PLCY 805 - Public Policy Research Techniques and Methods

This guide provides selected resources for your PLCY 805 assignments. For the the course description: see the PLCY 805 course outline.

Contact information

If you need help, please contact Nina SmartLiaison Librarian, at 778.782.5043 (Tuesdays and Thursdays) or (Monday to Thursday),  Book a research appointment, or Ask a Librarian for quick reference questions.

For detailed research questions on statistics information resources or questions about microdata, please contact the Data Services Librarians Team at


Useful links

Power searching and Boolean searching
These search tips are just as useful for databases as for the catalogue, and are a must for anyone doing advanced searching, e.g. scoping reviews

Database quick search tips, or things you can't always do in Google:

  • truncation, e.g. transport* and phrase searching e.g. "food sovereignty"
  • syntax: AND to narrow and OR  to broaden search
  • pearl-growing, or starting with a good article and finding more (see YouTube tutorial)
  • search the database's Thesaurus to find useful subject headings
  • Keep in mind research is generally not a straight line, but iterative searching
  • More search tips in How to find journal articles


Grey literature: What it is & how to find it
 government and think tank reports, and much more

"I need to read an article and it doesn't turn up in the Library Search/is behind a paywall" - this has already happened in PLCY 805!
See the guide From citation to article, including the Drill Down method 
You can also try LibKey Nomad "a browser extension that provides instant links to the SFU LIbrary's full-text content for articles and e-books as you do research on the web"

For items not at SFU Library you can:
make an Interlibrary Loan Request or 
obtain a reciprocal borrowing card, if you'd like to take out books directly from UBC or another Canadian university


Scholarly journal article databases

Database for world economic literature (sample subject terms: Urban Economics AND Canada)

Environment Complete
Covers environmental law, public policy, renewable energy sources and more

International Political Science Abstracts
Comprehensive, global database providing access to abstracts and information on world-wide political science journals

Political Science Complete
Access to full-text political science articles [sample subject terms: Health care reform AND Canada]

See also: databases for Public Policy


Other databases

SFU has access to hundreds of databases; some examples:

GALLOP Portal Government and Legislative Libraries Online Publications Portal
Current source of Canadian Government documents, with holdings of provincial legislative libraries

Web of Science  
Database for the major disciplines and major resources for cited reference searches aka article time travelling

Sample article title search:  
Benchmarking global supply chains: The power of the 'ethical audit' regime

See also: News Databases  such as CBCA Complete for especially recent coverage of health policy topics in the popular press



Resources for the NVivo part of your assignment


Once you have found Statistics as listed in the Statistic section below, it is time to find some full-text materials for your NVivo coding. It seems you will be most likely looking for policy documents, transcripts of interviews/television shows, or fulltext newspaper articles.  Below are a couple of places to start.


For policy documents, start with: 

Canada Commons
Canadian public policy documents from government and nonprofit organizations, as well as think tanks
You can search by organizations, broad topics such as Youth or Health, and more.

For newspaper articles or (generally) CBC transcripts start with 

Canadian Newstream
hint: Limit your Document type to: Transcript to get only new show transcripts

For more information see: Media literature review guide
This guide was created by our Communication Librarian on how to conduct a literature review of news sources.  See in particular the section "Archived broadcast/TV news" on how to find transcripts

Fun fact: media literature review is under the umbrella term: Primary Resources, sonot just for historical research


Once you have relevant, full-text documents, then it's time for:

 NVivo (main page, with links to training and assistance)


Note on "qualitative datasets"

First, a definition: "non-numeric information, such as in-depth interview transcripts, diaries, anthropological field notes, answers to open-ended survey questions, audio-visual recordings and images". Qualitative datasets is a term used more often in the UK rather than in Canada (over here, datasets = numbers).  


Statistical and secondary data resources

Statistics and data for the PLCY 805 assignment

Use any one of the Recommended Resources of Module 5 in the Canvas PLCY 805 page.  That said, here is some more statistical information.

 Data & statistics information resources 

The Data Services team provides assistance "locating and acquiring of data files and statistical information, identifying appropriate datasets, and assisting with data extractions". Please contact if you have questions about quantitative microdata

For a selection of again, quantitative data sources see the Statistics and Microdata section of the Public Policy page

Quick links:

Statistics Canada
Quick tips for navigating the site:

  • Subjects to find data and analysis as well links to other agencies with useful statistics
  • The Daily, StatCan's official release bulletin.  Search within The Daily to find topic subjects, e.g. Covid youth
    Helpful hint: Newspaper articles are terrible at citing sources, so if a StatsCan report is mentioned in one, chances are very good that looking at The Daily for the same week will get a link to it.  

See also guide: Statistics: Canadian Census

"simple-to-use statistics portal that integrates statistics from thousands of sources, on topics related to business, media, public policy, health and others".  Covers Canadian, US and international resources, including Statistics Canada, but having so much more.

Data Cite Commons
search by keywords or DOI to find articles with data

Secondary market research resources 
SFU Business Librarian Mark Bodnar's page, especially Key sources 


Other assignment resources


Giving effective presentations  and Resources to help you improve your presentation skills 
Research Commons

Voice and Presentation Skills
SFU's Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE) has free workshops for SFU faculty, staff, and graduate students

Anti-Racism and Anti-Colonialism

Decolonizing our minds
Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre at SFU Library. Resources on reconciliation and related topics
Race, Class, and Gender
Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (GSWS) course page covering search techniques and more

Writing and citing

Research Commons guides

Start with: Literature reviews for graduate students 
Covers search techniques, citation management, and more

Writing services offered by the Research Commons
including: Consultations; Writing workshops; writing groups; and ReadAhead
Academic writing resources Student Learning Commons
guides and links to various aspects of academic writing, and a drop-in virtual writing group

Citation management software and tools
(Zotero is the SFU preference)