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Before you start searching
Tip #1: Think about what you're looking for.
- Review the assignment guidelines.
- Decide what questions you want to answer.
- Write those questions down, circle the key concepts in each.
- Think of synonyms, broader and narrower terms, alternate spellings, and related words for each of your concepts.
- Use Subject Headings the Library Catalogue and Descriptors in databases for more precise searches.
Tip #2: Use a variety of sources and formats.
- No single source will answer all of your questions.
- Not everything is online. You may find some good leads, but you will need to develop your research skills "beyond Google".
- Use a variety of information sources: books, government information, statistics, reports from the corporate world, peer-reviewed journal articles, encyclopedias, personal accounts, etc.
Basic knowledge and research skills
What is a scholarly (or peer-reviewed) journal?
Learn how to distinguish academic and popular sources.
Library research tutorials and guides
These library research skills tutorials and guides will get you started with learning or refreshing your research skills including narrowing your topic, an overview of the research process, finding books, finding journal articles, advanced techniques, and so on.
Canadian Points of View Reference Centre
A database of essays that present multiple sides of a current issue. Start with Browse Category, pick a topic that interest you, read the Overview, and then check the Point and Counterpoint summaries to get a sense of the key issues and perspectives.
A good source for "... original, comprehensive reporting and analysis on issues in the news". The perspective is American, but the content may still be useful. Start with Browse Pro/Con Sections by Topic. Be sure to check out the Bibliography section as well.
The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public. Search for a certain topic to find all the articles on the topic, for example, minimum wage.
- Canadian Newsstream: contains the full text of articles in major Canadian and small market BC newspapers.
- PressReader: Canadian and International newspapers, with coverage of the last 30-60 days only, in full colour.
- The New York Times: 1923-current.
- See also: the Alternative news sources and News resources research guides. The Alternative Press Index will connect you with news articles from alternative, radical, and left publications.
- International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Second edition (2020)
- International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, First edition (2009)
- Oxford Bibliographies Online - subject modules written and peer-reviewed by experts. Search under Geography for Economic Geography.
- UNCTAD - Trade Analysis Branch - information on trade flows, statistics, and some maps.
- How Products are Made - explains the manufacturing process of a wide variety of products.
- Household Products Database - National Library of Medicine.
- The Story of Stuff - 20-minute animated presentation about extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal.
- The Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography [online and print]
- The Sage Handbook of Economic Geography
- The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography
- Encyclopedia of Products & Industries - Manufacturing Provides information on the manufacturers and suppliers of various products, along with market and industry information.
- How Products are Made: An Illustrated Guide to Product Manufacturing [online and print]
- McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology [print] Explanations of technical subjects, especially for electronics.
- Commodity atlas [print]
- Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things [print]
- Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers, and Many Other Things Come To Be As They Are [online and print]
- World Book Encyclopedia [print]
- The Dictionary of Human Geography
To find books at SFU Library, use the Library Catalogue. Start with a keyword search, trying various combinations of the terms you've already brainstormed for your main concepts. Use AND between concept terms.
When you find a book (or film or report or ebook) that seems appropriate, click on the title for the full record for the item. Towards the bottom of the record, you'll see Subject Headings. If you click on a subject heading that seems relevant, you will find additional books on the same topic.
For further information, see the SFU Library Catalogue Search Guide.
Databases for searching for journal articles
Recommended databases for this course:
- GEOBASE: physical and human geography
- ECONLIT: topics in economics and economic geography
- Academic Search Premier: multidisciplinary
- Web of Science: multidisciplinary
- Business Source Complete: international business, reports, etc.
- CBCA Complete: Canadian reference, current events, business.
- Sociological Abstracts: topics in Sociology. A good alternate index for Human Geography topics
- Agricola: topics in agriculture—includes academic and grey literature
For further information see the How to find journal articles guide, or watch this video Only 4 Steps: Researching in Academic Business Journals.
Sources for searching for grey literature
Grey literature is information produced outside of traditional publishing—reports, working papers, government documents, urban plans, etc. This information is often produced by organizations "on the ground" (such as government agencies and NGOs) where dissemination of information and reporting on activities is the goal before publishing an academic article or book. Grey literature takes the form of documents, reports, working papers, etc. produced by government bodies, IGOs, NGOs, research groups, institutions, associations, etc.
For more information, consult our Grey literature: What it is & how to find it guide.
Use our Search tips for Google and Google Scholar for to search Google, Google Scholar, and Google Custom Searches for grey literature.
Tips for searching for grey literature
- Think about organizations that might be producing information on the topic you're interested in. Scan reference lists and notice documents produced by government bodies or other organizations. Find and search their websites.
- These areas of the websites of government bodies and other organizations often contain reports and other critical grey literature: Reports, Research, Documents, Library, Data.
- Pay attention to author affiliations: sometimes the author of a book or journal article is affiliated with an organization and going to the website for that organization will connect you with important grey literature.
Government and intergovernmental information
- Look at the Canadian government web pages for the resource of your choice.
- See also the Provincial government web page for your resource.
- If you are doing a resource in another country, see the government web pages for that country.
- Check out the international agencies such as the European Union, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, or World Bank.
Use the links to the government bodies provided above or see Finding Government Resources & Information for links to city, regional, provincial, and federal governments in Canada, to foreign governments and to international organizations.
Thank thanks & research institutes
Three major Canadian think thanks:
If you need more of this sort of thing:
Harvard's Think Tank Search
Search across many such think tanks, although it tends to cover more US-based organizations than others.
Canadian Electronic Library from desLibris
Search for government documents, think tank reports, and research institute analyses.
In case you want to learn more about think tanks, read this guide Writing about think tanks and using their research: A cautionary tip sheet.
Related SFU Library Guides
Writing & citing
The Student Learning Commons (SLC) provides writing and learning support to SFU students of ALL levels, whether you are an A student or a student who is struggling. You can book a consultation and/or attend a workshop.
Writing handouts from the SLC: These handouts are excellent! They will guide you through the mechanics of academic writing and help with things like grammar, citing, transition words, and style. See especially the three handouts on integrating sources. Immensely helpful.
How-to books on academic writing: These are extremely useful books that will demystify the academic writing process.
- Making Sense: A Student's Guide to Research and Writing: Geography & Environmental Sciences [print] *see especially Chapter 5: "Writing an Essay".
- They say/I say: the Moves that Matter in Academic Writing [print]
Writing & style guides. Follow a citation style guide.
Use Referencing and citation management software to keep track of your resources and citations.
Some content in the searching for grey literature section was adapted from the blog post Basic income & beyond: Researching economic policy topics by Mark Bodnar, the Librarian for Business & Economics.