There are a variety of rich resources you can use for your assignment. These include newspapers, government publications, statistical data, maps/GIS and archives. These resources can be either popular or scholarly and primary or secondary sources.
Newspapers are popular resources and are useful for finding information and commentary on current issues. Many newspapers also provide popular accounts of recent developments in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
Because newspapers are published throughout the world, they can be useful for international research. Ryerson University Library provides access to hundreds of newspapers. For more information on finding resources, see the next chapter How to find your sources.
Government publications originate from various levels of government (municipal, provincial, federal, international). They include departmental reports, legislation, policy papers, pamphlets and many other forms.
Government publications are useful when you need such information about a country as its legislation or policy on particular issues. It is important to consider the views of the current administration and the potential political or ideological biases that government documents may contain.
Governments and international bodies produce a lot of statistical data (e.g., Statistics Canada, World Bank). A common example is a census (a count of the population of a country conducted every five years). Such statistical data can inform research on numerous topics, including economic, social and environmental issues.
The Library has a research guide on government publications.
Archives work to acquire, preserve, and make available material collected under the terms of a particular mandate – whether that be to document a community (like a University) or business, to reflect government policies, or many other reasons. Archival evidence is based around the concept of a record – which can be a paper document, a photograph, a map, a film, sound recordings, an electronic diskette, documentary art, or an architectural drawing. Collecting records makes an archives different from a library, which collects published items, like books; or a museum, which collects artifacts, like statues, medals or other objects.
For example the Ryerson University Archives houses a record group dedicated to the Ryerson School of Journalism. Here one can find a wealth of photographs and textual records documenting the history of this Journalism department of the University.
Maps & Geographic Information System (GIS):
Maps and GIS are very specialized resources. Maps come in many forms such as base maps, land use, topographic, aerial photos, atlases and books, travel information and digital geospatial data. They can be used for any subject to visualize current or historic information. Geographic and spatial information can be available on paper, as aerial photographs, or digitally (e.g., Google Maps, Google Earth, GIS).
Maps are particularly useful for topics related to Geography, Urban Studies, Environmental Studies, Sociology, Political Science, and History. The use of geographic information is useful when you want to visually represent spatial data and see historical and landscape changes over time (e.g., mapping crime statistics using GIS to examine racial profiling in a specific city, or using aerial photos for environmental assessment by looking at deforestation patterns over time).
Most maps should have at least three things to be considered credible sources: title, scale and legend. The accuracy of a map is not solely based on the cartographer, but currency as well. For example, a political map from 1945 would have very different information than a current map in terms of political boundaries (e.g., Yugoslavia, USSR, Zaire, Rhodesia are countries that were all once represented on maps, but are not currently). Political biases need to be considered when evaluating maps or political boundaries (e.g., Palestine/Israel/West Bank are contested boundaries represented differently on maps depending on the publisher).
Ryerson University Library has a Geospatial Map and Data Centre (GMDC) located on the main floor of the library.