Urban Studies Research Guide

Singla cherry blossom at Ueno Park. (Flower season at Tokyo) from New York Public Library Digital Collections

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective information research in urban studies.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Personal Librarian: 
Jennie Correia
103 LeFrak Center, Barnard Hall

Reference Sources
Journal Articles
Data & Stats
Writing & Citing

Finding Background Information/Using Reference Sources

Consult scholarly reference sources to get an overview of a topic, an introduction to a theory, definitions to discipline-specific terms, and more. Urban studies is an interdisciplinary field, so both specific and broad resources may be useful. Check out the research guides in other subjects for more recommendations. 

Finding Books

Finding Articles

  • America: History and Life with full text provides access to the scholarly literature on the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. The database indexes journals from 1964 to present and includes citations and links to book and media reviews.
  • Annual Reviews (also known as AR) is great for getting comprehensive summaries of research on specific topics in a variety of fields. Look at the bibliographies to lead you to the original works cited.
  • Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals provides citations to articles in worldwide architecture and related periodicals with a primary emphasis on architectural design and history, but it also includes coverage of archaeology, landscape architecture, interior design, furniture and decorative arts, garden history, historic preservation, city planning, urban design, real estate development, and environmental studies. You will find both scholarly and popular periodical literature, as well as publications of professional associations, American state and regional periodicals, and the major serials on architecture and design of Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia. Coverage is mainly from 1934 to the present, with selective coverage back to 1741.
  • GenderWatch includes full text from contemporary scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, regional publications, books, booklets and pamphlets, conference proceedings, and government, NGO and special reports.
  • Google Scholar is very useful for seeing if a book, article, etc. has been cited by other scholars. Search on the title, and then follow the "Cited by ..." link. 
  • Historical Abstracts provides access to the scholarly literature  on the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present, including world history, military history, women's history, and the history of education. It provides selective indexing of historical articles from more than 1,800 journals in over 40 languages back to 1955 as well as the full text of more than 300 journals and over 130 books.
  • HUD User Bibliographic Database, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is dedicated to housing and community development issues. It contains more than 10,000 full-abstract citations to research reports, articles, books, monographs, and data sources in housing policy, building technology, economic development, urban planning, and related fields.
  • Index to Current Urban Documents features citations and municipal records including plans, surveys, and budgets from approximately 500 U.S. and Canadian cities and counties.
  • Journal of Planning Literature (JPL) is a quarterly scholarly journal that includes review articles and abstracts of recent literature in city and regional planning and design. A typical issue contains refereed literature reviews; a Council of Planning Librarians (CPL) Bibliography; abstracts of recent journal articles and dissertations; and bibliographic listings. JPL offers an understanding of the state of knowledge of the field for use in research or professional practice.
  • Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) is a multidisciplinary database with searchable author abstracts, covering the journal literature of the social sciences. It links publications based on citations allowing you to search the "web" of communication surrounding a topic. You also can search Science Citation Index and Arts & Humanities Index simultaneously with the Social Science Citation Index - click on "MORE SETTINGS" to select the databases you want to search.
  • Sociological Abstracts is the best bet when starting a search for scholarly sociological research. This core database covers sociology and related disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences, including research focused in social work, human services, and related areas. The database provides citations from 1963 to the present and includes references to journal articles, book reviews, book abstracts, book chapters, dissertations, and conference papers.
  • Urban Studies Abstracts features bibliographic records covering essential areas related to urban studies, including urban affairs, community development, urban history, and other areas of key relevance to the discipline. Records are selected from many of the top titles within the discipline, including Journal of Urban Affairs, Urban Studies, and Canadian Journal of Urban Research.

Finding Data & Statistics

For help finding and analyzing data, check out the Empirical Reasoning Center (ERC). The ERC's calendar lists when staff is available to answer your questions. No appointment necessary!

  • American FactFinder (U.S. Census Bureau) is a key source for population, housing, economic, and geographic data. You can find fact sheets, statistics, and data sets.
  • CoreData.nyc from NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Planning is a great source for empirical research and data on subsidized housing, land use, real estate development and and other useful New York City neighborhood and housing data.
  • National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) provides aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2013.
  • Passport from Euromonitor International is a market research tool that monitors industry and product trends in countries around the world. They also have selected city reports. You can search for these by the name of the city or browse available reports - click on "Economies" in the top navigation bar and then "Cities".
  • Social Explorer helps you visually analyze and understand a variety of data sets, including U.S. demographic, crime, health, election, and religion data, as well as international data such as World Bank World Development Indicators.
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic conditions of the United States. Once provided free from the U.S. Census Bureau, now provided by ProQuest.

  • State of the Cities Data System (SOCDS), produced by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), offers data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.
  • UNData from the United Nations Statistics Division has some data tables for cities.
  • World Council on City Data Open Data Portal is based on the first international standard on city data — ISO 37120. The WCCD Open City Data Portal allows you to explore, monitor, and compare member cities on up to 100 service performance and quality of life indicators.

Need even more data sources? Check out Social Science Data & Statistics Sources.

Finding Maps

  • David Rumsey Historical Map Collection focuses on 18th and 19th century North and South American cartographic materials and includes atlases, globes, school geographies, maritime charts, and a variety of separate maps including pocket, wall, and manuscript maps.
  • Digital Sanborn maps, 1867-1970. New York/New Jersey is a collection of large scale fire insurance maps from the Sanborn Map Company. Provides detailed information about New York and New Jersey locations. Details include information such as street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, the size and shape and construction materials, and much more. Textual information includes construction details, ownership and building use.
  • GIS and Statistical Data Resources is a list of additional resources provided by Columbia University Libraries. 
  • The Lehman Social Sciences Library Map Collection at Columbia University has various types of maps, including topographic, aeronautical, thematic, nautical, and geological maps.  
  • Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division/New York Public Library (NYPL) is one of the world's premier map collections in terms of size, scope, unique holdings, diversity and intensity of use. Established in 1898, holdings include more than 433,000 sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 15th and 21st centuries. The collections range from the global to the local scale and support the learning and research needs of a wide variety of users.
  • NYPL Maps Warper is a tool that digitally overlays historical maps from the NYPL's collections to match today's precise maps. You can browse already rectified maps.
  • Spatial Data on the Internet is a great list of resources compiled by the Columbia University Digital Social Science Center.

Writing and Citing

  • Barnard guides to citation management provides information about citation practices, style guides, and software programs you can use that help you keep track of your sources and create bibliographies.
  • Cite Source presents visual information about how to cite various sources in a visual way, and they offer guidance on citing tricky sources. Check out the source help for APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.​
  • The Craft of Research is an online book that can help guide you through the full research process.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) has lots of general and subject specific writing tips and techniques, along with research advice and detailed citation and formatting standards for the APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.
  • Quick Guide to Data Citation (PDF file) is a handy resource from the International Association for Social Science Information Services Technology (IASSIST).

Last updated September 20, 2017