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First-Year Experience Library Guide: Sustainability

Library research in sustainability

Welcome to the Library Research Guide for the Sustainability module of FYEX100!

Our librarians create hundreds of guides like these for many courses and for different subjects and topics.  These guides can be thought of as tools for you to get started on library research. Since every course and assignment is different, every guide will look a little bit different, but in all of them, you'll find strategies and tips for your research assignments and links to some of the best places to do your research.

You can get to all of our Research Guides from the front page of the library's website:


DO: Find a scholarly article on a sustainability topic

For the Sustainability module, you need to find one scholarly article about a topic and read the abstract.

You will be using the library database "GreenFILE".  GreenFILE is a database that pulls together articles all about environmental and sustainability topics. We've pulled together links and strategies for each of the topics below.  Please find your topic and then search for one scholarly article on that topic.  You will only need to read the abstract of the article for class.


Why are we using GreenFILE instead of LibrarySearch?

Many times, when you're searching for library sources, LibrarySearch will be your best bet.  However, sometimes you want to narrow your search to just one topic or field, this is where our databases come in.  The library subscribes to hundreds of databases that cover a wide range of topics.  These databases often have specific tools for researchers in the field of study that let them really focus in on relevant sources. 

If you're ever wondering which database to use or how to best use it, take a look at one of our Research Guides, or talk to a librarian!


What is a scholarly article?

Scholarly articles are sometimes referred to as peer-reviewed, academic, or refereed.  These articles are written by and for experts in a field to communicate findings and advancements in that field.  They have the following characteristics:

  • Audience: Written for other scholars in the field
  • Structure: Have a formal structure with an abstract at the beginning and a lengthy bibliography at the end.  Other common sections of a scholarly paper include: introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion.  
  • Review: Before a scholarly article is published, it must be reviewed by other experts in the field.  That's where the term "peer-reviewed" comes from.

Most library databases that have scholarly articles will have a way to narrow your search so you only see scholarly articles.  This is great because some of your assignments will ask you to use only scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. 

Want to learn more about the differences between scholarly and non-scholarly articles?

Look at the differences between scholarly and non-scholarly articles that are on the same topic.


What is an abstract?

Every scholarly article starts with an abstract, but the abstract is usually the last part that is written.  The abstract will condense all the sections of the article into one short paragraph.  This helps other researchers quickly determine whether or not they want to read the full article.

Most library databases that have scholarly articles will show you the abstract of the articles so you can quickly see what the article is about.

Here is an example of an abstract from GreenFILE, from the article “Greening U.S. Legacy Cities: Urban Agriculture as a Strategy for Reclaiming Vacant Land” by Fanny Carlet, Joseph Schilling, and Megan Heckert. The article was published in the journal Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems in 2017.

Screen shot of an abstract, text reads: Repurposing vacant land for food production is expanding as a response to urban blight, food insecurity, and food deserts. As municipalities integrate urban agriculture in their sustainability plans and zoning regulations, scholars are beginning to take a broader look at the benefits from this and other types of greening strategies. This article investigates current state of research and practice of urban agriculture as an emerging strategy for regenerating shrinking cities. It highlights key findings while offering observations on how public officials and practitioners can leverage this research to enhance urban agriculture as a treatment for vacant land.

What if I want to read the full text of an article, but only see the abstract?

Many of our databases link directly to the full-text of an article, but that's not always the case. If you don't see the full article, look for the "Get It" button: Clicking that button will run a search on our system and find out if we have access to the article, or if you'll need to request it through InterLibrary Loan (in that case, you fill out a request and we'll get the article for you from another library, but it may take a few days).


Next step: Click on your topic and find the abstract for an article