Skip to Main Content
Banner image for Mount Allison University Libraries and ArchivesBanner image link to Mount Allison UniversityMount Allison University Libraries and Archives
Hours | Libraries Home | Music Library | University Archives

Contemporary Canadian Govt. & Politics: A Research Guide: Finding Information

Finding Information

Finding Information: Scholarly Research in Academic Journals

Scholarly journal articles are a key component of research in politics and government. They are the major publishing format for academic research besides books, containing current and usually narrowly-focused information.

Scholarly or academic journals are usually published by a university press or a scholarly association. The articles in these journals are written by scholars and specialists who have conducted research in the field and who are usually affiliated with a university or research centre. They publish to disseminate the findings of their research, and provide full referencing of their sources. A key aspect of these journals is that articles are only published after they have gone through peer review, where other scholars have examined the manuscript to ensure they meet academic standards and provide a contribution to the discipline. These journals are also referred to as peer-reviewed or refereed journals. The key scholarly journals for Canadian Government & Politics are listed below, although many other academic journals exist from all over the world which will also occasionally include articles on Canadian government and political issues. (See also Special Topics for journals with a more specific focus in Canadian Government & Politics.)

Professional journals published by a professional association, think tank, research institute, non-profit group, government or other organization of members who practice in the field, may also include scholarly articles, and these journals often have an editorial board that reviews some of the articles before publishing, but they may also publish articles that present the opinions and experience of practitioners. Articles in these kinds of journals need to be critically evaluated individually.

Contrast the above with popular magazines, which are generally published by a commercial publishing company and intended for the general public. The articles in magazines are often written by journalists without expertise in the field and who usually provide no reference to their sources. Editing or fact-checking may be minimal.

Articles can also be "published" on the Internet by anyone independently with no editing, checking, or endorsement from anyone. To critically evaluate all kinds of articles found, see the tips in: Evaluating Information: Articles.

To find journal articles, use an index or full-text journal database subscribed to by academic and some public libraries. These specialized indexes cover many hundreds or even thousands of journals allowing you to look up your topic and find articles in many journals at once. Note that most indexes and article databases include a mix of scholarly, professional, and popular journals and magazines, so as you search you should make sure your research includes articles from scholarly journals. Some of the key scholarly journals are listed here. For a list of other useful journals, and the indexes to use for finding articles of all kinds, see: Finding Information: Analysis and Reports in the Popular Press.

Key Academic Journals on Canadian Government and Politics:

Canadian Journal of Political Science (CJPS), formerly Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science.
Ottawa: Canadian Political Science Association, 1935 - .

Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). Vancouver: British Columbia Political Studies Association. 2007 - . Open access:

Canadian Public Administration .
Toronto: Institute of Public Administration of Canada, 1958 - .

Canadian Public Policy
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975 - .

Some key multidisciplinary academic journals that also include articles on Canadian government & politics:

Journal of Canadian Studies
Canadian Historical Review
International Journal of Canadian Studies
British Journal of Canadian Studies
American Review of Canadian Studies

Finding Information: Articles in Non-academic Journals and Magazines

Scholarly research published in academic (peer-reviewed or refereed) journals should be consulted for any serious research project. See Finding Information: Scholarly Research in Academic Journals.

Articles reporting on and analyzing research, events, issues and ideas in government and politics can also be valuable and are found in other kinds of journals and magazines such as professional or trade journals, journals published by research institutes, think tanks and other organizations, news magazines, and other publications intended for the general public. Some examples of these kinds of journals and magazines most useful for Canadian government and politics are listed below. (See also Special Topics for others with a more specific subject focus.)

Note: Some of these contain scholarly articles, but on the whole, these publications print articles that are not always supported by documented evidence and may reflect the author's subjective opinion, the publisher's political agenda, or the government's position on an issue. Researchers must be careful to evaluate these articles critically, and to balance these sources with others. For tips on evaluating articles see Evaluating Information -- Articles.

Canadian Dimension. Winnipeg: Dimension Publishing Inc., 1963 -. Describes itself as "an independent forum for left-wing political thought and discussion".
Canadian Parliamentary Review. Ottawa: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, 1978 - . Guest editorials and feature articles are written by parliamentarians, staff and others, on the functioning of government; includes federal and provincial/territorial legislative summaries. Full text online
Electoral Insight. Ottawa: Elections Canada, 1999 - 2006. Articles by scholars and others cover elections and the democratic process in Canada and elsewhere. Full text online.
Horizons. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, Government of Canada, 1998 - . Articles highlight the work of federal government and external policy researchers. Starting in 2007 includes some peer-reviewed articles. Full text online.
Inroads: the Canadian Journal of Opinion. Ottawa: Inroads Inc., 1992 - . An independent journal that publishes articles on Canadian economic, political and social issues. Full text online.
The Lobby Monitor. Ottawa: Hill Times Publishing, 1989 - . Provides information on the lobbying community in Canada. Intended to help policy advocates keep informed of events in time to lobby government.
Optimum: The Journal of Public Sector Management. Ottawa: The Summit Group & the Centre on Governance, U. of Ottawa, 1999 - . Articles focus on national and international issues in public sector management; includes refereed articles and others. Full text online.
Policy Options. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1979 - . The IRPP, a nonprofit organization, publishes bilingual articles on public policy issues including in-depth analyses and research.
This Magazine. Toronto: Red Maple Foundation, 1966 - . This registered charity publishes alternative to mainstream views on politics and culture.

To find articles on your topic, use article indexes or full-text databases. Indexes allow you to search for articles by topic in hundreds or thousands of journals and magazines at once. There are many multidisciplinary indexes and article databases (e.g. JSTOR, Academic Search Premier, Proquest Research Library, etc.) as well as indexes limited to the social sciences (Social Sciences Index, Social Sciences Abstracts, etc.) all of which can be useful for finding articles on government and politics. Federated searching (search engines that allow searching multiple databases together) and Google Scholar provide other ways to find relevant articles across many disciplines and from many different kinds of publications. Starting off with a specialized government/political science index, or one that is limited to only Canadian journals, can save a lot of searching time, allow for more efficient searching, and provide more reliable results.

TIP: To get the most out of the index or database you select, know its coverage dates, the types of publications it covers, how to limit the articles found to academic or peer-reviewed journals, how to combine keywords to narrow the search, etc. Take some time to ensure you know how to search each database and take advantage of any special features available.

The following are some of the most relevant indexes/databases for finding articles on Canadian government and politics:

America: History and Life. 1964 - . Indexes with abstracts and full text of articles from over 2,000 journals, books and dissertations on all aspects of the history of Canada and the U.S. from prehistorical times to the present.
CBCA (Canadian Business & Current Affairs). 1982 - . Index and full-text database of over 600 Canadian academic journals, magazines and news sources. (Formerly Canadian Index, Canadian News Index and Canadian Business Index.)
Canadian Periodical Index. 1920 - . Index and full-text database of over 400 Canadian journals, magazines and newspapers and some major U.S. magazines.
Canadian Research Index. Index to Canadian reports, articles and other publications from all levels of government, agencies, boards, commissions, universities and research institutes. (Formerly Microlog Index.)
C.R.I.S. (Combined Retrospective index to Journals in Political Science, 1886-1974). Index to 179 English-language journals.
International Political Science Abstracts (IPSA). By the International Political Science Association. 1951 - . Index of the major political science journals from around the world.
JSTOR. Full-text backfiles (not the most recent 2-5 years) of about 20 political science journals, among others, including Canadian Journal of Political Science from 1935 on.
PAIS International. 1915 - . Index to international journal articles, government documents and books on public and social policy.
Political Science: A Sage Full-Text Collection. A database of 25 political science journals in full text.

Political Science Complete. EBSCO. Includes hundreds of full-text journals and other sources.
Sage Public Administration Abstracts. 1974 - . Covers English-language journals on public administration.
Social Sciences Citation Index. 1956 - . Indexes articles from English-language social science journals. A different and valuable index that allows searching by citations within each article to trace how often and where articles have been cited. (Available through Web of Science.)
Worldwide Political Science Abstracts. 1975 - . Indexes over 2,000 journals in political science, international relations, law, public administration and policy.
The database includes the merged backfiles of Political Science Abstracts, published by IFI / Plenum, 1975-2000, and ABC POL SCI, published by ABC-CLIO, 1984-2000.

Finding Information: Current Events / News

Although the news media may not always provide "substantive" information, they should not be dismissed as a valid source for research material. The major news media: radio, television, newspapers, news magazines, Internet news sites, etc. are often appropriate for getting:

the facts: identifying the people, places, dates, issues, and other facts at the core of an event that provide clues for further research;
the earliest reports: of political events or government actions;
details: news sources often include local detail not easily found elsewhere;
excerpts: of interviews, speeches, quotes by politicians, government officials, etc.;
a reflection: of the time, showing what was considered newsworthy, how people perceived the events at the time, their opinions, etc. As such, news sources are often considered primary source material, for historical research in particular;
first-hand accounts: of events by an eyewitness or participant in an event (primary source material);
in-depth analysis: newspapers in particular, but also at times other media, can provide more in-depth analysis of an event like a convention or election than other sources.

For Government News Sites and News Releases see Selected Primary Sources: What's Happening Now - In Government

NOTE: For various reasons, news sources need to be used with caution. The accuracy of the information is not always reliable. Articles are not necessarily well researched; facts and sources are not always checked and sources are rarely cited fully. Information may be biased by the reporter's personal interpretation, the "story" or angle required for the assignment, or the political slant of the newspaper's owners. News pieces need to be distinguished from editorials and other opinion pieces.

 Full-text | Digests | Indexes | Websites | News Site Gateways

Full-text News Databases and Digitized Newspapers:

Databases of news sources are available on the Internet by subscription only. Some provide selected text only; others provide scans of the complete newspaper. Historical collections of newspapers are also being digitized and made available for free on the Internet by libraries and other non-profit organizations. See Special Topics: Provincial Government & Politics for provincial collections. Examples of major news databases and digitized newspapers:

Canadian Newsstream. (Formerly Canadian Newsstand.) Proquest.

Description: Text (articles, features, columns and editorials) of over 200 Canadian newspapers, close to 100 online news sites, and transcripts of several television news programs.
Coverage: Start and end dates vary by title. Most 1980's - . Updated daily.

Tips: This is one of the largest Canadian news databases available.

Canadian Business and Current Affairs (CBCA). ProQuest.

Description: Index and full-text database for Canadian topics, including news sources.
Coverage: Varies by title. Some 1970's - . Updated daily but coverage for many of the news sources discontinued.
Includes: Newspapers, newswires, news magazines, television news transcripts, as well as journals, magazines and more.

Tips: A good source for articles on Canadian topics, not just news.

Globe and Mail: Canada's Heritage from 1844. Proquest.

Description: Digital archive of Canada's national newspaper.
Coverage: Globe and Mail from June 1844 - present (with approx. 4-year delay).
Includes: All articles and graphics.

Eureka (formerly Virtual News Library by CEDROM SNi). Cision Inc.

Description: Database of of a variety of news sources from around the world. Some are text only; some in full-text pdf format.
Coverage: Varies by title. Updated daily.
Includes: French and English-language newspapers from Canadian small towns and cities, television and radio news transcripts, newswires, and archived website content from news sites like the CBC.

Factiva. Dow Jones.

Description: A large news and business database covering news sources worldwide.
Coverage: Varies by title.
Includes: Canadian titles include The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and some others from cities across the country.
Tips: To limit a news search to Canadian sources select "Sources" - "By region".

Nexis Uni (formerly LexisNexis Academic). Lexis Nexis.

Description: A large news, business and legal information database. Has selected articles (text only)  from news sources worldwide.
Coverage: Varies by title.
Includes: Canadian titles include The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and some others from cities across the country.
Tips: To limit a news search to Canadian sources select "Menu", "All Sources", then narrow by category - News, then by jurisdiction - International - North America - Canada.

Toronto Star: Pages of the Past. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. Details at:

Description: Scanned and digitized version of this major Canadian daily in .pdf format.
Coverage: 1892 to the present with approx. 3-year delay. (Missing issues: Nov. 1892-Dec. 1893.)
Includes: All articles and graphics.
Tips: Some pages may be difficult to read as they were scanned from microfilm. See the microfilm version available in most large libraries.

See also Special Topics - Provincial and Local Government & Politics for digitized collections of historical newspapers in each province.

Back to the Top | Full-text | Digests | Indexes | Websites | News Site Gateways

News Digests:

Canadian News Facts: The Indexed Digest of Canadian Current Events. Toronto: MPL Communications Inc., Marpep Pub.1967 - 2001.

Description: Summarizes the major news stories from a select number of newspapers across Canada.
Coverage: 1967 - 2001.
Includes: Selected Canadian newspapers.
Tips: Use the subject index included.

Ottawa Letter. (Formerly View from Ottawa.) Don Mills, ON: CCH Canadian, 1965 - 2002.

Description: A digest of current events on Parliament Hill. Originally binder with looseleaf updates. Online in CBCA database Sept. 1997 - Feb. 2002.
Coverage: 1965 to 2002.
Includes: Includes a weekly table of progress of bills and monthly federal legislative record.
Tips: Use the subject index.

Back to the Top | Full-text | Digests | Indexes | Websites | News Site Gateways

News Indexes:

Note that the full-text databases listed above are searchable and therefore function as indexes as well, but generally only started coverage in the 1980's or later. Indexes that cover several Canadian newspapers for earlier periods are rare. Two are listed below. Use the LAC list for more information and to find indexes to individual papers.

Indexes to Canadian Newspapers.  Library and Archives Canada.

Description: Use the Geographical List to see if newspapers in your region of interest are indexed, and for which dates.
Coverage: 18th century to the present; indexes for newspapers held at the Library and Archives Canada.
Includes: Indexes to local, regional and national newspapers.
Tips: Indexes can be requested by interlibrary loan through your library.

Canadian Index. (Was Canadian Newspaper Index 1977-1979, Canadian News Index, 1980-1992; 1993 merged with two magazine indexes.) Toronto: Micromedia, 1977 - 2001.

Description: Indexes a select number of Canadian daily newspapers and magazines.
Coverage: 1977 - 2001. Updated monthly, with annual or semi-annual cumulations.
Includes: Titles indexed vary over time. Newspapers include Montreal Star, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Winnipeg Free Press.

Index de l'Actualité. (Formerly Index de l'Actualité vues à travers la presse écrite) Westmount, Quebec: InformII-Microfor. 1972 - 1998.

Description: Indexes four Quebec newspapers: Le Devoir, Le Journal de Montréal, La Presse, Le Soleil.
Coverage:1987 - 1998. Updated monthly with annual cumulations.

Back to the Top | Full-text | Digests | Indexes | Websites | News Site Gateways

Selected News Websites:

CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

Founded in 1941, the CBC is Canada's national public broadcaster providing radio and television news services. It is  the largest news gathering organization in Canada. The main page of the website features news stories of the day and some earlier ones. You can subscribe to receive CBC news digests and alerts by email. A Politics section features political news and links to political news programs.
Transcripts and podcasts are available for some news programs. Some of the popular feature news stories can be viewed in the CBC Archives Transcripts are also available in many news databases.
Political ads for federal general elections and by-elections that were displayed on the CBC website within the last two years are available in  the Political Ads Registry. Required by the Canada Elections Act since 2019, large Internet sites that sell political ads before and during federal general elections and by-elections must maintain copies of the ads online for two years, and  information on the ads for an additional five years.

The House: The Week in National Politics. 1977 - .

The longest-running CBC radio show covering national politics, aired Saturday mornings. It features news about Parliament with interviews and background information for context. A year of the latest episodes are available online as podcasts.

See the CBC/Radio-Canada site for all their programs and services.

The Globe and Mail. 1936 - .

Canada's national newspaper. Available online for free are selected articles from today's paper and a searchable archive of one week. More is available for subscribers.
NOTE: If your topic is a regional one (outside of Central Canada) or local, check the major dailies from the region, major cities in the area, and smaller local newspapers as well.

The Hill Times: Canada's Politics and Government Newsweekly. 1989 - .

Published in Ottawa since 1989, this independently-owned weekly paper (available in print and online) covers federal politics and the federal government. Besides news stories, op-eds and updates on the status of legislation, features include "policy briefings" highlighting a current public policy issue with an interview of the Minister in charge, and a parliamentary calendar. Not all areas of the website are accessible without a subscription.

Back to the Top | Full-text | Digests | Indexes | Websites | News Site Gateways

Some Canadian News Site Gateways:

Canadian News Online. Library and Archives Canada.

Links to some Canadian newspaper websites including provincial, student, satirical, indigenous, and multicultural.

Find a Newspaper. News Media Canada.

The industry association for news media in Canada has links to the websites of Canadian daily newspapers and information on the Canadian news industry.

See also Evaluating News Sites

Finding Information: Books

Scholarly books, generally written by professors, edited and supported by reputable university presses, should form the backbone of an academic research project. These books usually provide deeper and wider coverage of an issue than articles do. Reading a few key scholarly books on your topic can save much research time further on.

Books on Canadian government and politics also exist in many other forms: Explanatory textbooks, narrative histories, statements of political philosophy (such as Pierre Trudeau's "The French Canadians"), political biographies, and others. It will depend on your research project which, if any of these types of books are appropriate as well.

Back to the Top | Library Catalogues | Textbooks | Bibliographies & Guides | Online Bookstores | Online Books

Library Catalogues:

Search your library's catalogue to find out what books are immediately available to you. Most library catalogues  include links to any ebook collections to which the libraries subscribe. If your library does not have enough on your topic, you can search the larger Canadian libraries' catalogues and union catalogues, and request a print book through inter-library loan. The Ask Your Librarian -- Libraries section has links to different kinds of libraries and their catalogues.

NOTE: Some libraries do not have their full collections entered into their online library catalogue. When searching for older material especially, make sure to check the holdings statement on the online catalogue's main screen or help section, or ask a Reference Librarian.

Title | Subject | Keyword | Combining Keywords | Phrase | Truncation | Browsing the Stacks

Title Search:

If you have a reference to a particular book from a bibliography, a recommended reading list, or other reference source, the most efficient way to find the book in a library is to do a title search (ie. search for the title by selecting the title field and typing in the book title. Library catalogue systems vary in exactly how this is done, but the online examples or instructions are usually easy to follow.)

TIP: Most online library catalogues require you to drop the preposition (the, a, an, etc.) at the beginning of a title (e.g. for the title: A History of the Vote in Canada you enter the title search as: history of the vote in canada).

If you only know the author's name and a word or two from the title, do a keyword search by combining the two: type smith in the author field and politics in the title field. Different catalogue systems will allow you to do this in various ways. Read the instructions or ask for assistance from a reference librarian.

Title | Subject | Keyword | Combining Keywords | Phrase | Truncation | Browsing the Stacks

Subject Search:

When searching by SUBJECT, you cannot enter any word you can think of, as you can when doing a keyword search. Subject terms in good indexes and library catalogues are specific terms that the cataloguers use to cover a topic (a "controlled vocabulary" of indexing terms.) This allows all books on a topic to be found with one search, whether they have that term in their title or not.

It is important to find the subject terms used for your topic or you risk not finding the most relevant books available. Most university libraries in North America and large libraries in the English-speaking world use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

Library of Congress Subject Headings. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. 1898 - .

LCSH is the most comprehensive list of subject headings in the world. Use the "Search Library of Congress Subject Headings" search box with a term for your topic to see the appropriate and related subject terms. Example: entering campaign financing points to campaign funds as the LCSH and several related terms. Click on the term found to see a scope note explaining its use.

Canadian Subject Headings. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada. Print - 1992. Online list discontinued April 2019.  Maintained online within LAC's library catalogue: Aurora.
A Canadian list of subject headings developed and continuously updated by LAC. To be used where the LC subject headings are not specific enough for Canadian topics. More details:

The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and Canadian Subject Headings lists also function as a thesaurus and can be very useful for finding related terms, narrower and broader terms.

Guide to LCSH abbreviations:
BT = Broader Term
NT = Narrower Term
RT = Related Term
UF = Used For (E.g. term 1 is Used For -- instead of --  term 2)

The following are some commonly used LC subject headings for books on Canadian politics and government:

Canada -  politics and government
Federal government - Canada
Federal-provincial relations - Canada
Political Parties - Canada
Political Leadership - Canada
Elections - Canada
Politicians - Canada
Voting - Canada

For subject headings on more specific topics see Special Topics

TIP: Look for the most specific subject heading first, then broaden your search if you need to. (Books are generally catalogued only using the most specific headings that apply.)

For biographies, the person is the subject, so you can search by subject using the person's name (usually last name first): e.g. Trudeau, Pierre.

NOTE: This will find books about Trudeau. For books by Trudeau (books he wrote), search for Trudeau in the Author field.

TIP: (Always check the library catalogue's help screens for exact search instructions. Systems vary.)

Title | Subject | Keyword | Combining Keywords | Phrase | Truncation | Browsing the Stacks

Keyword Search:

When searching by keyword you will retrieve books that use that word anywhere in the record, unless you can limit the search to a particular field. The word might occur in the subject field, the title or author field, etc. There are 3 major drawbacks with this kind of search:

  1. You might find far too many books (especially if your keyword is a commonly used word);
  2. You might find many books that use the same word but in a totally different subject area; and
  3. You might miss out on finding the most relevant books that happen to use a synonym or a different word. For these reasons searching with subject headings (a form of controlled vocabulary) is often more efficient.

A keyword search can, however, be useful if you are having trouble finding anything on your topic. If you don't know which subject headings exist for your topic, you can try keyword searching first. Be as specific as you can. Imagine what the perfect book title would be and use those words. Only if you need to, use broader (or more general) terms. If you find a book that looks appropriate, make sure to see the full record that will show you the subject headings applied to it. As you go through the catalogue listing of books found by your keyword searches, write down the subject headings and subheadings that seem most appropriate for your topic and try them each as well (as subject searches). This will usually help you find more appropriate books that just didn't use the keyword you did, but are on the same subject.

Keyword searching can be very powerful if the library catalogue system allows it. Make sure you check the search instructions to find out how to use it to your best advantage.

Title | Subject | Keyword | Combining Keywords | Phrase | Truncation | Browsing the Stacks

Combining Keywords:

You can make your search more specific, or broader, by searching with more than one keyword at a time. Consider which words are the main ones that describe your research question. (e.g. the topic: the influence of polls on voting behaviour, has two main concepts. Your keyword search will have to combine the concepts of polls and voting.) Combining keywords in online searching is done using Boolean operators. "And" and "Or" are the most often used. There are several others such as "Not", "Near", "With", etc. These words are used to specify the ways in which you want the keywords combined.


- use to find all items which contain BOTH the words
(e.g. polls AND voting)

- narrows the search


- use to find all items which contain EITHER one OR the other term
(e.g. polls OR public opinion surveys)

- broadens the search

NOTE: To combine these two phrases in one line, parentheses need to be used to ensure that they are searched in the proper order: voting AND (polls OR public opinion surveys). Advanced Search screens allow you to separate the search strings instead.


polls OR public opinion surveys  

Title | Subject | Keyword | Combining Keywords | Phrase | Truncation | Browsing the Stacks

Phrase Searching:

Many library catalogues are set up so that adjacency is the default. (i.e. two or more keywords entered without a Boolean operator between them will be searched together, in the order given, e.g. public opinion surveys). If the catalogue is set up so that the Boolean operator AND is automatically inserted between keywords you enter, then you may get far too many "hits", and many of them could be totally irrelevant, since you will get records that have the three keywords in any order, in any field.

NOTE: This is especially a problem in some Internet search engines, where the default Boolean operator is OR. In this case typing the three words: public opinion surveys will get you as many websites as if you typed public OR opinion OR surveys ! (i.e. anything that includes either one of those words in isolation or together).

If adjacency is not automatic, then you will have to specify you want the keywords to be searched together like a phrase. This can be done using the ADJ operator between each word, or more commonly by using double quotation marks. (e.g. "public opinion surveys"), or by selecting the phrase search option. It is very important to know how your system works. Always check the online help screens.

Title | Subject | Keyword | Combining Keywords | Phrase | Truncation | Browsing the Stacks


In order to avoid having to think of all the possible endings a keyword may have or variants in spellings at the end of a word, you can make sure your search retrieves all possibilities by truncating a keyword. For example, behaviour (Canadian spelling) and behavior (American spelling) may be used equally in the useful books on your topic. To find them all with one keyword search you can truncate the word behaviour by typing: behavio* to retrieve books with either spelling.

NOTE: The truncation symbol varies in different online systems so make sure to check the search instructions. (The asterisk (*) is the most common.)

TIP: Some systems cannot truncate words that are too short. (E.g. voting would have to be truncated to three letters to ensure retrieving all of its possible endings (vote, voter, voters, voting, etc.). Some catalogue systems may not allow it or could take so long to process it that it is not worth doing.

NOTE that another problem appears if truncation is not used carefully: the word "votive" has nothing to do with the concept of "voting" but the above keyword search could have retrieved books on candles and other irrelevant things, as well as books on voting.

TIP: A quick way to find books on a subject is to look up the titles of books you already have or know about, or are on your reading list, and see the full cataloguing record for each. Jot down the subject headings used for these books and then do subject searches using those headings.

Title | Subject | Keyword | Combining Keywords | Phrase | Truncation | Browsing the Stacks

Browsing Library Stacks (or understanding Call Numbers):

Just as most university and large libraries in the English-speaking world use the Library of Congress subject headings, they also classify books by the the LC classification system. The principle is to assign a unique code to every individual book based on its main subject, so that each book has a specific place on a library shelf, can be found there by its call number, and will be located with other books on the same subject. Once you know the call number for a good book on your subject you will be able to browse the shelves in the same area to find more.

NOTE: Subject headings provide more detail. (Remember a book can only be in one place on the shelves, but it can have dozens of subject headings (usually 2-6). Most books cover several related subjects, some multi-disciplinary books can be very valuable but shelved with the other discipline. Also, books are sometimes separated into special collections kept in different parts of a library. For all these reasons it is not recommended you rely on browsing alone to find books on your topic.

In the Library of Congress system, a typical call number for a book on Canadian politics looks like this: JL 75 .W5 1998
This is the call number for the book: Introduction to Canadian Politics & Government by White, Wagenberg and Nelson.

JL 75 = subject: Canadian politics
W5 = Letter for the first author's name and a number to make it unique
1998 = publication year

The Dewey Decimal System (the classification system used by most school and public libraries in Canada), organizes books into ten disciplines, 100 divisions and 1,000 sections. Each digit added to the call number represents more detail within that discipline.

The same book classified with the Dewey Decimal System might look like this: 320.971 W589

(300 = social sciences)
320 = political science
.971 = Canada
W589 = Letter for the first author's name and a number to make it unique

Back to the Top | Library Catalogues | Textbooks | Bibliographies & Guides | Online Bookstores | Online Books


Students should not overlook their textbooks as a source for finding other books on their subject. Most good textbooks will have lists of recommended books for further reading after each chapter and / or a bibliography or reference list at the end. The advantage of using these is that the books listed were selected by the author of the textbook, so should be a reliable source and appropriate for your level of research.

Selected textbooks are listed in Part 2: "Overview & Background Information".

Back to the Top | Library Catalogues | Textbooks | Bibliographies & Guides | Online Bookstores | Online Books

Research Guides, Bibliographies and Indexes:

The best books for academic research can be found by using a research guide or annotated bibliography written by an expert who has pre-selected the major works for you.

Most subject bibliographies and some indexes and databases include books. Where available, read the preface or other introductory pages (introductory screen or online help files online) that explain whether books or book chapters are covered.

Once you have identified some useful books using these tools, you will then need to determine whether your library has the books by looking them up in your library's catalogue. Check also the list of references or bibliography in the back of each book you consult for further leads to useful books on your topic.

For most research projects, you will need to find additional material as well. There are many ways to do this. Not one of them is always best, nor should one method be the only one you use. For best results, use a variety of methods suited to your research topic. Librarians can help you with this.

Back to the Top | Library Catalogues | Textbooks | Bibliographies & Guides | Online Bookstores | Online Books

Online Bookstore Catalogues:

Although they brag about the number of books in their databases, compared to library union catalogues which combine the holdings of many libraries, online bookstores like, can't compete. Canadian versions, like Chapters Indigo have even fewer books. But these databases can be useful to identify current books in print, especially when they include additional information about the books such as the table of contents, the book jacket summary, or excerpts. Once you have identified useful books you can search for these titles in your library.

Online Books:

Academic ebook collections that include books published by university presses and other academic publishers are subscribed to by libraries and are usually accessible through their library catalogues. (Ask your librarians to be sure.) Not many current books by commercial publishers are available for free on the Internet. This is due to copyright restrictions and the fact that writers and publishers need to earn money for their work. Only some much older books with no copyright restrictions can be included in online book collections for free.   

The Canadian Government, however, is required by law to publish information and to disseminate it widely to the Canadian public. Since around 2012 federal public documents have been published on the Internet instead of in print. Note that the Canadian Government still retains copyright (called Crown copyright), which means that the regular copyright restrictions apply unless otherwise stated. Research institutes and other non-profit organizations may also provide some or all of their books online for free to meet their educational mandates. See Finding Information: Research Organizations.

What should you be looking out for when searching for and selecting books? See "Evaluating Information: Books"

Finding Information: Other Academic Works

Three more major types of academic works: theses, conference papers, and essays are valuable sources of information for research in government and politics. Many bibliographies and library catalogues include some of these. There are also specialized databases and indexes for finding more.

Top | Theses |  Conference Papers | Essays

Theses, or dissertations, are long, detailed research papers completed to earn a masters or doctoral degree from a university. The latest ideas and research areas are often developed first in theses. If you are about to start your own thesis work you should check these out to make sure you are aware of the latest research in the field.

Each university library should have a copy of the theses written at their university. Electronic copies may be accessible from the university's institutional repository. The Library and Archives Canada indexes theses written in all Canadian universities. Their collection includes print and electronic copies. If not available in full text online, theses can usually be borrowed through interlibrary loan. The collection also includes foreign theses on topics of Canadian interest or written by Canadians abroad. From 1998 on theses are available in full text online through the Theses Canada Portal:

Theses Canada Portal. Library and Archives Canada.

Indexes thousands of theses from Canadian universities, from the early 1900's to the present. Links to the full text of electronic copies since 1998. 

Canadian Theses. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1947 - 1996.
Print: 1947-1980 annual volumes and multi-year cumulations. Microfiche: 1980/81 - 1996 with 5-year cumulations.

This is a bibliography of all theses in the Library and Archives Canada collection.

Doctoral Research on Canada and Canadians, 1884-1983. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1986. 559 p.

Organized by subject, with an author index, this book covers all doctoral theses about Canada and Canadians written between 1884 and 1983 at universities in Canada, U.S., Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia. Title, author, university and date are given. Not annotated.

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Formerly Dissertation Abstracts International). Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms, ProQuest. 1938 - . Subscription database.

This is the largest collection of graduate theses and dissertations indexed and in full text, from universities worldwide.


Top | Theses |  Conference Papers | Essays

Conference Papers:
Conference papers are where some of the most recent research can be found. Sometimes the papers are trial balloons, or represent the first stage of a research project.

Check the websites of associations, institutes, think tanks, and other research organizations. Papers presented at scholarly conferences and annual meetings of scholarly organizations such as a political science association may be listed, and sometimes made available in full text, on the websites of the body that sponsored or organized the conference.

In library catalogues there may be an entry for all papers from a conference or their annual meetings. Search for these by the sponsoring body as author.

Common subject sub-headings:

--congresses (e.g. political participation--Canada--congresses)
--addresses, essays, lectures (e.g. Canada--politics and government--addresses, essays and lectures)


Or search by keyword for your topic and add keywords such as "paper" or "essay".

Some journal indexes (e.g. PAIS) index proceedings and some specialized indexes exist just for locating the proceedings of conferences, symposia, expositions and the like.


Sample Collected Papers:

Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA). Papers Presented at the Annual Meeting. (Or CPSA Papers, Annual Meeting; title varies.) Ottawa: CPSA.
This "past conferences" page links to each year's programme listing authors and titles of presentations since 1960. Some years include abstracts, and some also the full paper or presentation.

1935-1969 published in the Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science. Print and microfiche versions include cumulative alphabetic and subject indexes.


For links to other organizations see: Research from policy institutes, think tanks, and other organizations

Specialized Indexes:

G.K. Hall Bibliographic Guide to Conference Publications. (Formerly Bibliographic Guide to Conference Publications.) Boston: G.K. Hall. Annual. 1974 - .
Index to Social Sciences and Humanities Proceedings (ISSHP). Philadelphia, PA: Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).
Print: 1977 - 1994. CD-ROM: 1990 - . Quarterly with annual cumulations. Online updated weekly. Rolling file of 5 years.

Indexes papers from the most important international conference proceedings published in books, reports, series, preprints, or journal articles. Index sections include: Category Index (general subjects), Sponsor Index (agencies, societies, associations that sponsor meetings), Corporate Index (the authors' organizational affiliations), Permuterm Subject Index (keywords from book titles, subtitles, conference titles, and the titles of the individual papers), Author and Editor Index, Meeting Locator Index (by country and city).

Papers First. OCLC, FirstSearch. 1993 - present. Monthly.

This is an online index to citations of papers presented at meetings, conferences, workshops, symposia and expositions around the world.

Top | Theses |  Conference Papers | Essays

Essays may be published separately in a journal or book, as a presentation at a meeting, conference or other event. Several essays may also be published together in an edited volume. In each case, they may not be identified as essays.

Common subject sub-headings: -- addresses, essays, lectures (e.g. Canada--politics and government--20th century--addresses, essays, lectures).


Library catalogues may not provide access to individual chapters or essays within books. Use indexes or bibliographies to locate them.

A specialized index for finding essays:

Essay and General Literature Index. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1900 - .
Print and CD-ROM: Semi-annual with annual and 5-year cumulations. Online 1985 - . Updated daily.

This index has author and subject access using Library of Congress subject headings. It is similar to journal indexes but the "articles" it covers are found in book anthologies and essay collections instead of periodicals. Indexes over 5,300 anthologies and essay collections published in the US, UK and Canada, covering many subjects, including politics. For essays on Canadian government and politics look under "Canada", and any appropriate sub-headings (e.g. -- "foreign relations", or --"politics and government")

Finding Information: Government Information

Government information comes in all formats, covers all subjects, and is considered to be any information published by, commissioned by, or produced at the expense of a government body. Examples include research reports, working papers, studies, consultants' reports, annual reports, discussion papers, policy papers, planning documents, etc.

All government bodies keep records, submit reports to Parliament, and most also create information intended for the public. In some cases, government bodies are required by law to publish certain information (e.g. new laws and changes to laws, certain reports, statistics, etc.) Many government departments, agencies, boards and commissions also carry out or commission research to help in policy formation. In total, the federal government publishes more information than any other publisher in Canada.

Use government information for tracking policy in the making, finding out what motivated government to create programs or legislation, who influenced decisions, why, and how; for researching how government works, how government policies developed, and much more.

The following section describes tools and techniques for finding government information in general. For specific types of government sources such as bills, debates, etc. see "Using Primary Source Material". For provincial and municipal government sources see "Special Topics: Provincial / Local Government and Politics". There are an increasing number of digitization and web archiving projects for government information. These are listed with the primary sources.

Evaluating Government Information: Government publications are generally considered reliable sources, but can be biased by the government's political agenda, the mandate of the authoring body, or the intended audience. Knowing the context surrounding the publication (its purpose, which department authored or commissioned it and why, etc.) will help to evaluate it for your research purposes. (Check the government news releases, media reports and any other information you can find on the issue and the publication to determine these.) See also Evaluating Books and Evaluating Internet Sites for more general tips.

Back to the Top | In Libraries | Indexes | Government Internet | Government Databases | Search Engines | Publication Lists | Access to Information

In Libraries:

Back to In Libraries | Catalogues | Browsing | Which Library | Provincial / Municipal | Government Libraries

Library Catalogues:

Most libraries have government-issued materials included in their online library catalogue. Check the catalogue's inclusion statement to be sure, or ask a Reference Librarian if government publications held in the library and others can be found using the catalogue. Many libraries link to selected government documents on the Internet through their library catalogues, and some allow searching government document databases through the library catalogue. A research library is often your best source for finding government information for a research project. The most comprehensive list of Canadian libraries with links to their catalogues is maintained by the Library and Archives Canada.
Canadian Library Search allows you to search by library type, location, name, etc.

Government publications frequently do not have a specific person listed as author, instead, the authoring or sponsoring body is considered the author. In the Library of Congress cataloguing system these bodies are listed with jurisdiction first (e.g. Canada. Department of Fisheries and Oceans.) Since government department names can change over the years, it is sometimes easier and quicker just to search using keywords in the author field (e.g. Canada and fisheries and department in the author field). Some of the reference books listed in Facts & Figures list the current and past names of government ministries.

Back to In Libraries | Catalogues | Browsing | Which Library | Provincial / Municipal | Government Libraries

Browsing Library Stacks:

Many academic libraries in Canada have government publications in a separate section of the library, catalogued by a version of the CODOC system that organizes documents by the authoring government body. You can browse these collections to find all the publications by a department together.

It is not necessary to understand what the components of a CODOC call number mean, but it can help you find the documents you need. For example: The book called "Time for Action" by the Canadian Human Rights Commission may have a call number like this: CA1 HR 2001T35 or as it would appear on the spine label on the book:

In general, the first grouping or line stands for the jurisdiction: CA1= Canada, federal , CA2= Canada, provincial, etc.
The second grouping/line stands for the department or agency and branch: HR= Human Rights Commission.
The third grouping/line includes the date (2001), a letter for the title (T), and a unique number that is assigned so that no two books have the same call number (35): 2001T35.
(For serial publications this third line starts with a letter.)

In the library using this example, if you were interested in other publications by the Human Rights Commission you could find them all in the section beginning with CA1 HR ...

NOTE: Statistics Canada and other large publishers within the government have their own numbering system for their documents which may also be used to organize these publications in some libraries.

  TIP: Ask a librarian for a brief explanation of how the government documents are organized in your library; it can save you a lot of time. 

Back to In Libraries | Catalogues | Browsing | Which Library | Provincial / Municipal | Government Libraries

Which Library? (Former Depository Libraries / Government Publications List)

Some libraries are better than others when it comes to their collection of federal government publications. The difference is even greater for provincial/territorial, regional and municipal document collections.

Full depository libraries across the country received all federal publications available through the Depository Services Program, which operated between 1927 and 2014. Selective depository libraries received only a subset of these based on what they thought their users would need. Most university libraries, and large public libraries in Canada had full depository status.

NOTE: Even full depository libraries did not receive all federal government works published. Many publications eluded the depository system over the years, and some priced publications and formats were not included.

You can access federal government publications (in print and electronic formats) made available through the depository system and some others, by browsing or searching the Government of Canada Publications Catalogue (formerly DSP Catalogue) at Online publications are archived here with a permanent link. The latest documents published appear every week in the Weekly Acquisitions List. This and other finding aids can be found on the Browse Government of Canada Publications page.

Back to In Libraries | Catalogues | Browsing | Which Library | Provincial / Municipal | Government Libraries

Provincial and Municipal Government Information:

There is a similar depository system in some provinces for provincial government publications.
See "Special Topics: Provincial/Local Government & Politics".

Back to In Libraries | Catalogues | Browsing | Which Library | Provincial / Municipal | Government Libraries

Government Libraries:

Some federal and provincial government departments and agencies have their own libraries. If the information you need is related to a specific department, you may be able to access the departmental library directly, or else use its reference services or online catalogue, then get the documents you need through interlibrary loan.

NOTE: The services offered to the public by government libraries vary. Not all of them have a mandate to serve the public directly. Check the details on their website.

Federal Government Libraries: (See also Ask Your Librarian--Libraries for more details.)

Library and Archives Canada should be receiving a copy of all federal government documents published. From their Library Search page you can search their online catalogue alone (Aurora) or in combination with the holdings of over 1,000 other Canadian libraries (Voilà), or within Voilà, you can expand the search to include other OCLC libraries worldwide (Worldcat). Limit by author: "Canada", or the department name.

Voilà is the most comprehensive catalogue to search for federal government documents, but it may not have as many current documents or Internet publications as the "Government of Canada Publications" catalogue does. You may also need to use some of the other sources listed below.

Back to the Top | In Libraries | Indexes | Government Internet | Government Databases | Search Engines | Publication Lists | Access to Information

Indexes for Government Documents:

Some Canadian journal indexes (e.g. Canadian Periodical Index, CBCA) index articles in a few of the better known federal government serials such as Statistics Canada's Canadian Economic Observer and Canadian Social Trends, but there is no index that covers them all. Some indexes include selected Canadian government reports or other monographs (e.g. CRI, desLIbris), but there is no comprehensive index for all Canadian government documents either.

Canadian Research Index (CRI). Toronto: Micromedia, Micromedia-ProQuest, ProQuest, 1973 - 2018. (Title varies: Urban Sources, Urban Canada, Profile Index, Publicat Index, ProFile, Microlog Index.) Online by subscription. (Print version discontinued Dec. 2003.)

Description: CRI is an index to selected Canadian government reports and other monographs (from federal, provincial, and local governments, agencies, boards and commissions) based on their research value. It also indexes theses, conference proceedings, and reports from research institutes, universities and professional associations.
Coverage: Citations and abstracts of selected documents mainly from 1973 to Dec. 31, 2018. (Some earlier.)
Tips: Documents found using CRI, if not available online, may be accessed in large university libraries that received the  documents on microfiche. These documents may not be listed individually in all library catalogues, and may be filed separately in microfiche cabinets by Microlog number.
Preservation on microfiche also discontinued Dec. 31, 2018..

desLibris (Canadian Electronic Library). Ottawa. Gary Gibson. 2005 - . (Incorporates Canadian Public Policy Collection and Canadian Health Research Collection.)

Description: The index is free; subscription required for full-text access to ebooks by Canadian publishers and reports by government bodies, think tanks, public policy institutes and other groups selected based on their "research value".
Coverage: Selective coverage of federal, provincial and municipal publications. Majority from the 1990s on. Some earlier.
Tips: To see government publications searches may have to be limited by Author/contributor or Publisher/Imprint. "Public Documents" include non-government publications.
NOTE: Where full-text access is not provided search for the titles found on the Internet, at the authoring body's website, the Government of Canada Publications Catalogue or other library catalogues. Many sources found on desLibris will be freely available online or in print in large libraries.

Back to the Top | In Libraries | Indexes | Government Internet | Government Databases | Search Engines | Publication Lists | Access to Information

Finding Government Information on the Internet:

Library and Archives Canada's catalogue and many university library catalogues include links to online government information. There is a lot of work involved with this, so library catalogues may not be the best place to find the most current government information. Use government databases and search engines to find the latest:

Back to the Top | In Libraries | Indexes | Government Internet | Government Databases | Search Engines | Publication Lists | Access to Information

Government Information Databases:

Government of Canada Publications (formerly Depository Services Program Catalogue).

As mentioned above, selected documents, in all formats (including new documents published on the Internet and historical, digitized documents), can be found and linked to using this database. Online publications are archived here with a permanent link. The latest documents published appear every week in the Weekly Acquisitions List. This and other finding aids can be found on the Browse Government of Canada Publications page.

Government Department and Agency Websites:

Sometimes all of the above-mentioned sources take a few days, weeks, or months to list new documents. For the most current government information on a topic, see the website of the relevant government department or agency. If you know the subject area, but not the specific departments that might have recent information on your topic, use the search engine on the website (Search Tips), or limit a Google keyword search by and

You can also get an idea by browsing the alphabetical list of departments and agencies on the site: or by seeing the connections between government departments/agencies by portfolio: Inventory of Federal Organizations and Interests 

Go to the government website you expect has the information you need and look for a section called "Publications".

For announcements of new publications, check the "What's New" section of a government agency's website, also "News Releases" or "Press Releases", and pay attention to what is featured on the homepage. Often the hot topic of the day will have a special write-up or featured position on the main page.

The website has links to all federal news releases, searchable by department and by date, at:

For older information see the Government of Canada Web Archive for information that may no longer exist on current federal websites. This is a Library and Archives Canada project to archive federal government domain websites from Dec. 2005 on, harvested semi-annually.

See also Primary Sources -- Government Information

Back to the Top | In Libraries | Indexes | Government Internet | Government Databases | Search Engines | Publication Lists | Access to Information

Search Engines:

The official site search engine is intended to help you find web-based information from across all federal government departments and agencies. If you know what you are looking for, and the search words or phrases you use are distinctive enough, this can be very useful. When a government organization has its own search engine, you should find the search window in the top right corner. It may only be indicated by a looking-glass icon. Check the search tips on each site to make sure you are using it correctly.

Most federal government department websites were amalgamated into the official federal government site: around 2013 - 2017, making their online information searchable together with the basic search box provided. Others, like Statistics Canada, Parks Canada, etc. retained their domain. The search engine should find recent information from both. Others, like Canada Post, have retained their own unique domain and remain separate. The Advanced Search options on the search engine include a domain limiter that can be used to limit a search to files from a department but is not entirely reliable. Other search options include exact phrase search, Boolean logic using symbols, limiting by date updated, etc. Advanced Search:  (This link is visible only after a basic search has been entered. It appears at the end of the results page.)

Search Tips for the search engine

NOTE: There is a great deal of Information within databases on the Internet (part of the "hidden web", or "deep web") that search engines cannot find. There are hundreds of government databases that fall in this category.

TIP: When browsing for information on a government website, look for a Site Map (usually linked from the very bottom of the homepage.) This can give you a quick overview of what is available on the site, including databases which may need to be searched separately.

Using Internet-wide Search Engines: 

If the main disadvantage of using a government search engine is getting too many results, that disadvantage is multiplied many times over by using an Internet-wide search engine like Google, with the added difficulty of not knowing if what is retrieved is actually from a government site or not, and whether it has been superceded or replaced with more current information. However, there are some ways to structure a search to make it easier:

Using Google, the "site" command allows you to limit a search to specific domains or websites. For example, to find information about new brunswick on the Parks Canada website, search Google using: "new brunswick". If you want to find documents from as many federal sites as possible, limit the search to the two federal domains or sites. For example, to find web-based information on Afghanistan, enter: afghanistan and a separate search: afghanistan and others required, if there are other relevant organizations with websites on other domains. 

The "intitle" command limits the search to the keyword in the title area of a web page, (not always a title search, but can result in more relevant documents/pages found. For example, enter: intitle:afghanistan

Whichever search engine you use, check out the Advanced search features and Help files to get the most out of it. (In Google, select "Settings" - Advanced Search.)

NOTE: Canadian government websites do not have the .gov ending that applies to government sites in the United States. (See Evaluating Information -- Internet Sites for more details.)

Back to the Top | In Libraries | Indexes | Government Internet | Government Databases | Search Engines | Publication Lists | Access to Information

Government Publication Lists:

Finding out what publications have been published by the government is not as easy as it should be. When reported to the Library and Archives Canada, government documents were listed in Canada's national bibliography Canadiana. Many departments, agencies, and other federal government organizations also published a separate list of their own publications. The depository services program (DSP) also published a list of all the federal publications it could identify. However, none of these lists were ever entirely comprehensive. A serious researcher will need to check a variety of sources.

Canadiana: The National Bibliography of Canada. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1950 - . Print version discontinued Dec.1991. Microfiche version discontinued Dec. 2000. CD-ROM: 1998-2007. Online version in Library and Archives Canada's library catalogue: Aurora.
Description: Canadiana is the most comprehensive list of what is published in Canada or about Canada. Includes federal government publications. (Provincial and territorial government publications no longer included as of 2013.)
Coverage: Pre-confederation to the present. Updated daily in Aurora.
Includes: All formats: Books, maps, periodicals, government documents, theses, music scores, Internet and other electronic formats, etc.

Government of Canada Publications. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1953 - . Various titles. Print versions: (monthly) discontinued 1978, (annual cumulation) discontinued 1977, (quarterly) started 1979; discontinued 1992. Online version, 1993 - . Updated weekly by the Weekly Acquisitions List (formerly Weekly Checklist).
Description: A catalogue or publication list intended to show the publications of all federal government organizations combined.
Coverage:Years covered are the same as the publication years until digitized historical publications were added around 2018.
Includes: Online version includes selected documents from 1993 on, in all formats (including documents published on the Internet only.
Tip: The annual print cumulation included indexes.

Department / Agency Publication Lists.
Many federal government departments and programs, agencies, and other bodies have produced publication lists of their own publications.

As mentioned earlier, current versions may be accessible on their websites, usually under "Publications", "Research", or similar headings.

NOTE: Many current publications may not be included, as federal government organizations are not required to provide this feature on their websites.

Before the Internet became the main publishing format for the federal government (around 2012), many federal government departments and agencies produced print lists of their publications. To find these publication lists, search Aurora or your nearest research library's catalogue, combining keywords that cover the government body's name in the Author field, one or both of the keywords in the subject field, e.g. "bibliography" or "catalogs", or keywords that are likely to appear in the title field (e.g. publication or publications.)
Common subject headings used:
Canada - government publications - bibliography
Government publications - Canada - bibliography
[] - catalogs

NOTE: Some older records for government documents in Aurora (and in some university library catalogues) may have no subject headings, so they will only be found using keywords.

TIP: Most government bodies go through multiple name changes over the years. (See the  name changes on the list of Departments and Roles: 1867 to Today on the Library of Parliament's Parlinfo site.

Check the departmental library's online catalogue, if there is one. (See the list above).

See also Special Topics for publication lists relevant to the topics of immigration policy, international relations, etc.

Back to the Top | In Libraries | Indexes | Government Internet | Government Databases | Search Engines | Publication Lists | Access to Information

Access To Information Requests:

If you have identified federal government information that should be available to you, either directly or through libraries, but is not, then you may want to make a formal request under the Access to Information Act. This Act gives the public the right to access government information.

For details on the Act, how to request information, contact information, and online request forms, see the Treasury Board Secretariat's "Access to Information and Privacy" web page at

For assistance in identifying the appropriate government agency and contact person, use the link to "Programs and Information Holdings" (formerly Info Source), or the List of ATI Coordinators.

This page also has the database of Completed Access to Information Requests. Useful to see if any requests have already been made for the information you require. If so, contact the department or agency involved to obtain the records previously released (no formal ATI request required).

Each province also has similar legislation. See Special Topics: Provincial / Local Government & Politics.

Finding Information: Political Party Information

According to the Canada Elections Act, a political party is "an organization one of whose fundamental purposes is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election."

Political parties play a major role in Canada's political system, federally and provincially. Parties nominate candidates for public office, draft policy platforms and attempt to get their candidates elected to form government. While voters vote for an individual person to represent their constituency in Parliament, most candidates belong to a political party, and members of the dominant parties are usually elected.

To see who your MP (Member of Parliament) is and the other candidates in your electoral district in the last federal election, you can enter your postal code at the Elections Canada website, or search the database by candidate name, electoral district, keyword, etc. For more sources of information on elections, the standing of the political parties involved, voting statistics, etc. see General Facts about Canadian Politics & Government.

Since 1974, serious political parties register with the Chief Electoral Officer. This is not required, but only parties that register can issue tax receipts for donations, get reimbursed for a portion of their election expenses, have candidates identified as party members on ballots, and receive air time on radio and television. In return, political parties must disclose their expenditures and political contributions received. The Elections Canada website lists all Registered Political Parties with contact information (website address and mailing address), the leader, chief agent, auditor, and in some cases, a link to the provincial divisions.

The "Political Parties' Financial Reports" are also available at this site, under the heading: Political Financing. You can search the database to see the contributions and expenses reported by candidates in an election, by leadership and nomination contestants, registered electoral district associations and political parties. The Elections Canada site provides much additional information, backgrounders, FAQs, and guides on Canada's electoral system, related legislation, etc. as well as links to the websites of Elections Canada's Provincial and Territorial Election Officials.

Information created by political parties includes mainly policy documents explaining their positions to voters (e.g. election platforms, plans, policies, resolutions, blueprints, policy consultations, news releases, etc.) and internal documents such as the party bylaws, rules of order, minutes of general meetings, task force and caucus reports, etc. that show how the party is organized and functions. These are all considered primary source material. The most current of these may be available on the parties' websites (search for the keywords above or look for a "Publications" heading), or obtained directly from the political party on request. For examples of some of these kinds of documents, and tips on finding them when not on the web, see Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What was Written -- Political Party Publications.

For tips on finding speeches, quotes and interviews by leaders and political candidates, see Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What was Said.

The personal memoirs (autobiographies and other personal papers, published or unpublished) may reveal a lot about the party to which the politician belongs. To find these, see Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: Personal Papers.

For televised election coverage, political party debates and conventions, paid political announcements, etc. see Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: Recorded Images.

To see what is going on now in political parties (upcoming conventions, federal riding association events, and during an election the campaign schedules of leaders, etc., see Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What is Happening Now -- Political Parties.

To find books ABOUT or BY political parties, search:

Library Catalogues:

For books ABOUT a political party enter the party name as the Subject (e.g. Liberal Party of Canada).
Another useful subject heading: political parties--Canada

For information BY political parties, search for the party name as the Author. For subject headings to find material produced by political parties see Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What was Written -- Political Party Publications.

Political Party Websites:

Political parties may have policy papers, discussion papers, platform statements, speeches, etc. available on their websites. If the information you seek is not there, and you have searched the sources described in the Primary Sources sections above, you can try to contact the party directly to request publications. To find the official party websites or other contact information, use one of the sources listed below:


Two very common directories that provide the mailing address, phone number, URL for the website, and key people in the party, for federal and provincial/territorial political parties (just about every public and academic library in Canada will have one or both of these): Associations Canada (also has the parties' annual operating budget) and Canadian Almanac & Directory.

Links to Canadian Political Party Websites:

Registered Political Parties and Parties Eligible for Registration. By Elections Canada.

Provides name, address, link to website, name of party leader and others, date the party was registered and some links to provincial divisions, for officially registered federal parties. There is also a list of Deregistered Political Parties.

Canadian Political Parties and Political Interest Groups. Archived by the University of Toronto.

A collection of archived Canadian federal political party websites since October 2005 and some political special interest groups.

Political Parties and Leaders. Parlinfo. Library of Parliament.

Lists registered and deregistered parties with their founding and folding dates, and last official leader, but links work only for existing parties.

NOTE: Political party information on websites is very unstable and incomplete. For party sites that no longer exist, if not archived by the U. of Toronto site above, try searching the Internet Archive: Way Back Machine. E.g. for the Reform Party of Canada website, enter the URL: and see the pages archived from 1996 on. See also the libraries, archives, digital and other special collections indicated in Primary Sources.

Finding Information: Research from Policy Institutes, Think Tanks, and other Organizations

Research publications produced by organizations such as policy institutes, research institutes, think tanks, and other such groups can be excellent sources of information on specific policy issues and on government and politics in general.

These organizations play an important role in Canada by conducting policy research and analysis and providing government and the public with alternative views, interpretations and ideas on government and policy issues. There is no one definition of these kinds of groups, but they are generally non-profit, nonpartisan groups that study public policy, and are committed to increasing public awareness of policy issues. They generally differ from interest or lobby groups by their  emphasis on research and analysis. 

Organizations range in size from just a few researchers to hundreds, with budgets that vary from a few hundred dollars to millions. Some are funded by universities, some by government, individuals, public donations, or a combination of all of these. Most have a specific area of specialization. (See Special Topics for a listing of research organizations specializing in these areas.)

NOTE: Be aware that some of these groups may have their own agenda and their research and interpretations may be heavily slanted towards this bias. You should evaluate these sources as you would any other book. (See To Evaluate a Book)

Additional tips on evaluating information from think tanks, policy institutes, etc.:

  • Read the information describing the organization and its mandate on their website: This should include how the group is funded and by whom. Note that some groups may get special funding, or be contracted by government or others to carry out specific research projects. This should be stated in the publication reporting on that research.
  • Examine their list of publications to learn more about their work and perhaps their ideological viewpoint.
  • Search the organization on the Internet to see what watchdog groups and others say about them.

Finding Research from Organizations

Library Catalogues:

If your library collects these publications, they should be listed in the library catalogue as books or book series. If you don't know a specific title or author, use the institute name as author or keyword to see what is available by that organization.

Indexes, Databases, and Bibliographies:

Some research organizations publish their own journals, or their researchers have articles published in established academic and other journals. To find these articles, search the indexes, databases, and bibliographies listed in this guide. The Canadian Research Index and desLibris are two that include book-length reports and other work by Canadian research organizations.

New Publications:

New publications by some research institutes such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Public Policy Forum, etc. are made available by the Renouf book store. Titles can be browsed by organization on the Renouf Books website. When an institute is affiliated with a university its publication list may be included in the university press catalogue, as the publications of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, the School of Policy Studies and the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy are in the McGill-Queen's University Press. Otherwise, each institute's website is the best place to check for new publications. Some of these sites include email subscription lists you can sign up for to be updated automatically when a new publication comes out.

Organization Websites:

Most think tanks have their own publication catalogues or lists on their websites and may have selected publications available online. There is presently no comprehensive directory or website that lists or links to all Canadian policy institutes or research organizations. A 1995 estimate was that there were at that time around 50 think tanks in Canada. (Murray Campbell, "Wonks", The Globe and Mail, Dec. 2, 1995, p. D1). The Global Go To Think Tank Index Report by the Lauder Institute, U. of Pennsylvania since 2008 has included 94 or more every year to a high of 100 in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The following are sources that list Canadian organizations:

Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. By Lauder Institute, University of Pennsylvania. 2008 - .

An annual list, includes rankings, by country, region, and subject.

Research Centers Directory. Detroit, MI: Gale Group, 1965 - . Also available online via Dialog as Research Centers and Services Directory.

Briefly lists the research programs, publications, and contact information of North American non-profit research institutes. Has a subject and geographic index.

Finding Information: Videos

Many films and videos have been made to help explain the political process, how government and elections work, etc. These can be very helpful resources for learning.

Televised political events such as leaders' debates, conventions, etc. or documentary videos containing original footage of an event or interviews of political candidates, politicians and government officials are valuable primary source materials.

For details on finding films and videos see Primary Sources: Recorded Images - Film and Video Footage.