Why can’t I find Canadian content?

The most common reason for not being able to find Canadian content on your topic is that it doesn’t exist.  Think about it from a math perspective: the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada represents 95 university-level, degree-offering institutions; the Association of American Colleges and Universities, meanwhile, includes 1200 institutions.  Canada’s population of 34 million people simply cannot produce the same amount of research as the 310 million people in the United States, either.  And there’s fewer of us to study, too!

That said, there are a few ways to make sure that you haven’t missed any Canadian research on your topic:

1. Choose Canadian-focussed resources

  • Statistics:
    • Use the Statistics Canada website for finding Canadian statistics, as well as economic information (through CANSIM).  If StatsCan tries to charge you for the data you want, try using ESTAT instead (you just have to agree that you’re using their content for academic purposes).
  • Other Government Documents: the Federal Government is trying to improve its websites to make them more user friendly.  Stats Can is already easier to use, in my opinion.  Weldon Library has a great Government Information Resource Guide, so make sure to check it out.  Queen’s University also has a good site – I took a course from the data librarian responsible for this website.
  • Newspapers: Western subscribes to a number of Canadian newspapers, some of which contain historical runs.  You have access to Globe and Mail content dating back to 1844, for example.
  • Databases (find these through the Databasessection on the Western Libraries’ website).
    • CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals) – includes business, culture, history.  Periodicals include Globe & Mail, Macleans.
    • CBCA Reference – scholarly coverage of social sciences, sciences, and professions; popular coverage of health, children/youth, arts and culture, opinion, public policy, etc.
    • CBCA Business
    • CBCA Education
    • CBCA Current Events – politics, business, the arts, sports (including newspapers, news magazines, television and radio transcripts).
    • Canadian Electronic Library – Public Policy (plug-in needed for this database to work)
    • Canadian Nursing Index
    • Dictionary of Canadian Biography
    • Early Canadia Online – primary sources!
    • America History and Life – for history students
    • Toronto Stock Exchange Database
    • Pub Med Central Canada a free digital archive of research from the life and health sciences (this is a new service, so let me know if you like it!)

2. Search for “Canada” as geography in databases

In some databases (definitely not all), “geography” or “location” is listed as a way to refine your searching, similar to searching for a specific author or title.  This isn’t a perfect system, mind you, but at least it’s an option from the ones listed above.

One example database that springs to mind is PsycINFO, the psychology database.  You’ll see “location” near the bottom of the screen in my screenshot below.  Clicking “Look up Locations” brings up a list of countries, where you can choose Canada.


Now, this method isn’t fool-proof: often choosing “location” or “geography” actually searches the authors’ institutions (i.e. if the researchers work at UWO), but this might be helpful for you.

3. Use “Canada” (or Ontario or whatever is appropriate) as a Keyword

Okay, I agree that this is a fairly obvious suggestion.  But unfortunately this is one of the more common ways to find Canadian content.   So, just go ahead and do your regular search and just add “Canada” as another word.

In general, most Canadian researchers use American data to supplement any missing Canadian content.  While not all American research can be directly applied to the Canadian context, their similar geography and societal structure is often “enough” to make a point.  When it comes to comparing governments, though, consider looking at English (British) or Australian research, since they have a similar system to ours.

Association of American Colleges and Universities

Association of American Colleges and Universities

I need statistical information: where do I go?!

Updated November, 2016

The best place to go for Canadian statistical information is Statistics Canada.  This website has received a major face lift over the last year or two, and is slightly more user-friendly as a result.

Statistics Canada is now providing census, socioeconomic, and geographic data for free. CANSIM is a key socioeconomic database that is updated daily. From the CANSIM homepage, you can either search by keyword, or you can try browsing by subject or survey. The advanced search option will allow you to be more specific in your search.

If you are searching for census or geographic data, you can search the main Statistic’s Canada page.

  • Enter a keyword into the “Search Website” space at the top right corner of the main StatsCan page. If you want to narrow down your search, choose “Advanced Search” – this will help you find what you’re looking for more quickly.
  • You can also try browsing by subject from the bottom of the main StatsCan page.


If you need statistical information on a country other than Canada, the principal is the same: find the governmental branch that collects statistics (or at least the census) and look for a search feature.

The United States, though, doesn’t have a central government agency that collects statistics.  Instead, you can use the following sites:

  • FedStats: breaks down available statistical information by subject. Also includes MapStats, where you can search for stats by geography, and much much more!
  • US Census Bureau: the typical information you’d find from a census
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis: for economic data

Thank you to Jeff Moon of Queens University for his assistance with this post!