicking on Journal articles & databases on the SFU Library web page. As with the Catalogue, search these indexes first by KEYWORD, then by SUBJECT. Ask for assistance or for further database suggestions at the help/reference desk in the library. Moving from Citation to Article explains how to find the actual article(s) after you have searched the periodical indexes.

Business Source Complete
Articles from major peer-reviewed journals such as: Human Resource Management Journal, Organization Studies, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Group & Organization Management, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management Research, Public Personnel Management, and many more... (See below for more details on this key business research tool.)

Important index to psychology journals, many of which are relevant to OB. Covers many key organizational behaviour journals as well.

Business practitioner magazines

Business Source Complete
Articles from many practitioner publications (magazines read by professionals working in the field) such as HR Focus, HRMagazine, Supervision, Employee Benefits, Personnel Today, Workforce Management, and Incentive. Also includes general business news publications such as Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and Canadian Business. (See below for more details on this key business research tool.)

CBCA Fulltext Business
Articles (1982 to the present) from Canadian business magazines, newspapers, and other magazines. Not much scholarly/academic content, but does include many HR/OB practitioner publications such as Canadian HR Reporter and Benefits Canada.

CBCA Complete
A broader database than CBCA Fulltext Business above. Includes many general Canadian news publications such as Macleans Magazine.

Academic Search Complete
Covers a wide range of subject areas (including the areas most relevant to this class: business, sociology, and psychology).  Fulltext articles from many titles available online.  Many of the journals covered are "popular" so be careful if you need to find "academic/scholarly" sources.  One way to limit your search to more academic sources is to check the box beside "peer-reviewed" on the advanced search screen.

Newspaper articles

Canadian Newstream
Fulltext online from most major Canadian newspapers (Globe & Mail, Vancouver Sun, National Post, etc.) from the last 10-20 years. No pictures (text only). If you are looking for a story in the business section of a paper, try a search like the following:

In main search box: "business or career or work." Then "And" is selected from drop-down menu, and "employee or personnel or worker" is typed in the next search box. An additional "And" is selected, and then the third search box has the term, "motivat*"

Page images of issues published in the last 1-2 months of over 500 international papers. Includes most major Canadian papers as well as the Wall Street Journal's Asia and European editions. Includes images of the entire paper. "Paper-like" browsing in which you click to flip a page.

Print newspapers (link is to a library map)
The SFU Library carries the most recent few weeks of many major papers in print format.  Go up to the north side of the 6th floor of the Bennett Library and sit in comfortable chairs while you scan the paper for relevant stories. Browsing print editions of the paper may be the most efficient approach if you just need samples of recent articles on a topic!

Wall Street Journal
Online access for SFU researchers.

Company examples

Finding details on the OB/HR practices in specific (named) companies can be hard. As you might imagine, companies tend to keep internal details like that secret. However, there are instances when such information is made public. Start with the following search tips: 

  • Search for articles about awards companies have won, especially "Best companies to work for" types of awards.  Some examples of such publications are listed in our Job Searching guide.
  • Look for case studies that mention specific companies.
  • Search newspapers (as discussed above) for articles in which specific companies are named or OB topics are discussed. Watch for instances where HR consultants are reporting on their experiences. 
  • Try our Company Information research guide (but note that it is more geared towards finding financial information)

Business Source Complete (BSC) basics

A brief introduction to your main business article database: Business Source Complete

A few subjects to start you off... Organizational behavior, Corporate culture, Psychology - industrial, Organizational sociology, Work groups, Teams in the workplace, Employees - attitudes ...
Other features · Full text for many articles from over 1300 scholarly business journals, as well as thousands of practitioner and news publications.
· Can access it from home.
Search tips

· Use the asterisk (*) to truncate your search term: employ* will get you employee, employer, employment, etc.

· Look for a link to Times Cited in this Database near some of the article titles in your result set. This link will take you to newer articles that have cited the article you found in their references/bibliographies.

· Click on Thesaurus at the top of the search screen to go directly to a browseable/searchable list of the subjects used in Business Source Complete. It's generally most effective to use the standard subject in a database rather than general keywords.

· Never check off the box to limit your search to Full Text articles only! This will limit you to only those articles in BSC that are available full text online, but you would then miss the many articles that are available full text via other SFU Library resources. The Where can I get this? next to each article in your results will look for fulltext online/print access at SFU (and beyond) for you.

· BSC gives you the option to check off a box to limit your search to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals only. This is handy, but should be used with caution as it will not omit all the non-academic journals from your results. See the SFU Library guide What is a Scholarly Journal? for help identifying good academic publications.

Further web resources

Be careful doing "free web" research for this assignment because...

  • You are very unlikely to find in-depth discussions of organizational behaviour topics by "surfing" the web. Instead, you will probably find lots of specific complaints from people about conditions in their workplaces! (Think "Dilbert.")
  • Most companies and other organizations have web pages. However, they are not very likely to publish information about their internal organization unless they have programs they are particularly proud of.
  • Information quality on the web is very uneven. Evaluate the information you find on the web carefully. See our Finding and Evaluating Resources page for some questions to ask about any web site to determine the quality of its information.

AFTER your search

Writing your report

Research is only half the battle! You also need to communicate your findings in a clear, well-structured paper, Check the SFU Library guides to Business Writing and Writing for University for resources to help with paper structures, grammar, spelling, and more.

Citing your sources

You also need to correctly cite all of the books, journal articles, and sites that you used in your research. Start with the SFU Library guide and online tutorial to APA Style.   A few other guides that you may want to start with are Citing Sources (Duke University Libraries) and Diana Hacker's APA Style page, as well as the APA's own APAStyle and APAStyle Blog pages.

Note also that some of our article indexes (esp. Business Source Complete and CBCA) will provide a rough (machine-generated) APA-formatted citation for the articles they cover.  Look for a link to Cite or Citation next to the articles you want to use.

Citation management tools

Citation or reference management tools collect your journal article, book, or other document citations together in one place, and help you create properly formatted bibliographies in almost any style — in seconds. Citation management tools help you keep track of your sources while you work and store your references for future use and reuse.


Learning how to properly credit others when you use their ideas is a difficult, but important part of research. Start with the SFU Library's interactive tutorial "Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism" to test yourself and to learn more about plagiarism. Also read the SFU Library Guide on Plagiarism for further discussion of this critical topic and for links to other plagiarism guides.