GEOG 442: A World of Cities

A guide to sources for assignments in Geography 442: A World of Cities. 

If you need help, please contact Sarah (Tong) Zhang, Librarian for Geography, GIS, & Maps at 778-782-9704 or or Ask a librarian.

1. Getting started: background information in specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries

Extremely useful for overviews of theoretical concepts and for the Further Reading / References lists at the end of entries. Also excellent for identifying the vocabulary surrounding your topic.

2. Search strategies

You will be doing several searches using a variety of online tools. Use the Library Catalogue to find books owned by SFU Library, use databases to find journal articles, and use a variety of sources to search for non-academic literature. Generally, we keep searches in the Library Catalogue more simple than searches in databases. 

Before searching the catalogue or databases, think about your topic, and break it down into concepts or keywords. Think of synonyms for each keyword or concept. Try new or alternative words that describe your topic.

To identify which terms you should use to search for books and articles, write down the proposed title of your project (or an imaginary title of an ideal article) and highlight the important/meaningful words. For example:

Vancouver: Towards becoming a Smart City

Use the highlighted words and think of any variations, synonyms or related terms (e.g. sustainable, smart growth, Vancouver, urban, city, design, environment).

Combining terms:

The simple terms AND and OR allow you to combine terms to broaden or narrow your searches.

To narrow your search: combining with AND requires ALL terms to be found in each search result. For example:

Vancouver AND "smart city"

To broaden your search: combining with OR requires ANY term to be found in each search result (use this for finding synonyms). For example:

"smart city" OR "connected city" OR "digital city"

* The asterisk:  the asterisk is used for a word that may have several endings.

For example: cit* will find city or cities 

Use parentheses to control the order of the search and search with more than one concept. Think back to high school math: this is order of operations. For example:

Vancouver AND("digital cit*" OR "smart cit*")

Remember these three steps when searching the Library Catalogue for books: 1) Use keyword search, 2) select a book from the list that appears to meet your needs, 3) click on the subject headings for that book to find similar materials. Subject headings are terms — or tags — that have been assigned to each book. They are useful for locating books on the same subject regardless of the terminology used by the author. Using subject headings in your search can lead to more accurate results but it's almost always easier to start with keyword searching first. 

Need more help? See SFU Library's Start your research here guide.

3. Databases: Finding journal articles

To find journal articles on your topic, you'll need to use one or several article databases. Use the information above to construct your search strings.

Here are a few suggested databases:

  •  Web of Science: Major multidisciplinary database with excellent coverage of the social sciences. Includes backward and forward citation linking as well as citation counts. 
  • Academic Search Premier: Multidisciplinary.
  • GEOBASE: Human and physical geography.
  • Google Scholar: Searches scholarly literature across disciplines and sources. Includes some grey literature. 
  • Sociological Abstracts: Theoretical and applied sociology, social science, and policy science.
  • TRID: Transportation research, both academic and non-academic.
  • Environment Complete: Search for journal articles in the area of environmental studies in this database. 

4. Sources for searching for grey literature

5. Sources for searching for news articles

  • Canadian Newsstream: Fulltext of major Canadian newspapers and Canwest's small-market BC papers.
  • PressReader: Canadian and International newspapers, with coverage of the last 30-60 days only, in full colour.

6. Citing & writing


  • Citation style guides: APA (6th ed.)


7. Getting help

If you need help, please contact Sarah (Tong) Zhang, Librarian for Geography, GIS, & Maps at 778-782-9704 or or Ask a librarian.