Ann Watkins
Life Sciences Librarian
May 15, 2009
Learning Tools: Class Guides: Dana Class Guides:
Special Topics in
Urban Systems
Prof. Dennis Gale

Section I: Getting Started

Faced with a new topic it is best to begin with a reference source such as an encyclopedia, dictionary or handbook. Specialists write the entries in these reference books. The information is introductory in nature, but the accompanying bibliographies provide books and articles that cover the topic more comprehensively.

Examples include:

Ember, Melvin and Ember, Carol R., ed. Encyclopedia of Urban Cultures: Cities and Cultures Around the World. Danbury, CT: Grolier, 2002. Dana Ref HT108.5 .E53 2001

Reps, John W., ed. Urban Planning, 1794-1918: an International Anthology of Articles, Conference Papers, and Reports. (accessed 2/23/08) []

Shumsky, Neil Larry, ed. Encyclopedia of Urban America: the Cities and Suburbs. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1998. Dana Ref HT123 .E5 1998

Shumsky, Neil L. and Crimmins, Timothy, eds. Urban America: a Historical Bibliography. Santa Barbara, CA: American Bibliographical Center-Clio Press, 1983. Dana Ref HT123.U725 1983

Smelser, Neil J. and Baltes, Paul B., eds. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Amsterdam; New York: Elsevier, 2001. Dana Ref H41 .I58 2001

Smith, John W. and Klemanski, John S., eds. The Urban Politics Dictionary. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, c1990. Dana Ref JS48 .S65 1990

Stahl, Michael J., ed. Encyclopedia of Health Care Management. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, c2004. Dana Ref RA971 .E52 2004

Section II: Finding Books

The library catalog is a locating tool for books, journal title holdings, maps and media held by Rutgers University Libraries.

    Use the library catalog to:
  • Search once and locate an item in one of RUL's 24 libraries and reading rooms
  • Find bibliographic and status information about an item.
  • Recall or borrow books from other Rutgers' libraries
  • Access electronic journals.

If a book is not listed in the library catalog or if it is listed and unavailable to you, consider using E-Z Borrow. This is a consortium of 40 Pennsylvania academic libraries. Most books requested via E-Z Borrow arrive at Dana within a week. You will receive an emailed notice when the book is ready for you to charge out at Dana's Circulation Desk. There is no fee for E-Z Borrow or any other interlibrary loan service.

When a book is not available in the library catalog or E-Z Borrow, request it via interlibrary loan. You can find the request form by going to Delivery and Interlibrary Loan on RUL's home page (

Section III: Finding Articles

Indexes and Databases

RUL subscribes to many electronic databases and indexes. You can access them from the library building, campus computing lab, or from a remote location by clicking on Find Articles in the sidebar of RUL's home page.

For older material, use the same indexes in print form. Dana Library has some, but not all, of the indexes in print form. The contents page of each electronic index includes the title of the print equivalent.

    Examples of databases for urban studies are:
  • America: History and Life
  • Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals
  • Business Source Premier
  • EconLit
  • ERIC : Education-related materials abstracts
  • Healthstar (health care administration, delivery of care)
  • PAIS International (Public Affairs Index Service)
  • Social Service Abstracts
  • Sociological Abstracts
  • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts

Citation Indexes

A citation index allows the searcher to look for related material since the publication of any given article. If you have an important or relevant article and you would like to see who has used this article toward further research, use the Social Science Citation Index that is a part of the database, Web of Science. Some databases incorporate a citation searching functionality. Look for "Find citing articles," for example, in Medline, Healthstar, and PsycInfo, all produced by Ovid.


RUL offers databases that provide worldwide coverage of newspapers. The articles are available in pdf or full-text.

    The database titles include:
  • Access World News
  • Ethnic NewsWatch
  • Factiva (includes indexing and full-text for the Star Ledger)
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Times (1856 - 2004)
  • Westlaw Campus Research
  • World News Connection [news items from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) provided to the National Technical Information Service (NTIS)]

Section IV: Methodology, Instruments and Statistics

All scholarly journal articles, book, reports, etc. are based on research. These articles have two valuable components for graduate students: a) the content, i.e., the subject of the research, and b) the methodology. The methodology will be stated and outlined clearly within the article or book. Methodology becomes increasingly important as one continues in research. Questions to be asked while reading an article are:

  • What kind of article am I reading (newspaper, trade journal, scholarly journal, government report, etc)
  • What methodology is employed? Was it the best methodology for the questions being asked of the data?
  • How timely are the research and the data? How old is the data? Does age matter for the subject under consideration?
  • Does the author have the necessary experience and education to add to the scholarship on the subject?
  • Is the information given similar to that in other sources?
  • Who funded the research? Is the research biased as a result?
    Scholarly articles in the social sciences are easy to identify since they follow a standard format, IMRAD:
  • Title, author(s), and brief bios
  • Abstract
  • Introduction of problem with its relevance and context
  • Methods
  • Results
  • (and)
  • Discussion
  • References

Use IRIS to find books on methods and instruments used in research. Sage Press specializes in publications related to social sciences research. Many of them are issued as part of two series, Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences, and Qualitative Research Methods. If you wish to search IRIS using the series name, enter it into the "TITILE begins with" field. There are encyclopedias and other reference tools on research methods as well.

Blickman, Leonard and Rog, Debra J., eds. Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, c1998. Dana Ref H62 .H24534 1998

Lewis-Beck, Michael S., Bryman, Alan E., and Liao, Tim Futing. Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, c2004. Dana Ref H62 .L456 2004

Articles, increasingly, are assigned subject headings that describe the methodologies used in research studies. This means one can search for articles by using terms for specific methods.

Section V: Finding Data and Statistical Information

Collecting data and conducting analyses requires extensive funding and staff. Usually government agencies are the only groups with the necessary resources available. Most of the departments in the administrative branch have bureaus for data collection and generation of statistics.

Section VI: Dissertations

Dissertations serve two purposes for graduate students. They provide: a) in-depth and comprehensive coverage on very specific topics with lengthy bibliographies and b) an excellent model or guide to the student embarking on the dissertation process. It is helpful to see how others have organized and presented their material.

Dissertations are treated as books by RUL. They can be checked out but for a limited time period. Any Rutgers dissertation is available at RUL for check out. All recent Rutgers dissertations are available in full-text online using the database, Dissertations and Theses.

Dissertations from other universities are usually available through interlibrary loan. Please be sure to include the degree granting university's name and the date the PhD was awarded in your request. When a print copy of a dissertation is not available for borrowing, patrons may purchase a copy through Dissertations and Theses.

Section VII: Research Centers and Non-profit Organizations

Research centers or "think tanks" have as their purpose the conduct of rigorous research on current issues to improve social policy decision making. All research results are critically reviewed and released as journal articles, reports, and books. In addition to print publications, the research centers make their studies available on the web.

While these institutes have a national or global interest, there are other research centers for regions of the US, the Sonoran Institute, for example which focuses on the West. Others may focus on a particular aspect of urban systems such as land or government type.

Professional associations may also offer research studies or statistical data on their web sites.

University centers and institutes can be sources for research. Urban universities may have a center similar to the Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies where the city, state or region serves as the study subject.

Section VIII: Other Web Resources

Library Guides

The Rutgers library guides on specific aspects of urban systems may provide more help with specific resources. You may review the list by following the pathway:

    Research Guides
Government Information or Newspapers or Political Science, etc.

Dana librarians also have a separate listing of guides they have prepared for classes. This list have a category for urban planning with guides on the American city, housing and development, and urban education.

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