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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 finding and evaluating online resources, and on techniques for planning your searches so that you can use these resources effectively.
Although I have arranged the guide in a linear way ( before , during , and after your search), you've probably already found that research is rarely a linear process. Expect to move back and forth among planning, searching, and evaluating as you explore the many resources available. Also, don't hesitate to seek help if you get stuck.
Although I have tried to make this web page as complete as possible (anticipating that many of you haven't done business research recently, if ever), I'm sure it won't answer all your questions!
Here's how to get help with your research:
a) Get in touch with me, your Business liaison librarian: firstname.lastname@example.org
Typical questions: "I'm trying to find articles on accounting ethics and can't seem to find anything in the Business Source Complete database. Can you help?" ..or... "I'm looking for information on ABC and I've already tried YY and ZZ. Is there somewhere else I could try?" (It also helps if you tell me what class you are in and when the assignment is due.)
b) Contact SFU's reference librarians via email, online chat, or telephone through our Ask a Librarian services. If you are near one of the SFU campuses (Vancouver, Burnaby, or Surrey), you could also visit the library and ask your questions at the reference desk.
c) Check our Business guides for other SFU Library research guides that may come close to your topic. For example, the following guides all list resources that may be useful for accounting researchers:
- Company Information
- Industry Surveys
- Ratio Analysis
- Annual Reports
- Sustainable Business
- Belzberg Library (SFU Vancouver) Guide for Graduate Business Programs
Bottom line: if you have a question that involves research resources and strategies but can't figure out who to ask, start with any of the contact points above, and we'll sort you out!
Good luck with your research!
Think about what type of information would answer your question(s) and what type of sources or publishers might provide that information.
|Type of Information||Type of Source||Examples|
|introductory information and overviews||directories, encyclopedias and handbooks||Accountants Handbook [print or online]|
|in-depth studies||ebooks/books and government reports||Contemporary issues in sustainability accounting, assurance and reporting|
|statistics||government agencies and associations||Quarterly Financial Statistics for Enterprises|
|standards||professional associations||IFRS and CICA Handbooks in Knotia.ca (online via the SFU Library)|
|scholarly articles||academic journals*||"Accountants for the 21st Century, where are you? A five-year study of accounting students' personality preferences."|
|current issues||newspapers and magazines||Wall Street Journal via the SFU Library|
|position papers and analyses||association and institute reports||Removing the Shackles: Deferring Capital Gains Taxes on Asset Rollovers|
For a clear discussion of the difference between the journals and other sources, check out What is a Scholarly Journal?
(I understand that many students from this course may not have much experience looking for academic accounting articles. If you need assistance beyond this guide, try the academic accounting research guide for BUS 421.)
In many cases you will be able to retrieve the actual information you need online through the SFU Library or on the free web, although there are still cases where resources are only available in print. Start with the tabs in the SFU Library guide to Business for lists of accounting databases, web guides, associations, reference sources, and more.
Before searching the databases, analyze your topic: break it down into concepts and think of synonyms for each idea.
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, the SFU Library catalogue, Business Source Complete, and CBCA Business all use it. A search for forest* in any of these databases will result in items containing any of: forestry, forest, and forests.
You can then combine these concepts and synonyms with in different ways to narrow or broaden your database searches:
- AND requires BOTH terms to be found in search results
- OR requires EITHER term to be found in search results
- NOT eliminates term(s) from search results
Sample search question:
Topic: What are the current issues in the financial services industry?
Concepts: financial services industry AND issue*
Synonyms: bank* AND trend*
Broad search: (financial service* OR bank*) AND (issue* OR trend*)
Your research will be more successful if you think of several synonyms for the words in your topic. For example, for "financial services" try also "bank* or accountan*". If you are searching for company information, be sure to try all variations of a company name, e.g. "CIBC" or "Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce".
The SFU Library catalogue lists all the books, journals, and other materials the SFU Library owns or subscribes to. Most of the print material you will find in the catalogue is physically housed in the Bennett Library on the Burnaby campus or in the Belzberg Library at the Vancouver campus. In other words, while you can connect to our catalogue online, you would have to visit the library to read the print materials.
However, the SFU Library catalogue also provides links to thousands of ebooks and ejournals. You will be able to access these online documents from your computer using your SFU ID and password. For examples of such resources, see the catalogue records for Introduction to Financial Accounting & International financial statement analysis (both are ebooks) and Contemporary Accounting Research (an ejournal).
For more on effective use of our catalogue, see the SFU Library Catalogue Search Guide, a step-by-step guide to searching the SFU Catalogue.
If you are looking for information on a specific industry or company, you don't have to flip through journals and newspapers hoping to find relevant articles. There are comprehensive databases covering business publications (academic journals, professional magazines, industry magazines, and business news sources) which you can search online to find articles about your topic. These databases will give you citations to print journals and newspapers and many of them will also provide the full text of the articles online.
Most databases to which SFU subscribes are available online to distance users - you will be asked to enter your SFU computing ID and password if you are working from off-campus.
Here are a few of the main article databases you will need to use:
- Covers academic journals and magazines in all business areas - including accounting.
- Full text of over 1200 business journals and thousands more practitioner, industry, and news magazines.
- Also contains company, market, country, and industry reports from publishers such as Datamonitor, Global Insight, and the EIU.
- A few accounting-related subject headings to start you off:
- Accountant independence
- Accounting - Standards
- Accounting methods
- Accounting policies
- Business losses
- Use the list of Subjects (top of database search screen) to find more relevant subjects for your topic
- The essential Canadian index. Covers many Canadian business publications (largely non-scholarly).
- Many publications are available full text.
- A few accounting-related subjects to start you off:
- Accounting standards,
- Employee benefits,
- Accounting systems
- Accounting policies,
- Accounting procedures,
- Management accounting,
- Full text database of many Canadian newspapers, many of which are not covered by CBCA (above).
- Note that although newspapers aren't academic resources, they can often give you leads to other valuable resources such as reports, associations, mergers/acquisitions, and more.
- Full text database suite of more than 1000 journals in all subject areas, with indexing and summaries for more than 3200 journals.
- Includes titles from a broad range of disciplines, including political science and public administration, language and literature, communications, business administration, biological and medical sciences, computer sciences, education and history.
- A few accounting-related subject headings to start you off:
- Financial statements -- Auditing,
- Earnings per share -- Accounting,
- Business -- Accounting,
- Accounting -- Corrupt practices,
- Internet industry -- Accounting,
- Managerial accounting,
- Cash flow -- Accounting
- Hedging (Finance) -- Accounting
- Full text database of business, legal and news publications. American with strong Canadian and international coverage.
- Start by choosing Source Directory>> Browse. Select the option to browse by industry, then choose the "Accounting and Tax" folder. This will get you to several journals, magazines, and other publications on accounting.
- Excellent current information on companies, products and markets. Entire articles and reports are available online.
- LexisNexis doesn't use subject headings, but you can focus your search by searching for one word or phrase within 'X' words of another word or phrase. If the two concepts are close to each other in the document, there is a greater chance that they are related.
- Try "proximity searching" by using w/# instead of AND or OR in your search. For example, ethics w/5 management accountants will find documents that have the word ethics within 5 words of the phrase management accountants.
Connect to SFU's list of Accounting Databases for more journal and newspaper article databases.
All of the databases listed above provide at least some journal articles fulltext online, but for some journals they will only give you the abstract of the articles. In such cases, look for a Where can I get this? link in the database to find out if SFU has an online copy of the article you need. Also check out Moving from Citation to Article to learn more about how to find the actual article(s).
Finding useful (and dependable) information on the web can be frustrating and time consuming, but there is an amazing amount of useful information out there. It's worth spending some time learning how to find what you need on it effectively and efficiently. Here are 3 basic strategies:
a) Search a general subject or hierarchical index such as the ipl2.
Because hierarchical indexes such as the BUBL have already assigned web sites to specific categories such as Business, Political Science, or Entertainment, you can retrieve relevant information by concentrating your search efforts on a particular category or categories. You gain focus and selectivity, but you have "pre-limited" your search to a relatively small result set. This is not a major concern in web searching as sites are generally linked to other relevant sites and all roads lead to Rome sooner or later.
b) Use a search engine such as Google.
I'm guessing most of you are completely familiar with Google, so I won't go into great detail on how to use it effectively here. In general, with search engines you run the risk of information overload - especially of useless information. Search using unique and specific keywords wherever possible. And, if possible, start from a site you know instead (see below)...
c) Start with a known site or a known person/organization. Sometimes the trick is simply to find one or two good sites that will link you to many other reliable and relevant sites on your topic.
Association web pages, business, professional, and/or academic sites are also very worth finding and exploring. Connect to Trade Associations for directories, links, and tips for finding association web sites.
Here are a few good accounting sites to get you started:
American Accounting Association
Online tables of content and article abstracts from AAA newsletters and journals, as well as links to related organisations. Search Business Source Complete to find complete journal articles publsihed by the AAA if you find potentially valuable article citations at their site. Also check the SFU Library's list of AAA ejournals.
Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA)
SFU researchers also have online access to the CPA Canada Standards and Guidance Collection (CPACHB) and International Financial Reportings Standards (IFRS) documents via our Knotia.ca subscription.
Their professional journal is CPA magazine. This organization was formed with the merger of Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, Certified General Accountants and the Society of Management Accountants of Canada.
British Columbia chapter: CPABC
Access to previous issues of magazines:
Note that SFU researchers also have access via some of our databases to several older years' worth of online articles from CMA Management magazine.
Financial Standards Accounting Board
FASB Exposure Drafts and selected Cases are online in the Publications section. (The full collection of cases is available in a print book in our library.) FASB Standards, Interpretations, Concepts, and Technical Bulletins are also available online, but note that you would need to register as a "New User" to get the Basic View of those publications for free.
International Federation of Accountants
A variety of articles and links with a strong international focus.
Evaluate information found on the Web by the same criteria as information you find in books, journals, newspapers, electronic databases, television, radio, converstations with friends, etc. You can apply the following criteria to information found in many sources:
Are the facts presented accurate? You may want to cross-check statistics or other facts against other sources.
What are the qualifications and reputation of the writer/speaker/publisher? Are they experts in their field? What is their point of view? Information about the effects of clear-cut logging will be very different from Greenpeace or from the Forest Alliance of British Columbia.
Is the information presented complete or does it seem that something might be missing? For example, a list of stock exchanges world-wide with less than 5 entries would be questionable.
Up-to-dateness is especially important for statistical data or political or socio-economic studies. A detailed report on doing business in China in 1957 would be historically interesting but not currently useful.
Does the book/journal/web page explain the sources of its information and how the information was obtained?
Who is the intended audience for the information? Is the level of treatment academic or popular, expert or novice?
See the SFU Library guide to Business Writing for resources (online handbooks, dictionaries, etc.) to help you write a clear business report or academic paper. The Business Writing guide also lists resources to help you cite your sources in your bibliography and to learn more about the complex issue of plagiarism.
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 Writing & Citing guides for APA assistance (general and business-specific).
The APA offers a bit of online guidance for those citing electronic materials in APA format at their APAStyle page. Note that some of our online article indexes will even create a citation for you -- look for the Cite option next to an article citation in Business Source, for example.
NOTE: 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.
I understand that one of your assignments will involve gathering some ratios for a Canadian company. This task is roughly similar to one being done by the students in BUS 320, so you may want to start by going through the research guide for that class and trying some of the suggested resources and search strategies.
Here are a few resources that seem especially likely to be helpful:
Quick access to financials and ratios for thousands of publicly traded companies from around the world.
NetAdvantage: Standard & Poor's industry surveys and more
50+ North American industry surveys and 10+ global surveys, each of which covers industry trends, key companies, and guidance on how to analyze a company in that industry. Likely won't address most Canadian companies directly, but would give you a quick understanding of what current trends and issues are affecting the industry overall.
- Also check out the Ratio Analysis and Company Information guides listed above.
And I heard that one assignment would involve looking for some benchmark retail industry statistics. Start with sources such as Canada's SME Benchmarking Tool (uses slightly old Revenue Canada data), as well as the D&B Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios database (data up to 2010 only). Check the Ratio Analysis guide above for more suggestions.