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Library Research Guides

Environ 211: Social Sciences and Environmental Problems

Guide for Professor Zint's ENV 211 class

Campus Sustainability Research

This guide is designed to orient 1st and 2nd year students to finding and selecting relevant campus sustainability research articles using appropriate library databases.  Resources from multiple disciplinary perspectives are included.

Composing your research question

Ask yourself the following questions before searching for information resources:

1. What type of information do I need? (research articles? governmental reports? newspaper articles? grey literature? Peer-reviewed literature?)

2. Do I need information specific to a region? (Michigan? Ann Arbor? University of Michigan? University of Michigan North Campus? North Campus Residential Halls?)

3. Do I need information specific to an academic discipline? Or do I need literature from multiple disciplinary perspectives?

4. What time spans will be considered relevant for my search? Will information from the last 10 years be considered useful? the last 5 years? 6 months?

5. What information will answer my research question? What kind of information will satisfy my research question?

6. What level of granularity is necessary to answer my research question?

Example thought process

Say that you need to find information about recycling in the context of campus sustainability.

Ask yourself:

Do you need information specific to a particular school or school program?

Do you need information about recycling in general? Information about recycling on college campuses? Information about battery recycling on college campuses? Information about barriers to battery recycling on college campuses?) 

Do you need comparative data over a spread of years?

Do you need to know about the people that initiated the sustainability effort and their agenda? Or do you want to focus on the technologies or practices developed? Or do you want information about strategies that helped people participate in sustainability efforts? Or do you want to focus on the pressing environmental needs that inspired the program? Or do you want to know about the impact of the sustainability effort?

(Wanting to know all of the above is okay, but you may need to use different databases and other resources to find information on distinct areas of interest - and you want to be sure that the need for all of that information is reflected in your research question).