Think tanks are specialized institutions that serve one or more of the following purposes:

  • Complement mainstream media coverage, by addressing issues that may have been misunderstood or overlooked
  • Provide high quality, externally refereed research by independent and university-affiliated scholars
  • Produce technical reports of a kind commissioned by democratic governments
  • Advocate for government to consider matters of public policy through a certain lens, providing evidence-based, reasoned argument
  • Advisory role to government, business, or political parties

Think tanks are not-for-profit and electorally non-partisan, although they do tend to have policy, intellectual, or ideological missions.  HOWEVER, it is advisable not to restrict research only to think tanks tending toward a certain ideology.  A balanced approach, exploring a range of think tanks, is beneficial to gaining a fuller understanding of an issue -- if only to better confirm why you don't agree with a competing point of view.

Various Think Tank Listings

Many think tanks have emerged in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, making it difficult to rank or compare them fairly.  Several ranking systems make an attempt to do so, including the report from the University of Pennsylvania (below) which tends to be well respected.

Select Think Tanks to Explore

The following list is limited to organizations that call themselves think tanks.  Some internet news sites provide analyses of events that are serious enough to qualify as think tanks, but do not consider themselves as such.

Canadian think tanks are internationally respected for their consideration of, and research on, domestic issues.  The highest-regarded international affairs think tanks, however, tend to be U.S.- or U.K.-based.

Among Canadian think tanks, the Fraser Institute tends to be libertarian and the Broadbent Institute social democratic, for example.  Some think tanks have a history of multiple missions, such as the Frontier Centre for Public Policy which has combined a focus on the advancement of First Nations with a libertarian element.

Custom Think Tank Search Engines

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