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CMPT 322W: Library research guide

This web page is intended to help you with your CMPT 322W assignments. 

If you need help, please contact Holly Hendrigan, Liaison Librarian, Faculty of Applied Sciences at 778.782.8023 or or Ask a librarian.

Slides available from the Spring 2017 library research workshop.

Getting started

Identify your research topic

For both your critical analysis and your scholarly analysis, you should brainstorm a list of research questions about your topic before you start searching.  This step helps to save time because it helps you to search more efficiently.     

Identify search words

Once you know the research questions you want to answer, spend a bit of time brainstorming keywords.  If my topic is privacy concerns about Facebook, here are some possible related keywords:

  • Facebook: social networking, online social networks, Twitter (and other online social networks that may have different policies about sharing user data) 
  • privacy: data mining, legislation, rights

Time-saving search tip: truncation ( * )

Truncation symbols allow you to search for all variations of a word at once by searching for all the words beginning with the letters before the symbol.

  • For example, social network* will search for social network, social networks, social networking, etc. 

You can use truncation symbols in SFU Library's online resources, including the catalogue and most databases. 

Finding background information & books

You should begin your research by looking for background information on your topic.  This information is often found in reference books (e.g., encyclopedias, handbooks).  After you have found the necessary background information on your topic, you can search for articles. (Without some foundational knowledge on the topic, scholarly articles will typically be very difficult to understand.)

The reference books that are useful to you will depend on your topic.  Here are some online reference books that might include background information on your topic:

To find relevant information on your topic in online and print books, use the SFU Library Catalogue.  When you find a book on your topic, look at its SUBJECT HEADINGS.  When I searched for global digital divide,  a number of relevant books on the topic appeared.  (Note: you can limit your results to books by checking the 'Books' link under "Resource Type" on the left side of the screen.)  Each book has several subject headings that you can use to find more books about your topic.  The subject heading for a book found under "global digital divide" is Digital Divide -- Developing countries.

Also note that subject headings often include subheadings that could improve the relevance of your search results. For example:

Artificial Intelligence -- Social Aspects

Educational Technology --  Social Aspects

Social Media -- Moral And Ethical Aspects

Technological innovations -- Moral and ethical aspects

For help with the catalogue, ask a librarian or see the SFU Library Catalogue Search Guide.

Finding Canadian documents and information

Global Affairs Canada: Development 
Web page for the federal ministry responsible for foreign aid. The Project Browser might be helpful. 

Canadian Electronic Library, Documents collection
Access to Canadian e-books, health and public policy documents.

CBCA Complete
Articles from Canadian sources, including some scholarly journals, business magazines, and popular news magazines and newspapers. Good for learning about the 'Canadian' angle to any question.

Library Catalogue
Economic assistance, Canadian -- Developing countries

Finding articles

It is difficult to give a list of the top resources for finding articles because your topics can vary greatly.  That said, the Library catalogue is a good place to begin your search.  After your initial search, you can use the left side of the screen to limit your results (e.g., to only include articles from peer reviewed journals).  However,  you will want to use other databases that allow more powerful and precise searches  as well. 

Here are some suggestions for other places to try (which ones you use will depend on your topic): 

Multidisciplinary databases

Academic Search Premier
Includes articles from a range of academic journals and popular magazines. Covers a broad range of topics.


Sociological Abstracts
Academic content (articles, book chapters, etc.) related to the study of society. 


Web of Science
Articles from scholarly journals in scientific fields.


Humanities and Social Sciences Index
Includes articles from a wide range of academic journals in the social sciences and humanities. Good for almost any topic.


Science Indexes
Articles from scholarly journals and popular magazines on a wide range of science topics.


Google Scholar
Google Scholar enables you to search for scholarly literature, from broad areas of research though mostly in the science and technology fields. Searching is not as focused as in the other article databases.


Subject-specific databases

Scholarly articles from psychology journals. Good for any topic with a psychology angle.


Communication & Mass Media Complete
Indexing & abstracts for over 550 journals in the fields of communication and mass media studies.


Education Source
Education and education-related journal articles.


ACM Digital Library
Academic articles from the Association for Computing Machinery. Mostly "hard-core" computer science, but some material on computing & society.


IEEE Xplore
Fulltext of all journals and conference proceedings published by the IEEE. Includes material on computer science and computer engineering.

Evaluating your sources

It is important for you to understand the differences in the type of publications you will encounter. Often popular science magazines will summarize recent reports from the primary scholarly literature for the general public. Scholarly publications report on new research or ideas and are used for scholarly communication. Each of these types of publications can be found in print and on the web.

See SFU Library's What is a Scholarly Journal? guide to help you distinguish between popular and scholarly sources. 

For a more detailed overview of the peer review process, see the Library's What is a peer-reviewed journal FAQ.

To help you evaluate information you find on the internet, see SFU Library's guide Internet Research: Finding and Evaluating Resources.

Citing sources

It is always important to cite your sources. Take the SFU Library's Plagiarism Tutorial via the Canvas course management system if you haven't already.

Citing your sources allows you to give credit to the original researchers, to point your reader(s) to where you found information, and to show that you know how to correctly cite sources.  For your papers, you will be using APA style.

You should be able to find the answers to most of your questions about APA style in the following Citation guide.

If the document you are trying to cite is not included in this APA guide, you should consult the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual

If you have questions about doing research or citing your sources, please ask a librarian.