POL 452W/856: Energy Policy


This course guide has been designed as a starting point for the research you will need to do to complete your policy memorandum in this course. It focuses on resources you can use to find books, reports, journal articles, and websites on energy policy topics, and it includes tips for planning your searches so that you can use these resources more effectively.

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

Before you start searching

Choosing your topic

You will be writing a policy memo that examines an issue or case related to energy policy and makes recommendations based on the available information. Please read the assignment guidelines carefully and contact your instructor if you have any questions about the nature or scope of the assignment.

If you're new-ish to library research or find that you're unable to find good resources for this assignment, I recommend working through the Beyond the Basics: Library Research Skills Tutorial. The tutorial is designed to help you in the following areas:

  1. Explore Your Topic
  2. Find Research Resources
  3. Develop Your Search
  4. Use Subject Headings

To find background information on an entrepreneur, technology, company or national innovation system that interests you, you can begin by searching for your topic in the SFU Library catalogue. In the filters on the left under 'Resource Type,' you can limit your search to Reference Entries. You can also consult these specific reference sources:

Also try scanning the table of contents of recent issues of energy policy journals to find a topic that interests you. You might start with the following titles:

Start building a search strategy by thinking about the different issues or facets of your topic.  Break your topic down so you can examine the different issues involved in your topic and their relationship with each other and the topic as a whole. Think of synonyms for each issue.  Also try to think about some related concepts.

  • Use combinations of AND, OR, and NOT to focus your searches:

                 AND requires BOTH terms to be found in search results (will retrieve FEWER results)

                 OR requires EITHER term to be found in search results (will retrieve MORE results)

                 NOT eliminates terms from search results (will retrieve FEWER results)

  • When searching library catalogues or other electronic databases, use truncation symbols to find all variations of a term.  The asterisk (*) is the most common truncation symbol.  A search for "privati*" in the library catalogue and most databases will retrieve results containing any of the following: privatization, privatisation, privatized, etc.

Sample question

Question: What is the best kind of government policy to promote the development of wind power in British Columbia?

Concepts: government AND polic* AND wind power AND British Columbia

Synonyms or related terms:

(regional OR government OR provincial) AND polic* AND wind AND (energy OR power) AND (Canada OR British Columbia)

As you explore the results and come up with other questions about your topic, be sure to change the words you use to get different sets of results.


Books and reports

Search the Library Catalogue to find print and electronic books and reports on your topic. Keyword searches ensure that you do not miss finding any relevant material but you will often also retrieve items that are off topic. Subject searches will find the most relevant books on your topic, but it may be difficult to find the right subject heading for your topic. Begin with a keyword search to find all the books and reports remotely related to your topic, then look at the record of a relevant book to find the best subject headings. 

Sample subject headings:


  • Use Advanced search to combine subject headings and keywords.  For example, try searching energy policy AND wind power.
  • Also, when searching Energy Policy, add the name of a country: Energy policy -- United States
  • Or add case stud* to find case studies when searching. 
  • Another tip is to search relevant international organizations as Authors - for example: Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and DevelopmentWorld Institute for Development Economics Research and United Nations. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

See also the SFU Library Catalogue search guide for a step-by-step guide to searching the Catalogue. 


This list includes a variety of special database collections with different kinds of focused content, such as articles, case studies, reports, and data. Not all of these may show up in the Library Catalogue, so it can be worthwhile to check both.

Business Source Complete
Includes detailed market reports with demand estimates by country for several thousand specific products.  Click on Country Reports in the right column of the main BSC screen to get to these reports.

Canadian Commons
Source for reports by Canadian think tanks, research institutes, and government agencies.

Index to economic journals and working papers.  Covers such areas as country studies, development, economic growth, industrial organization, industry studies, international economics and technological change.

Frost & Sullivan
In-depth market research and strategy reports of emerging technologies, including Aerospace & Defense; Chemicals, Materials and Food; Electronics & Security; Energy & Power Systems; Environment and Building Technologies; Healthcare; and Information & Communication Technologies.

Development studies and human geography are among the many areas covered by this international database.  It can be a good source for academic articles on market structure in developing countries and regions.

Analysis of U.S., China and global industries providing insight into current and future industry performance, changing trends, operating conditions and supply chain linkages. Each report covers the industry's description, outlook, the lifecycle stage, as well as the competitive landscape, major companies and key statistics.

IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook
An annual report on the competitiveness of nations, ranking and analyzing how a nation's environment creates and sustains the competitiveness of enterprises.  Contains hard data, based on statistics from international organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations, and soft data, based on the IMD's Executive Opinion Survey.

Nexis Uni
Find company information from over 43 milliion companies, compare the assets, liabilities and financial statements of two or more companies in company financial comparison and search for international news about persons, companies or industries dating back to the 1970s.

MINT Global
Descriptive and financial information on thousands of global companies.

OECD iLibrary
Search for agriculture, developing economies, education, employment, energy, environment, migration, social issues and sustainable development topics in the country studies, forecasting publications, reports, periodicals and socio-economic databases publications.  You can browse across all publications by selecting a country and topic or use the Advanced Search feature to search within a specific publication such as the OECD Reviews of Innovation Policy.

Passport GMID
Search data on consumer trends in over 70 countries, find market size data on 330 consumer products, view global industry overviews and manipulate data from different countries for comparison.

Policy Commons
Includes millions of reports, working papers, policy briefs, data sources and media from a directory of over 20,000 content repositories. Community tools allow users to upload, share, and discuss their discoveries.

Political Science Complete 
Indexes journals, books and conference papers.  A good source for academic articles on economic development, government policy and technological innovations.

A simple to use statistics portal that integrates statistics from thousands of sources, on topics related to business, media, public policy, health and others. Statistics can be exported in PPT, XLS, PDF, and PNG formats.

Can create tables, charts and reports on a number of world trade, investment and development issues for over 190 countries and territories.  Select a topic, such as foreign direct investment, and a range of years, to view data on this topic from all regions of the world.

Search a database of compiled United Nations and agency statistics from more than eight million data elements in more than 300 statistical series.  The series can be accessed alphabetically, by either sources, such as the OECD, or topics, such as national accounts and industrial commodities production.

World Development Indicators
Updated annually, this resource contains over 600 development indicators.  Choose a country, select the development indicators you would like to compare and export the data or generate a report  to view the results.

See How to find journal articles and Moving from citation to article  for more help searching databases and finding the actual journal article(s).


This list contains some known reliable sources, such as government websites and the websites of international organizations, such as the United Nations.  From these and other websites, you can follow links to explore your topic further and find new resources.

Other sources

The databases and websites listed above are just a small sample of resources that you can look at for information on your topics. Consider websites with consumer and manufacturer information, municipal and provincial websites, and more. Also see the guides to additional resources:

After searching

Writing your policy memo

Use the SFU Department of Political Science Guidelines for Writing Essays and Research Papers and the SFU Student Learning Commons: Writing for University documents to guide you as you write your research paper. Although policy memos have somewhat different standards, many of the same principles will apply.

The Student Learning Commons offers students a wide range of academic writing, learning, and study strategies services including free one-on-one consultations and workshops.

Citing your sources

You will need to correctly cite all of the books, journal articles and websites that you used in your research.  Start with the SFU Library's APA Style guide.  A couple of other guides that you may want to look at are the Citing Sources (Duke University Libraries) and How to Cite (Dalhousie University Writing Centre).

Citing your sources and creating the reference list can be time-consuming.  Take notes throughout your research and make sure to mark the page number(s) of passages you plan to paraphrase or directly quote in your research paper.

You may want to use a citation management tool to organize your references and automatically generate a bibliography from your references. See SFU Library's Citation management software guide to help you get started.

Annotated bibliographies

For more information on writing and formatting annotated bibliographies, please see How to write an annotated bibliography.