URB 670: Urban Research Methods

This web page is intended to help you find information for Research and Information Literacy unit of URB 670. If you need help, please contact Nina SmartLiaison Librarian, at 778.782.5043 (Tuesdays and Thursdays) or nsmart@sfu.ca (Monday to Thursday) or Ask a librarian.



Census information

For the Urban Indicators and Urban Survey exercises.  All resources directly from Statistics Canada unless otherwise indicated.  If you have detailed questions about searching Census resources you can contact Carla Graebner, Research Data Services Librarian and Librarian for Government Information, at cgraebne@sfu.ca.

Profile data

A profile provides all data for a geographic area - you may want all of it or just some of it. It shows all variables individually. Start with:

Census Profile, 2021 Census of Population
Search by a place name or geographic code (i.e. a CT's code) from Statistics Canada's website.   Covers: provinces and territories, census metropolitan areas, communities and census tract

Canadian Census Analyser (CHASS) 
SFU resource: Alternate access to Canadian Census Data. It features census profiles for multiple levels of geography as far back as 1961.   Includes 2021 Census Profile Tables 


If you want to see what geographic areas (i.e. CTs or DAs) are contained and where they are located in a larger level of geography, use these resources:

2021 Census - Census Tract Reference Maps, by Census Metropolitan Areas or Census Agglomerations.
including Vancouver Statistics Canada, dating as far back as 2001. 
For 2016 and older census see  Census Tract Reference Maps including Vancouver

Data products, 2021 Census
Data products from previous censuses back to 1996 are at the bottom of the page

Dissemination Area Reference Maps, by Census Tracts, for Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations   (archived) 


Interactive map by Statistics Canada. Search by place name or postal code. Zoom in to display more granular geographic areas (i.e. DAs).  

Census Program Data Viewer,(CPDV) (2016, 2021)  "a new advanced web based data visualization tool that will make statistical information more interpretable by presenting key indicators in a statistical dashboard. The CPDV makes it easy to find many places in Canada, see them on a map, and get basic geographic and socio-demographic data for those places."


Historical Census

If you want to go back further than the previous Census:

Census datasets search by Statistics Canada
Census data products including profiles dating as far back as 1981. Use the filter from the left column to choose a year. 

Canadian Census Analyser (CHASS) 
Alternate access to Canadian Census Data - SFU resource. It features census profiles for multiple levels of geography as far back as 1961. 


Tips for finding historical Census data:

1) Geography may change over time; for example, a CT may be split into two or more new CTs as population grows. CT splits are usually done in a way that allows users to re-aggregate the splits to the original census tract for historical comparison. Refer to this page for more information. To find older boundary files for geographic areas, use Scholar's Portal. For example, you can find 1996 Census data boundary files (choose Digital Boundary Files- Add- choose the geographic level you want-Add- then you can visualize it on the map). 

2) Terminology may change over time, for example, Dissemination Area (DA) replaced Enumeration Area (EA) from 2001.  Refer to this page for more information. 


Urban Survey Exercise

Research methods books and resources:

Fundamentals of social research [print
(aka "The Babbie")  Classic text on social sciences research

Methods in human geography: a guide for students doing a research project [online and print]
"practical advice on how to actually undertake a project"

Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples [online and print, on reserve Spring 2023]

Sage Research Methods Online (SRMO)
A wealth of full-text resources on an immense range of various forms of research including the Methods Map.  Examples:  "Unobtrusive measures" and "Observation, overt and covert" in: The A-Z of Social Research ; or chapter  Planning and Preparing the Analysis  in Applied Thematic Analysis

Urban Observation Exercise resources

Unobtrusive measures : nonreactive research in the social sciences [online and print]
See Chapter 5 "Simple Observation" of this classic work

Urban social listening : potential and pitfalls for using microblogging data in studying cities [online]

Neighbourhood/Municipality information

Areas of of the city (City of Vancouver)
Description of Vancouver neighbourhoods, including history, social services, and statistics

Census local area profiles (City of Vancouver)
in CSV and XLS formats
2016 (also has 2011 and earlier)

SimplyAnalytics Canada 
SFU resource for mapping demographic and consumer information, down to the Census Tract or Postal Code area, e.g.  0242.00 or V5R 4G6. Note: Sign in as a guest or create an account. Contains many useful video tutorials

Community Profiles (My Health My Community)
Survey  results for BC municipalities and Neighbourhood Profiles  in Lower Mainland,  including Built Environment (good sidewalks, taking transit, etc.) "updated 2017"

Metro Vancouver Urban Centre Network
2011 Regional City Centre Profiles :"major activity hubs for transportation, employment and housing" Examples: Metrotown, Surrey Metro Centre


BC  and other Stats
Note 2023: There is no current access, so links below are from the Wayback Machine

2016 Census Total Population Results Census Subdivisions
Down to Census Subdivisions 

Open Data from the Census 
Neighourhoods  for 2011 and earlier - some links not archived

 2006 Census: Profiles - A & B Series Neighbourhoods (Census Tracts)


Journal and newspaper article searching

How to effectively search databases:

Search tips
How narrow or expand your search, with classic Boolean visuals, from SFU guide How to find journal articles

 Boolean Searching
Power searching section of SFU Catalogue guide; tips apply to databases as well

News and grey literature databases

Newspapers are a good, and sometimes the only, resource for articles on a specific neighbourhood.  Examples:

Canadian Newsstream
Fulltext of national and local newspapers. Search under Publications for specific papers, such as Richmond News

CBCA Complete
Fulltext articles on Canadian topics, including newspaper articles.  Example: "Arbutus Ridge"

Canada Commons
Canadian public policy documents from government and nonprofit organizations as well as think tanks
Examples: "Benchmarking Active Transportation in Canadian Cities"

See also Municipal and Local history research section of main Urban studies page

Article databases 

Finding articles on urban issues, patterns, and trends in cities and sometimes neighbourhoods

Available to the SFU community

Human geography, urban planning

Environment Complete
Urban planning, public policy 

Sociological Abstracts
Urban sociology, social policy

Web of Science
indexes major urban studies journals; major citation index.  To quote a colleague, "Citation searching is a useful strategy to check to see if a work that is relevant for your research has been cited by anyone else since it was initially published."

Google Scholar
Use this link to get SFU journal holdings; has useful Cited By function to find newer articles

Not a journal article database per se, but very useful for searching new or very specific topics:

ProQest Dissertations and Theses Abstracts and Index 
 "World’s most comprehensive collection of dissertations and theses from around the world" 
Particularly useful are the bibliographies and methodologies sections of relevant titles


Image and other online resources

Examples of finding neighbourhood or city information from photographs, social media, etc.:

City of Vancouver Archives Digital Objects
Videos and high resolution images, including Cartographic materials (example: "Kitsilano Beach")

Flickr Map 
Use "Search the map" to find photos (examples:100 Mile House, or Parks Taken in Burnaby Heights) 

"search engine for finding great places to take photos near you"  (can be hit-or-miss re neighbourhoods)

 Wikimedia Commons 
for media files (example: "Mount Pleasant" Vancouver)

Walk Score 
Finding local services within walking distance of cities and neighourhoods, and local transit rating (examples: Oakridge, Downtown Vancouver)


Keeping track of your research (i.e. citing)

See the Citing and Writing section of the Urban Studies information resources page
Note: It doesn't matter whether which citation style you pick, just select one and stick with it
See also: the Citing guide for Statistics Canada, PCensus, & CHASS data  for how to cite Census and related information


Assistance at the library (including GIS)

Data & Statistics and GIS Including GIS help
Workshop on GIS Introduction for Urban Studies: slides (2022) on finding geospatial data, and handout (2022) on using SimplyAnalytics and ArcGIS

For Data and GIS questions send a message to data-services@sfu.ca

Research Commons
Supporting research for graduate students, including workshops, consultations and resources.

If you need help, please contact Nina Smart, Liaison Librarian at 778.782.5043 (Tuesdays and Thursdays) or nsmart@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.