Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership (PANL)

This guide is designed for graduate students in the School of Public Policy and Administration, though anyone doing research on philanthropy, or nonprofits may find help here. If you need further assistance, get in touch!

Most databases, whether they are a library catalogue or a specialized database, allow you to search for books, journal articles, and more, with a single search.  You can then narrow your results with filters, or more advanced search options.

  • Some suggested subject headings or keyword search terms:
    • nonprofit
    • leadership
    • management
    • philanthropy
    • charities
    • voluntarism
    • entrepreneurship
    • social surveys
    • qualitative research
  • Once you've decided which terms are the most useful for your search, combine them in a boolean search. For example:
    • (philanthropy or nonprofit) and canad*
      • the brackets keep together a variation in phrasing
      • the * will look for alternate endings
      • AND/OR will modify a component to narrow or expand your results
      • if you had a multi-word phrase, putting quotes around it will search specifically for those words, in that sequence, side by side
  • Some filters to consider applying are:  books, or Journals, or Scholarly and/or Peer Review
    • You can then narrow your search further by:  Publication Date or Discipline, or Subject, etc.
  • watch for any other words that are being used in your results, for example, 'charity' may be more common in some contexts than 'philanthropy', search both


  1. Never limit to full-text only as we may subscribe to the journal you find from another vendor.  Use the Get it! icon to search for the full text when it is not immediately available.
  2. Look for the option to set up an RSS feed  or to Create an Alert.  You are then notified when a new entry is added to the database that meets your search criteria.
  3. Use the Interlibrary Loans RACER form to request items not held at Carleton’s library.  
  4. For additional relevant databases, look at the Subject Guides that best relate to your topic, such as Public Policy and Administration, Canadian Studies, Business, Sociology etc.‚Äč

Borrowing from Other Libraries

  • RACER is our online interlibrary loan system.  Use it to search for and order books, journal articles, and other items that you can't find in our collection.   Journal articles will be sent to you electronically.   For more information please see Interlibrary Loans.
  • CRL catalog (Center for Research Libraries): Collects research materials not targeted by other North American research institutions. We are a member which allows you to get long-term loans of much of their material.
  • WorldCat: Search the library catalogues of 1000's of libraries around the world.
  • If you can't find what you need here, you can use Interlibrary Loans to get the article or book, or you can Borrow directly from other libraries.

Adding to our Library's Collection

  • You can also send suggestions for purchase directly to me! If our budget allows and the requested item falls within our collection profile, we can usually purchase suggested titles.  E-book formats will be purchased whenever possible.

Citing and Citation Management tools

We offer a variety of support options for citing your sources and citation management.  If you are not already using a citation management tool, I strongly suggest you look into one now. Most of these tools will also allow you to turn your references into properly formatted bibliographies, and with additional plug-ins they can allow you to easily insert your citations into your papers as you write.

Key Databases:

Databases for theses and dissertations:

Citation searching
Use Citation Indexes to find if a particular author and/or paper has been cited by other authors.           

Web of Science    

  • Select Cited Reference Search from just above search box.
    • You have the article        
      • "Street Credentials and Management Backgrounds: Careers of Nonprofit Executives in an Evolving Sector" by  Suarez, DF (Suarez, David F.)  Nonprofit and voluntary sector quarterly  Volume: 39   Issue: 4   Pages: 696-716   AUG 2010
    • Enter the author in cited author box
      • Suarez, D  (use surname, first initial and truncation symbol)          
    • Retrieve abbreviation of journal name from list provided, and enter year of publication.  NONPROF VOLUNT SEC Q   2010
      • From the list, select the article and click on Finish Search - top right.
      • Results show the article has been cited 30 times - the most recent in  2018.
  • Note the option Searches and alerts to create a citation alert, and be notified of any future citings of this article.


  • Choose Author Search from top tool bar.
    • Enter author's name and affiliation if known
      • Waters, R.D.
      • North Carolina State University
    • Select, and show documents.  All published articles by the author will be listed.  Click on article for citing references. "What do Stakeholders Like on Facebook? Examing Public Reactions to Nonprofit Organizations' Informational, Promotional, and Community-Building Messages" by Saxton, G.D., and Waters, R.D..   Journal of Public Relations Research Volume 26, Issue 3, May 2914, Pages 280-299
    • Look to the right hand side of the screen - this article has been cited 87 times.  Click to 'view all citing documents'. 
      • Note #2: "Do CSR Messages Resonate? Examing Public Reactions to Firms' CSR Efforts on Social Media" Journal of Business Ethics  Volume 155, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 359-377  has been citied 3 times. 
  • Remember to see if a citing article has itself been cited! 

Journal Rankings

Tips for effective searching:

If you find one relevant article for your research it can lead to other relevant papers by the following:

  • using the databases, look to find all papers & books published by the author or co-authors
  • explore the bibliography in the paper for sources
  • using Web of Science or Scopus, look for articles that cite the article you found. Remember, some databases will also list citing articles but those lists are limited to the current database. The Web of Science and Scopus are more comprehensive, with coverage from multiple databases. 

Jump toThink Tanks | Public Policy | News 

Once you've used the Search strategies, and tried Databases for finding journal articles above, you may want to see what grey literature exists within your subject area. This is an important source of information for research in public policy.

Grey literature is defined as "information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing" ie. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body." — ICGL Luxembourg definition, 1997. Expanded in New York, 2004

Government Information 

Government Information custom search will search only government agencies. Filter your search by geographic area (try searching multiple regions for your topic, including Intergovernmental Organizations). Look at which agencies are doing research for your topic, going directly to the agency website may offer further areas for investigation. Don't forget to search for countries that have similar circumstances - they may be doing relevant work.

Think Tanks

  • Think Tank Search (Harvard University custom search) - think tanks can give an appreciation of government action or inaction in an area
  • findpolicy - results from 17 leading think tanks working on foreign policy in the US and Europe

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News & Current Events

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Public Policy Collections and Working Papers

Further resources

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There are many excellent online guides to doing a literature review.  Samples include:

What is the Difference Between Data and Statistics?

Data are the raw materials out of which statistics are produced, usually available as digital files for manipulation in statistical software.  Statistics are facts or figures that tend to be aggregate counts, totals, sums, or averages.



Open Data Repositories: CanadaInternational

United States - National Center for Charitable Statistics

International - World Giving Index

Qualitative Research at Carleton University

NVivo is a software package that helps with qualitative data analysis.   Check the NVivo guide for information on getting a license, attending a training session and links to online tutorials.

Content last reviewed: July 10, 2019