Urban Studies Senior Seminar in New York Field Research

Cover of Plan for New York City: A Proposal (1969)
Plan for New York City: A Proposal (1969) from The New York Public Library Digital Collections

This guide highlights key resources for conducting effective research in urban studies with a focus on New York City. 

 For a full list of recommended resources for urban studies, including reference tools, article databases, books, maps, data sets, and more, please see the urban studies research guide.

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

If you need assistance organizing, analyzing, or visualizing your data sets, please visit the Empirical Research Center (ERC)

Juan Rivero

Personal Librarian 
Jennie Correia
Social Sciences Librarian
103 LeFrak Center, Barnard Hall


Background Info
Journal Articles
News Sources
Data & Stats - General
Data & Stats - NYC
Writing & Citing


Finding Background Information

Consult scholarly reference tools 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.

Google Advanced Search can be quite helpful:  

  • Limit by domain (.gov, .edu, .org).
  • Limit by format - try PDF to find working papers/reports, and try XLS or CSV for data sets. 


Finding Books

CLIO is the online catalog of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard Library, but excluding Teachers College and some information from the Law Library. Use the Catalog search to find books, print & online journals (not articles in journals), multimedia sources, and other materials in the Barnard and Columbia libraries. 

Catalog search tips:

If you know exactly what book (journal, video, etc.) you are looking for, you can search by Title, Author, ISBN, etc.

To find items about a specific topic, first try a keyword search in All Fields.

  • Use "quotation marks" to search for an exact phrase: "community gardens".

  • Use * for truncation (to find variant spellings and endings of a word): wom*n will find woman, women, womyn; feminis* will find feminism, feminist, feminists, etc.

  • For more complex search, use AND and OR:

    • AND finds records which have all the search terms you entered.

    • OR finds records which have one of the search terms you entered, as well as records which have more than one of the terms. OR finds MORE.

    • For more help with using AND and OR, check our guide to advanced/Boolean keyword searching.

  • Use parentheses to group terms:  Brooklyn AND (buses OR subways)

Subject headings: If you find a book that's relevant, look at its subject headings in CLIO and click through to find more related works.

You can also find related materials by browsing the stacks. Approximately 18,000 volumes, a tenth of our collection, are now available in Milstein rooms 406, 406A, and 409 in Butler Library. Also check the stacks in Butler as well as the collections at Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library and the Lehman Social Sciences Library

Urban Studies classification:  HT; see also HD (land use), HE (transportation), L (education), RA (public health)

HT51-1595         Communities. Classes. Races.
HT51-65             Human settlements. Communities.
HT101-395         Urban groups. The city. Urban sociology.
HT165.5-169.9   City planning.
HT170-178         Urban renewal. Urban redevelopment
HT201-221         City population. Including children in cities, immigration.
HT231                Effect of city life.
HT251-265         Mental and moral life.
HT321-325         The city as an economic factor.

You can also look for books in other libraries:


Finding Scholarly Articles - Databases & Journals

There are hundreds of databases available through CLIO. You can use the Articles section in CLIO to search multiple databases simultaneously, including many listed below. 

Search tips:

  • The general search tips for CLIO also apply to the article databases. 
  • Backward citation searching: If you have an article or book that is useful, the bibliography/works cited can be a useful road map to other relevant literature that was previously published.  
  • Forward citation searching: If you have an article or book that is useful, you can use Google Scholar and some other databases to find out whether it was cited by other scholars after it was published. Search for the title of an article/monograph and search and click on "Cited by" to generate a list of sources that have referenced that source.

Selected database recommendations for this seminar:

  • Anthropology Plus is the most comprehensive index to articles and books in the field of anthropology. You'll find references to scholarly articles, reports, commentary, and edited collections of essays in all areas of anthropology, from the 19th century to the present.
  • Annual Reviews are great 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 architectural and related journals covering architecture, city planning, urban design and related disciplines.
  • Education Research Complete provides citations, abstracts and full text for scholarly education journals and books.
  • Environment Abstracts contains abstracts and selected full text for thousands of journal articles and conference papers related to environmental policy, environmental law, environmental science, sustainability, and human ecology. It also contains federal and state codes and federal agency regulations, federal and state case law and agency decisions, and federal and state waste site data and hazardous materials information.
  • JSTOR provides the full text of back issues from core scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences from the earliest issues to within a few years of current publication. Please note that, generally, this database does not include issues published in the last few years. You can search just the journals in a specific field - such as anthropology, political science, sociology, etc. - using the Advanced Search "NARROW BY DISCIPLINE AND/OR JOURNAL" feature.
  • MEDLINE, from the National Library of Medicine, is a comprehensive database of biomedical literature citations and abstracts - over 22 million of them. Areas covered include microbiology, delivery of health care, nutrition, pharmacology, environmental health, diseases, chemicals and drugs, psychiatry and psychology, biological sciences, social sciences and education, industry, humanities, information science and communications, and health care. You can access MEDLINE from many different platforms. I like PubMed, but try them all to the find your favorite!
  • Proquest Digital Dissertations
  • 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 include 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 and Urban Studies.
  • Web of Science consists of several multidisciplinary databases, including the Social Sciences Citation Index, the Arts & Humanities Index, and the Science Citation Index. You can search them all at once or individually - click on "MORE SETTINGS" to select the databases you want to search. They link publications based on citations allowing you to search the "web" of communication surrounding a topic.
  • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts is great place to start looking for scholarly journal articles. The database is devoted to North American and international politics.

Selected journal recommendations for this seminar:


Finding News Sources 

  • Ethnic NewsWatch has a full-text collection of newspapers, magazines and journals from ethnic, minority and indigenous press.

  • Factiva provides global news and business information, including the full text of the Wall Street Journal (not available in LexisNexis). Also includes local newspapers, same-day newswires, company reports, and media programs. 
  • GenderWatch offers access to a full-text collection of international journals, magazines, newsletters, regional publications, special reports and conference proceedings devoted to women's and gender issues.
  • LexisNexis Academic is a full-text with access to thousands of information sources including the full text of newspapers (including the New York Times), magazines, wire services, newsletters, journals, and broadcast transcripts.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers provides full-text and full-image articles from major American newspapers, including the New York Times.
  • Need more news? Check out other databases that contain news sources, and use the filters on the left hand side to find ones from the time and place you need.


Finding General Data & Statistics

  • 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.

  • County Business Patterns (CBP) is an annual series from the U.S. Census Bureau that provides subnational (county/borough, zip code, congressional district, Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas) economic data by industry. This includes the number of establishments, employment during the week of March 12, first quarter payroll, and annual payroll.
  • Data USA allows you to make data visualizations using public US Government data. 
  • ESRI Data Tapestry quickly visualizes demographic and lifestyle information about a neighborhood.
  • National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) provides aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2013.
  • State of the Cities Data System (SOCDS), from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), offers data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.
  • Need more numbers? Check out Social Science Data & Statistics Sources.


Finding New York City Data & Statistics

The general sources listed above have data about New York City, but the sites below focus on it.

  • 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. 
  • Department of City Planning’s Community Portal offers resources on a variety of topics related to land use, community planning and budget processes and demographic trends for all of New York City’s 59 community boards.
  • Department of Education makes available a variety of data sets and reports on schools, enrollment, graduation, test results, and more.
  • Environment & Health Data Portal from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene allows you to create reports, tables, charts and maps on a variety of topics including environmental sustainability, health behavior & outcomes, food & drink, built environment, air & water quality, pests, and more. 
  • EpiQuery  from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is an interactive tools designed to provide users with health data from a variety of surveys and sources.
  • Infoshare Online provides statistics for geographies that are unique to New York City from 1980 to the present. You can access information by assembly district, census tract, city council district, community district, congressional district, health area, health district, mental health region, NYC neighborhood, police precinct, public use microdata area (PUMA), school district, state senate, sub-borough area, United Hospital Fund (UHF) neighorhood, and zip code, back to 1980 for some geographices.  Includes population statistics, housing data, immigration trends, socio-economic indicators, birth and death data, hospitalizations, and more.
  • The Newest New Yorkers is an ongoing series of data reports on immigration and the foreign-born population in New York City. It features analysis of demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, as well as other federal and city administrative data. There is an interactive online map showing the largest immigrant groups in each of the City’s neighborhoods as well as where the City’s top ten largest immigrant populations live. 
  • New York City Census FactFinder (NYC CFF) provides access to U. S. Census Bureau population information for New York City for neighborhood tabulation areas (NTAs) and census tracts. 
  • The New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS) is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the city of New York to comply with New York state and New York City’s rent regulation laws.  The rental vacancy rate is the primary focus of the survey. Other important survey data on housing include rent regulatory and homeownership status, structural conditions, unit maintenance and neighborhood conditions; crowding, rents, utility costs, type of heating fuel, rent/income ratios; owner purchase price and estimated value, mortgage status and interest rate; number of stories and units in building, cooperative/condominium status, wheelchair accessibility, and much more about housing and households in New York City. 
  • New York State Department of Labor provides data and statistics on employment/unemployment, earnings, industries, and employers/firms for the New York City Region.
  • NYC Business Atlas maps the economic conditions of NYC  neighborhoods by combining information on population demographics with business filings, tax receipts, and pedestrian activity.
  • NYC Open Data makes the wealth of public data generated by various New York City agencies and other City organizations available for public use. As part of an initiative to improve the accessibility, transparency, and accountability of City government, this catalog offers access to a repository of 1,500+ government-produced, machine-readable data sets. The data sets are available in a variety of machine-readable formats and are refreshed when new data becomes available. Data is presented by category, by City agency, or by other City organization. 
  • Need more NYC numbers? Check out these other guides:

Finding Maps


Writing, Citing, and Research Methods

  • Barnard guides to citation management provides information about citation practices, style guides, and software programs (like Zotero) you can use that help you keep track of your sources and create bibliographies.

  • Chicago Manual of Style has full details on citing primary & archival material in Chicago style. You can find full-text of the style guide in print or online.
  • 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.
  • Data needs to be cited, too! Check out the Quick Guide to Data Citation from International Association for Social Science Information Services & Technology (IASSIST).
  • 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.
  • Sage Research Methods provides a comprehensive picture  of research methods (quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods) across the social and behavioural sciences. It includes more than 100,000 pages of SAGE book and reference material on research methods as well as selected material from SAGE journals. 
  • Zotero allows you to manually add special items like letters, interviews, etc. to your Zotero library.

Last updated April 18, 2018