GEOG 241: Social Geography

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

Select your topic - tips

As you choose your topic, you should be aware of the availability of newspapers and other media at SFU Library or local public libraries. For more detailed information, see News Resources and Alternative News Sources.

Choose a topic that has broad local interest (i.e. Lower Mainland, Victoria) rather than one which has taken place in other regions of British Columbia. Choosing a topic based in another province or other country will be more difficult.

Select your topic by browsing through print newspapers or local online news sources:

Current newspapers and news magazines are found on the 6th floor of the W.A.C.Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby). If the library has a microfilm subscription to a newspaper, the print copy is discarded after the microfilm copy arrives, but you can count on about a month's worth of paper issues.

Before you start searching

Try to anticipate other ways your topic might be expressed.

Break your topic into concepts

For each concept list:

  • synonyms
  • related terms
  • broader and narrower terms, etc.

For example, if one of your concepts is prostitution, you might search with the keywords: prostitutes, sex work, sex trade, sex trafficking, johns, etc.

Remember: The search process is iterative and you may have to adjust your search repeatedly and experiment with concepts and keywords to find the information you need. 

Search tips

Enclose phrases in quotation marks. Example:  "sex trade" "sex work" "Mount Pleasant"

Use truncation (the * key) to retrieve all variations of a word at one time. Can be used inside quotation marks. Also works in Google. Example: prostitut* ​ "sex work*"

Use OR to combine synonyms/related terms. This will increase your search results. Example: prostitution OR "sex trade" OR "sex work*"

Use AND to combine different concepts. This will narrow your search. Example: prostitution AND "Mount Pleasant"

Use parentheses to control the order of the search (think back to high school math). If the database you are using provides separate search fields for each concept, parentheses are not necessary. Example: (prostitut* OR "sex work*") AND ("Mount Pleasant" OR Vancouver)

Find information on your topic


Useful for background information.

You are researching media coverage of a current event. You will not likely find books on your exact topic. Search by keyword in the SFU Library Catalogue.

Search broadly. You are unlikely to find a media analysis on drug problems in the Downtown Eastside, but you might find a media analysis of drug problems elsewhere which could be useful. For example, a keyword search for "news media" AND drug* will yield the book Understanding social science research : applications in criminology and criminal justice [print], which has a chapter on a content analysis of the presentation of drugs in the news media. Similarly, a search for prostitution AND media, yields this interesting result: Understanding representation [print].

Find other ideas for keyword terms within the records that seem promising.  For example, content analysis, public opinion.

Background information sources 

Useful for overviews of theoretical concepts and for the Further Reading / References lists at the end of entries. 

Find media coverage

News Resources
Indicates which article databases contain which newspapers and how far back in time access is available.

Alternative News Sources
Provides information about and links to non-mainstream news sources. (Commentary in the alternative press sometimes highlights mainstream media assumptions and portrayals.)

Newspaper articles

  • Canadian Newsstream: Canadian newspaper articles
  • Nexis Uni: US and International newspaper articles
  • PressReader: Canadian and International newspapers, with coverage of the last 30-60 days only, in full colour. (Note that only 3 people can use this resource at a time).

Canadian magazine articles

Broadcast media (TV coverage)

TV coverage is more difficult to find. Nexis Uni indexes some broadcast media, such as PBS and CNN, from the mid-1980's onward. The CBC, BBC, and other broadcasters have some searchable archives online. Links to these and other media are in the News Resources guide. See also the Alternative News Sources guide.

The following article database may be useful for finding media analyses or content analyses that have already been done on your topic:

Peer-reviewed articles

Search these article databases for peer-reviewed articles to incorporate into your analysis of your event:

Writing, citing, and plagiarism

Writing help


Guides: The SFU library contains many guides to the writing process, some of them specifically for writing in the discipline of geography. Please ask a librarian if you need assistance finding an appropriate guide. Sample titles with the subject heading Academic Writing.

  • Making Sense: A Student's Guide to Research and Writing: Geography & Environmental Sciences [print]
  • Communicating in Geography and the Environmental Sciences [print]
  • Study Skills for Geography, Earth and Environmental Science Students [print]
  • Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide [print]
  • Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students [print or online]

Student Learning Commons: The SLC in Burnaby is located on the main floor of the Bennett Library in Room 3020. You can book an appointment with a peer educator to work on specific writing issues or sign up for a writing workshop.'

Citing your sources

See the guides: APA | MLA for information about and examples of citations for websites, reports, books, articles etc.


Questions about what constitutes plagiarism? Take the Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism tutorial.