Political Science resources: Justice & law

This page has some sources and ideas for finding information on political science topics within the Justice & Law learning track. It may be helpful for students in courses such as POL 151, POL 221, POL 311, POL 344, POL 415, and more.

If you need help, please contact Baharak Yousefi, Liaison Librarian at or byousefi@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

     Places to look for information

    Book covers by ISBNs: 9781414405148

    Background sources

    Background sources can be helpful if you are trying to get quick facts or basic information about important ideas, people, events, and more. Some examples in this area include:

    Encyclopedia of crime & justice
    This interdisciplinary source addresses law, sociology, psychology, history and economics. Entries vary widely from abortion to rape and from family violence to wiretapping, offering a mirror of issues dominating today's headlines, including topics such as stalking, hate crimes, and HIV.

    World encyclopedia of police forces and correctional systems
    This resource describes the national law enforcement and correctional systems of more than 195 countries across the globe.

    Encyclopedia of law and society: American and global perspectives
    Provides an introduction to and survey of the field of law and society. Includes interdisciplinary perspectives on law from sociology, criminology, cultural anthropology, political science, social psychology, and economics, including a Reader's Guide section on the theme of Law and Political Science.

    Encyclopedia of global justice
    Provides entries on global justice topics and issues that explore the consequences of global interdependence, including major concepts, conflicts, organizations, individuals, etc.

    Encyclopedia of diversity and social justice
    Provides access to entries that describe important diversity and social justice themes, including many of the most popular terms used in current conversations on the topic, from "able-ism" to "xenophobia".

    To look for information from other background sources, search for your terms in the Library Catalogue and select 'Reference Entries' from the Resource Type filter on the left side of the results. You can also explore the general Background reference sources page and the Background information page for Political Science.

      Article databases

      Databases are collections of information that often deal with a specific topic or type of resource and can include academic articles, newspaper articles, reports, images, and more. Searching in databases can give you more focused sets of results, though you may notice some overlap with the Library Catalogue. Here are some suggested databases for this area:

      Criminal Justice Abstracts
      Covers all aspects of criminal justice, including psychological. Includes journal articles, books, government and non-government reports, magazines, newspapers, dissertations and unpublished papers.

      NCJRS (National Criminal Justice Reference Service)
      Covers all aspects of criminal justice, including law enforcement, crime prevention and security, and juvenile justice. Includes journal articles, books, research reports, government reports, and unpublished research.

      Provides access to eBooks on forensic science, law enforcement, and criminal justice.

      WestlawNext Canada
      Provides access to Canadian legislation, case law, and commentary. Contains the databases BestCase Library, CriminalSource, and LawSource.

      To look for information from other databases, you can explore a broader selection of databases in the Books + articles page for Political Science, or look at the full list of Political Science databases. Depending on your topic, you might also want to check databases for other fields, such as Law, History, and International Studies. To find these, go to the main Article databases pages and pick the field you want from the dropdown menu in the first box.

      Additional sources

      Criminology information resources (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information and links to students of Criminology who are learning about crime as both an individual and social phenomenon, including topics on the origins and forms of crime, its causes and consequences, and social and governmental reactions to it.

      Legal Information (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides guides on Canadian case law, bills, historical legislation, finding court records, US legal literature, etc., as well as a tutorial on understanding legal citations, and much more. 

      Crime & Justice Statistics (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides access to Canadian criminal justice-related statistics.

       Ways to look for academic sources

      Book covers by ISBNs: 9781107027411

      This section outlines some tips and strategies you can use when searching for information in academic sources. To learn more or to get more search ideas, see the Library Catalogue search guide or the general Help pages.

      Generating search terms

      To come up with terms that you can use to start searching, think about the topic or title of your project and decide on the most important words. For example:

      • The role of  courts in determining American civil liberties.

      Next, brainstorm synonyms, related terms or ideas, and alternate spellings (if relevant) for each of your key concepts (consider broader and more specific terms):

      • courts = criminal courts, federal courts, juvenile courts, trial, cases, law, legal, Supreme Court, District Court, etc.
      • civil liberties = individual rights, civil rights, constitutional rights, Constitution, etc.
      • American = America, United States, USA, US, U.S., California, Idaho, New York, Florida, etc.

      As you search, try different combinations of these words, and look for other words that may also describe your topic. You may find that your results will change significantly based on which words you use.

      Also keep in mind that the words used to describe something may have changed over time. You can also get more ideas for search terms from background sources or articles on your topic.

      When searching the Library Catalogue and most databases, you can use the filters on the left side of your search results to narrow your results. Consider narrowing by resource type (e.g. book), date published, and more. Narrowing by date can be especially helpful for finding primary sources from a certain year or era.

      Using operators like AND, OR, asterisk (*), and quotation marks (" ") with your search terms can also help you focus your search and get different combinations of results:

      • Searching for  courts AND California will connect these different ideas and show results that contain both of them anywhere in the text.
      • Searching for  America OR Florida will connect these related words and show results that contain either of them.
      • Searching for Americ* will search America, American, Americans, etc.
      • Searching for "civil liberties" will only show results where these two words appear together in this order.

      You can also use some of these techniques in general web searches. For more examples, see the Library Catalogue search guide to power searching.

      Using subject headings

      Once you have found a book or article that works for you, you can sometimes use the subject headings for that item to find similar materials. Subject headings are specific phrases that are assigned to items (a bit like hashtags in social media). Searching with subject headings can often give more relevant results than searching with keywords.

      You can find and click on subject headings in the records for many items. You can also search for subject headings using the Advanced Search in the Library Catalogue and in many databases. Here are a few examples of subject heading searches for this area: