GEOG 261: Introduction to Urban Geography

Not sure where to start? Up your academic game by completing the SFU Library Research Skills Tutorial

Background sources for key concepts, theories, and themes

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 key to your topic.

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 the databases and other search tools listed below to find journal articles, news articles, and non-academic literature. 

Before searching, think about your topic, and break it down into main ideas or concepts. Think of synonyms and related terms for each concept.

To identify which terms you should use to search, 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 a sustainable urbanism

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 urbanism AND sustainability

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

urbanism OR city OR metropolitan

Use quotation marks to search as a phrase. For example:

"smart growth"

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

For example: urban* will find urban, urbanism, urbanization, urbanized, etc.

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 (urban* OR city OR metropolitan) AND (sustain* OR "smart growth")

Searching for books

Use the Library Catalogue to find books owned by SFU Library.

Remember these three steps

  1. Use keyword search
  2. Select a book from the list that appears to meet your needs,
  3. Use the subject headings for that books to find similar materials. Subject headings are terms 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.

Databases for finding journal articles

 Web of Science

Academic Search Premier

Human and physical geography

Sociological Abstracts
Theoretical and applied sociology, social science, and policy science

Environmental Complete
Environmental studies

Google Scholar

What is a Scholarly Journal? This guide will help you distinguish between scholarly journals, magazines, and trade publications.

Searching for news articles and grey literature 

News articles

Canadian Newsstream
Full text of major Canadian newspapers and Canwest's small-market BC newspapers.

National Observer
​Focuses on news and in-depth reports on under-covered Canadian stories in the areas of climate, energy, and related culture, business, and politics.

SFU Library's Alternative News Sources guide

Grey literature

Also referred to as "non academic 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/research and reporting on activities is the goal before publishing an academic article or book. 

Carleton University's Find Canadian Government Publications on the Web
Google Custom Search for grey literature that searches across Canadian government websites with the option to limit to federal, provincial, or municipal information.

Canadian Electronic Library
Database of grey literature that searches for reports from Canadian research institutes, NGOs, government agencies. Includes some ebooks. 

Metro Vancouver
Regional planning and shared utilities for the Greater Vancouver area. Many reports are available in many sections of the site. See also the catalogue and reports at the Harry Lash Library at Metro Vancouver. 

City of Vancouver
Information and links to current city projects, reports, and initiatives.

Government Resources
Selected print and electronic information sources. Includes a list of indexes to government publications and statistics.

BC Stats
​British Columbia statistical publications organized by subject.

Writing & citing


Student Learning Commons

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]


Citation management software

Consider using a citation manager to store your references and PDFs, and to be able to quickly create bibliographies. The Library supports Zotero and Mendeley and both are free. 

Citation style

Use APA style when citing sources. Please refer to the following guides:​

Avoiding plagiarism

Questions about what constitutes plagiarism? Please read the SFU Library's What is plagiarism? page and then take our Plagiarism tutorial.

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.

For immediate, in-person assistance, visit one of our reference desks at Bennett, Belzberg, & Fraser Libraries.