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Sustainability Research

Defining Sustainability: Gather Beginning Information

Sustainability is a complex topic that contains a multitude of research topics. Not sure where to start?  Check out these two sources: a Gale article that defines sustainability and explains its history, and this short entry from an ebook that explains the history of sustainability as a concept.

Once you broadly understand sustainability, you'll want to narrow your focus to the type of sustainability that you're interested in researching.  Not quite sure where to start?  The United Nations has published a list of Sustainable Development Goals that "recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests."  Take a look at the link below to learn the 17 goals and find progress reports linked to the goals.

Once you've picked a goal, you'll want to start doing more specific research: what does sustainability look like with regard to freshwater pollution (goals 6 and 3, among others), or climate change (goal 13), or plastic usage (goals 12 and 14, among others)?  Take a moment to look at not only the overview of your goal, but the targets and indicators.

Gather Context

As you start to narrow in on your research topic, remember that book chapters tend to be good sources of information, and written in readable language.  Try searching the catalog for print and online books related to your topic.

For example, rather than searching for sustainability, try searching for plastic pollution and recycling

You're also welcome to browse library shelves to find books on this or related topics. 

Helpful call numbers include: 

GE Environmental Sciences
GC Oceanography
HD  Industry (including energy and land use)
QC 980-999   Climate Change and Weather
TD Includes garbage, sanitation, pollution

In addition to book chapters, here are other good sources to help you to gather more information about your topic: 

Find Articles

Now that you've gathered basic information, it may be time to dive into scholarly articles for help.  Try one of the databases below in order to find popular or scholarly articles on your topic. Be specific: using a search of plastic pollution and recycling or streams and nutrient pollution will provide more usable articles than just sustainability.

Struggling to remember how to search one of these databases, or how to identify or read a scholarly article?  Take a look at one of the links below:

Measure Sustainability: Recommended Sources

Trying to figure out how to measure your plastic usage, your energy consumption, or other sustainability data?  Start by looking at the recommended sources below. 

Remember that there are many organizations that are devoted to specific sustainability topics, such as The Ocean Cleanup.  Make sure that you evaluate any websites you find on your own using the Evaluating Websites box below. 

Not sure where to start?  Remember that the United Nations Sustainability Goals include targets and indicators that will suggest how the goals can be measured. For example, see this page related to Climate Action.  Click Targets to see different ways to break up the goals and indicators for ways that progress toward the targets can be measured. 

After you've checked out your sustainability goal Targets and Indicators, it's time to start searching for data. You can find measurements in many places: books, websites, government reports.  Look at the list below for to start gathering information, and be prepared to search the catalog, databases, and the open internet to see what else exists. 

Remember as always that you'll want to evaluate your sources for accuracy.  

Evaluate Websites

While you're doing Google searches to either narrow your topic or in order to dig up more information on certain subject, you want to be careful to decide if the information you find is trustworthy.

When it comes to science, nearly everyone has opinions: should we be labeling genetically modified food for consumer's awareness? What will fracking do for our economy or our groundwater supply? Your job is to evaluate the information you can find through Google and Bing to find the good websites--those written by authors you can trust, with good and up-to-date information.

Authorship: Who created this website? What is their background on the topic? Are they trustworthy?

Bias: Why was the website created? What point of view does the author have? Does that limit the facts they present or how the facts are presented?

Date: How old is the information that is presented? Is it still accurate?

Questions? Check out the COD Library's guide to evaluating information.

Cite Your Work: APA Style

Of course, as you get ideas and data from your sources, you want to be able to cite them.  Keep in mind that you want to cite not only quotations, but also ideas that you get from your research.

Not sure if you are paraphrasing, plagiarizing, or patchwriting?  Check out Academic Integrity by Ulrike Kestler, which has a section on all three

Need some help putting together citations?  Check out the helpful links below: 

Want software to create citations for you? Check out the database below:

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  • Last Updated: Apr 29, 2024 9:56 AM
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