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SA 255: Introduction to social research

Contact Info

For Library research help, please contact Moninder Lalli, Librarian for Sociology / Anthropology by email () or Ask a librarian.

Library guides

Research process

  1. Define your topic.
  2. Look for background information (encyclopedias, handbooks, introductory texts).
  3. Based on your preliminary research, formulate a research question that you intend to address through more comprehensive research. You will ultimately address this research question in your thesis.
  4. Brainstorm keywords for each concept in your topic to use for searching for information.
  5. Use the Library Catalogue to find books and articles and use "subject lists" in Journal Article Databases to find additional articles.
  6. Evaluate your resources.
    1. Are the author's references scholarly (is there a bibliography)?
    2. Does the information seem credible by a recognized expert in the area?
  7. Note key authors. These may lead you to other sources.

Research question example

Question: What are the causes of teen homelessness?

  • Break down your topic into concepts or keywords.
  • Are there other words that could describe each of these concepts

Create a concept map

Library Research Concepts Worksheet (Concept Map / Keywords)

Concept 1 Concept 2
homeless* teen*
Related Terms Related Terms
runaway youth

Search for topics using key words

homeless*AND(teen*or youth)AND(poverty or poor)AND (BC or British Columbia)

Search tips & techniques

  • Use "or" to combine same concepts; use "and" to combine different concepts
  • When you have only one line search box, then put braces around your synonyms. 

             (____________ or __________) AND (__________ or ________)

             Use asterisk (*) the truncation symbol, for variation on endings of words

  • Use "quotation marks" to search for an exact phrase.
  • Alternate spellings -- use American/Canadian spelling (honour or honor). Use abbreviations and full words (TV or television)
  • Geographic concepts -- from specific to broader ( Vancouver or BC or British Columbia or Canada or North America)
  • Alternate terms -- Subject headings/Descriptors/Thesauri words. Thesauri words increase relevancy.
  • Search tips for Google and Google Scholar Library guide

Find books

Use the Advanced search in the Library Catalogue.

homeless* AND (teen* or youth) AND (poverty or poor)

From the results list, check the Subject Headings of books that look relevant. Click on the "Subjects" links to find other books on the same topic.

Subject headings

These Subject Headings may be useful for finding books on your topics.

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.


  • Community -- works on groups of people who reside in a specific locality under the same government, or share some other common characteristics and interests.
  • Communities

Homeless Youth


  • Mobility -- See Migration, Internal 
    These resources are on the movement of population within the borders of a single country. Works on migration across national borders in modern times are entered under Emigration and immigration. Works on the spread of population, largely in prehistoric times, are entered under Human beings--Migrations. Works on the mass migrations of peoples are entered under Migrations of nations.
  • Migration Internal -- Canada
  • Migration Internal -- Economic Aspects -- Canada

Nature and society

  • Nature -- Effect Of Human Beings On
  • Nature -- Effect Of Human Beings On -- British Columbia
  • Social change -- Environmental aspects

Public spaces

  • Public Spaces
  • Public Spaces -- British Columbia -- Vancouver
  • Public Spaces -- Design

Research methods

  • Anthropology -- Methodology
  • Mixed methods research -- works on research methodology that combine approaches used in both quantitative and qualitative research
  • Sociology -- Research -- Methodology

For more: Information on research methods for Anthropology and Sociology

Social conditions

  • Canada --Social Conditions
  • Canada -- Social Conditions - 21st Century
  • Immigrants -- British Columbia
  • Immigrants -- British Columbia -- Vancouver
  • Immigrants -- British Columbia -- Vancouver -- Social Conditions
  • Indigenous Women -- British Columbia -- Social Conditions
  • Indigenous Women -- Canada
  • Indigenous Women -- Canada -- Economic Conditions
  • Poverty -- British Columbia
  • Poverty -- Government policy -- British Columbia
  • Women -- Canada -- Economic Conditions
  • Women -- Canada -- Social Conditions


  • Bicycle Commuting -- Canada
  • Bicycle Commuting -- Government Policy -- British Columbia
  • Cycling -- Government policy -- British Columbia.
  • Local Transit -- British Columbia -- Metro Vancouver -- Planning
  • Local Transit -- British Columbia -- Vancouver Metropolitan Area -- Planning
  • Local transit -- British Columbia -- Vancouver Metropolitan Area -- Planning -- Evaluation.
  • Local Transit -- British Columbia Vancouver Metropolitan Area -- Statistics
  • Transportation -- British Columbia -- Planning.
  • Urban Transportation -- British Columbia -- Vancouver Metropolitan Area

Urban design

  • City Planning
  • City Planning -- British Columbia
  • City Planning -- British Columbia -- Burnaby
  • City Planning -- British Columbia -- Vancouver Metropolitan Area
  • Public Housing -- British Columbia
  • Public Housing -- British Columbia -- Vancouver

Find journal articles

Use the Where can I get this? link to find digital copies or print copies of articles. See also  How to find journal articles Library guide.

Sociological / Anthropological databases



  • Women's Studies International - The key database for women's issues with a feminist perspective.
  • Ageline AgeLine is an online index to articles from journals and magazines, books, research reports, and videos related to issues of ageing and life at 50+.
  • Sage Research Methods Online Reference books by Sage on social sciences research methods.


Statistics Canada 

Statistics Canada is the major statistical gathering agency of the federal government. It publishes the "whole range of statistics on the economic and social activities of the Canadian people". There are daily, weekly, quarterly, annual and irregular publications. They also publish the Census of Canada at five-year intervals. They also have an  Advanced Search Engine.

National Census Information

Start by looking at the Canadian Census Program.

Postal Code Search

Library guides

Provincial Census -- British Columbia

The government of BC census website collects and publishes reports of statistics from Statistics Canada, provincial government ministries and agencies and from administrative files.

Their A-Z list is often a good place to start your search. Also, check the Infoline blog for statistical highlights and information about new products and services. 

Selected items from A-Z list:

For more details check out the Library guide on BC Statistics.