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POL 457: Technology and innovation policy

1. Introduction

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

If you need help, please contact Mike McIntosh, Liaison Librarian at 778.782.5043 or or Ask a librarian.

2. Before you start searching

2a. Choosing your topic

You will be writing a research paper (max. 15 pages) that examines an issue or case related to innovation policy.  Please read the Research paper handout carefully and contact your instructor if you have any questions about the nature or scope of the assignment.

To find background information on an entrepreneur, technology, company or national innovation system that interests you, begin by searching general reference sources in the SFU Library catalogue:

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

2b. Analyzing your topic

Begin your research by thinking about the different issues or facets of your topic.  Break your topic down so you can examine the different issues implicit 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 Boolean operators to improve your database searches by allowing you to broaden and narrow your topic:

                 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 term(s) 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 "technolog*" in the library catalogue and most databases will retrieve results containing any of the following: technology, technologies, technological change, technological innovation.

Sample Research Question

Topic: What role does government policy play in the development of wind power in the Netherlands?

Concepts: government polic* AND wind power AND Netherlands

Synonyms or related terms:

(state polic* OR national polic* OR regional polic*) AND (wind OR renewable) AND (energy or power) AND (Holland OR Netherlands)

Your research will be more successful if you think of several synonyms for the words in your topic and if you use truncation symbols (*) in your initial searches.

3. Searching

3a. Books and reports

Search the Library Catalogue to find print and electronic books, journals and reports on your topic.

Begin with a keyword search to find all the books and reports remotely related to your topic and then look at the record of a relevant book to find the best subject headings.  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.

Try searching some of the following subject headings:

To search for books by subject heading, use the Browse Search option in the SFU Library Catalogue, then select Subject browse from the drop-down menu. 

  • Economic development - Developing countries
  • Development economics
  • Diffusion of innovations
  • Industrial design
  • New products
  • Product design
  • Technological innovations
  • Technological innovations -- Government policy
  • Technological innovations -- Economic aspects
  • Technological innovations -- Economic aspects -- Developing countries
  • Technological innovations -- Developing countries


  • Search the Advanced Keyword using a combination of subject headings and keywords.  For example, try searching technological innovations AND national strateg*
  • Also, when searching Technological innovations -- Government policy, add the name of a country: Technological innovations -- Government policy -- Japan
  • Or add case stud* to find case studies when searching for a particular technological innovation or national innovation system. 
  • Another tip is to search relevant international organizations as Authors - for example, Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, World 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. 

3b. Databases

Search journal article indexes using Boolean operators and truncation (See Analyzing your topic).  Think of synonyms and related concepts for your topic to find the most articles and search the databases using a combination of keywords and subject headings.  Keep in mind that slightly different subject headings will be used in different journal article indexes.

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 Electronic Library
E-books, health and public policy documents.

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.

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
Examine the latest political and market developments around the world in ViewsWire, economic policy and performance reviews in Country Report (updated monthly), corporate strategy information in Business Briefings and global economic and political events with implications for business in Country Monitor.

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 Canadian 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.

LexisNexis Academic
Find company information from over 43 million 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 through 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.

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

Science & Technology Management Bibliography
Contains references to articles, books and conference proceedings on R&D management, the management of technological innovation & entrepreneurship and science & technology policy.

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 source, 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.

Finding more journal articles

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

3c. Websites

Search the websites of known or reliable sources, such as government websites and the websites of international organizations, such as the United Nations.  From reliable websites, follow the links to explore your topic further and find new resources.

Export Development Canada: Country Information
Find current reports that "monitor political and economic issues and gauge opportunities in more than 200 markets around the world" from the perspective of Canadian exporters.

"The Global Technology Revolution 2020" (2006)
This 316-page RAND report addresses the ongoing technology revolution in the biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technology sectors across a sample of 29 countries.  The authors assess the spectrum of scientific advancement with respect to their ability to implement a number of key technology applications, including cheap solar energy and wireless communications.

International Monetary Fund (IMF): Country Information
Staff Country Reports, press releases and occasional/working papers on almost every country.

Key Indicators of Developing Asian and Pacific Countries
An annual statistical data book of the Asian Development Bank.  Compares 38 countries on such topics as population, labour force and employment, national accounts, production, energy, government finance, balance of payments, exchange rates and internal indebtedness.

NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks (NWDTT)  
Search the latest edition (2005) of NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks, a database of 500 institutions from 100 countries, to find the world's most prominent and innovative public policy research institutes or think tanks. You can find an institution by name (listed alphabetically) or find the institutions of specific countries.

Technology Roadmaps
The Technology Roadmap (TRM) concept is a consultative process that is designed to help Canadian industry, its supply chain, academic and research groups, and governments come together to jointly identify and prioritize the technologies needed to support strategic R&D, marketing and investment decisions.    See, for example, the Wind Energy Technology Roadmap.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization
The UNIDO offers basic data on most countries of the world (GDP, manufactured exports, manufacturing value added, etc.) as well as more detailed statistics on labour productivity and wage rates by industry.

World Bank Group: World dataBank
Tables are drawn from the World Bank Development Indicators and other WB sources giving quick reference numbers for 206 countries as well as various regional groupings.  Also, see the World Bank's DoingBusiness database for details on the regulatory issues involved in setting up a business in any of over 145 countries. 

World Trade Organization: Trade Policy Reviews
Find, on a country-by-country basis, the latest information on trade policies of the many WTO member countries.

Additional resources

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

4. After Your Search

4a. Writing your research paper

Use the SFU Department of Political Science Guidelines for Writing Essays and Research Papers and the SFU Student Learning Commons' Writing for University to guide you as you write your research paper.

You may also want to peruse the following books:

  • The Political Science Student Writer's Manual [print]
  • Social Sciences Research: Research, Writing and Presentation Strategies for Students. [print]
  • Academic Writing: An Introduction. [print]

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.

4b. Citing your sources

You need to correctly cite all of the books, journal articles and websites that you used in your research.  Start with the SFU Library's Citation and Style Guides

Citing your sources and creating the reference list is 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.

Consider using a citation management software to organize your references and generate bibliographies.  See the SFU Citation Management Software Guide for reviews and introductions to the main tools.

4c. Plagiarism

Learning how to properly credit others when you use their ideas is a difficult, but important, part of research.  Start with the SFU Library's interactive tutorial Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism to test yourself and to learn more about plagiarism.  Also, read the SFU Library's Plagiarism Guide for further discussion of this critical topic and for links to other plagiarism guides.

4d. Presenting

The SFU Library has many books on creating effective business presentations and on public speaking in general, including several recent titles that are available online for SFU researchers. We also have many ebooks with tips on using Powerpoint, and one of our newer databases,, includes short video introductions to effectively using presentation software. Note also that SFU students can sign out a projector from the Library to use in our bookable group study rooms -- a great way to practice your presentation!