Political Science resources: Public policy & democratic governance

This page has some sources and ideas for finding information on political science topics within the Public Policy & Democratic Governance learning track. It may be helpful for students in courses such as POL 121, POL 132, POL 210, POL 310, POL 350, POL 405W, 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: 9780415782456

    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 governance
    Provides a one-stop point of reference for the diverse and complex topics surrounding governance, focusing primarily on topics related to the changing nature and role of the state in recent times, and the ways in which these have been conceptualized.

    Routledge handbook of public policy
    Covers all aspects of the policy process including: theory (from rational choice to the new institutionalism), frameworks (network theory, advocacy coalition, development models), key stages in the process (formulation, implementation, evaluation), agenda-setting and decision-making, and the roles of key actors and institutions.

    Handbook of public policy analysis: Theory, politics, and methods
    Covers the historical development of policy analysis, its role in the policy process, the argumentation, rhetoric, and narratives employed in policy analysis, its cultural, and ethical aspects, and its empirical methods. Entries also consider the theoretical debates that have recently defined the field, including the work of postpositivist, interpretivist, and social constructionist scholars.

    Oxford encyclopedia of foreign policy analysis
    Provides access to entries on foreign policy theories, methods, actors (government, global, social, etc.), strategies, and issues.

    World encyclopedia of political systems and parties [print]
    Arranged alphabetically by the common English name of each country, this resource includes articles on 193 nations, describing government structures (executive, legislative, and judicial institutions and electoral systems), and offering brief historical, demographic, and economic information where appropriate. It also includes the background and recent contributions of major and some minor political parties, as well as interest groups.

    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:

      Canadian Electronic Library
      Provides access to text of public policy documents from Canadian institutes, think-tanks, and research groups.

      Canadian Research Index
      Provides access to Canadian government publications.

      Digital National Security Archive
      Contains a comprehensive set of declassified government documents central to U.S. foreign and military policy since 1945.

      Complete World Development Report Online
      Provides access to in-depth analysis and policy recommendations on aspects of development, including agriculture, the role of the state, transition economies, labour, infrastructure, health, the environment, and poverty.

      Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO)
      Provides access to working papers, policy briefs, current analysis and commentary, scholarly journal articles, e-books, and videos on theory and research in international affairs.

      Provides access to current research and policy documents on international development issues.

      Provides access to citations with abstracts from economics journals, books, and working papers on a variety of international economics and labour topics, including economic growth, international economics, urban and regional economics, etc.

      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 Policy Analysis, Public Policy, Economics, 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

      Public Policy information resources (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information and links to graduate students of Public Policy who are learning about social policy, environmental policy, Indigenous policy, health policy, and issues such as sustainability, regulations, globalization, gender, and cost-benefit analysis.

      Labour Studies information resources (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information and links to students of Labour Studies who are learning about labour, working people, and their organizations, including topics in law, policy, migration, labour politics, gender, the environment, globalization, and popular culture.

      Urban Studies information resources (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information and links to graduate students of Urban Studies who are learning about cities in all of their social, economic, environmental, and political complexity.

      Economics information resources (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information and links to students of Economics who are learning about economic trends, the development of the world economy, and major debates related to economic theories, thinkers, and institutions.

      Canadian health care policy (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information about Canadian health care policy and links to reports, briefings, directories, etc.

      Grey literature: What it is & how to find it
      Defines grey literature as information produced outside of traditional publishing and distribution channels (e.g. industry or company reports, newsletters, government documents, urban plans, etc.); provides search-strategies, tools, and resources for discovering such resources.

      Finding government resources & information
      Provides links to guides on Canadian federal bills, legal cases, statistics, government publications, and various internet resources, including those for other countries.

       Ways to look for academic sources

      Book covers by ISBNs: 9783319586182

      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 social media surveillance in shaping Canadian privacy policy.

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

      • social media = social networks, platforms, SM, virtual communities, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
      • surveillance = data mining, data brokerage, Big Data, tracking, spying, spyware, adware, cookies, Cambridge Analytica, etc.
      • privacy policy = ATI, ATIPP, access to information, protection of privacy, data protection, personal information, PI, confidentiality, etc.
      • Canadian = Canada, federal, provincial, territorial, Ontario, British Columbia, 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  Google AND privacy will connect these different ideas and show results that contain both of them anywhere in the text.
      • Searching for  Canada OR Alberta will connect these related words and show results that contain either of them.
      • Searching for Canad* will search Canada, Canadian, Canadians, etc.
      • Searching for "social media" 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: