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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 Smart, Liaison Librarian, at 778.782.5043 (inaccessible due to library closure) or (Monday to Thursday ) or Ask a librarian.

Note: Latest census date for source is listed. If  it's 2011 (or earlier), it means that information for 2016 is not available for that source.


Resources for Urban, Indicators, Observations and Survey Exercises

Urban Indicators Exercise resources

Census Profile, 2016 Census 
"Provinces and territories, census metropolitan areas, communities and census tract"

Census Tract Reference Maps, by Census Metropolitan Areas or Census Agglomerations including Vancouver 2016
Statistics Canada

Census Program Data Viewer, 2016 Census (CPDV) "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."

Canadian Census Analyser (CHASS) 
Alternate access to Canadian Census Data - SFU resource.  Includes 2016 Census Profile Tables and  National Household Survey

Areas of of the city (City of Vancouver)
Vancouver neighbourhood descriptions

Urban Survey Exercise research methods 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"

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]

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 ; oe  Planning and Preparing the Analysis  in Applied Thematic Analysis

Urban Observation Exercise resources

Neighbourhood/Municipality information

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

SimplyAnalytics Canada 
"2015-2020" 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

Census and National Household Survey Maps 2011 (MetroVancouver)

NHS Profile 2011  (Statistics Canada - archived)
National Household Survey down to Census Tract, including "labour, education, place of work, commuting to work, mobility and migration, language of work, income, earnings, housing and shelter costs"

BC Stats
Note 2020: 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) 

How will you research it? Advanced journal article searching

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 other resources

Available to the SFU community

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

CBCA Complete
Fulltext articles on Canadian topics, including newspaper articles.  Example: Hastings-Sunrise

Canadian Electronic Library (CEL)
Fulltext public policy documents. Examples: "Benchmarking Active Transportation in Canadian Cities", "Cracks in the Foundation: Solving the Housing Crisis in Canada's Poorest Neighbourhood"

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

Article databases 

Finding articles on urban issues, patterns, and trends

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 but very useful:

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 relevent titles


Other 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) 

 Wikimedia Commons 
for media files (example: "Mount Pleasant" Vancouver)
Finding related hashtags (examples:  #cityofvancouver vs. #DeltaBC, or #CambieCorridor - need to subscribe). There's Twingly to "get access to all that social data at your fingertips!"(also need to subscribe)

Searching geolocated tweets & Twitter maps 
Twitter analytics (Need to to authorize Social Bearing to use your Twitter account)

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

Resources on information literacy, evaluating sources, and open access 

What is information literacy?

"An information literate individual is able to:

  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally."

From:  Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), American Library Association

See also

Introduction to Scholarly Communication video from the University of Guelph
Research is a Conversation video from the NVL library
In brief, the Research Lifecycle consists of:
Ideas> Partners> Proposal writing> Research process> Publication


Evaluating sources

In brief, consider:  Authority; Content; Scope; Currency; Objectivity

Finding and evaluating resources
SFU guide: who, what, where, when and why

What is a scholarly (or peer-reviewed) journal?
SFU guide "will help you identify and evaluate scholarly (also known as peer-reviewed) journals, magazines, and trade publications — both print and online."

How do I assess a publisher, journal, or conference?
Section  "Publishing choices" of the Scholarly publishing page, but also useful for researchers to evaluate publishers and journals

Beall's List of Predatory Journals and Publishers continuing the work of Mr. Beall

Searching the World Wide Web: Overview
OWL, the Purdue Online Writing Lab

Critical Appraisal for Skill Program (CASP)
Including CASP Checklists for systematic reviews, cohorts or qualitative studies, and more.  Created for healthcare workers, but useful for many researchers

Designing social research: a guide for the bewildered [online and print] See Chapter 2, "Reviewing What Other People Have Said – or How Can I Tell If Others' Research Is Any Good?"

All about journals

A-Z journals
SFU's complete journal listing; search by title keyword or ISSN

Is a journal peer-reviewed and where is it indexed? To find out, go to:

Ulrich's Periodicals Directory to search by the title, e.g. "International journal of urban and regional research" as a phrase search or ISSN, e.g. 1469-8706);  look under the Abstracting & Indexing section of the full journal description; look at the Refereed line, where Yes means peer-reviewed.

Key journals for Urban studies
Quick links for titles held at SFU

Open access resources

Available to everyone
Note: these resources are particularly helpful for alumni

"Open Access publications are free to read on the open internet. Readers can download, copy and distribute an Open Access publication, as long as credit is given to the authors. Readers do not require a subscription or any other form of payment, either personally or through their university or library, to access the content" from  Open Access of SFU Library's  Scholarly publishing + open access site.  

What happens once you graduate from SFU? Refer to: Services to Alumni
Including SFU electronic resources available off-campus (Note: not most of the databases listed on this page)

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) 
14,000 journals and counting.  Features a search function for finding articles

SFU's Research Depository, including the Urban Studies page

Open Access Theses and Dissertations 
"over 1000 colleges, universities, and research institutions"  and over 5 million theses and dissertations

Keeping track of your research

Citation guides 
SFU library guides

How to Reference Geospatial Data, Maps, Atlases, Air photos
Brock University 

Finding and Using Online Images Citing
SFU Library guide

Recommended Best Practices in Citation of Cartographic Materials 
Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives (ACMLA) 

Citation management software 
Zotero and Mendeley - for an introduction you can book an appointment (Spring 2020 not available?)

Software can also be used to keep track of references as well as help guide data analysis - for assistance you can book an appointment (Spring 2020 not available?)

Assistance at the library (including GIS)

Data & Statistics and GIS Including GIS help
Workshop on GIS Basics for Urban Studies: slides (2018) on finding geospatial data, and handout (2018) on using SimplyAnalytics and ArcGIS

For Data and GIS questions send a message to

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

Database of tutorials: LinkedIn Learning (LIL)
Online training library of thousands of videos.  Examples: " NVivo 2018 Essential Training"; "Excel 2019 Essential Training".
Note: You will need to create a LinkedIn Learning account with your SFU email address.

Using SPSS? Here is the Guide: SPSS: Resources for learning about the software package SPSS Statistics including links to tutorials, tools, and a discussion forum. (Note: there are no SPSS consultations at SFU)

If you need help, please contact Nina Smart, Liaison Librarian at 778.782.5043 (inaccessible due to library closure) or or Ask a librarian.