Thesis and Dissertation Research in Environmental Design: Getting started

A strategic bibliographic guide for architecture, city planning, urban design, and landscape architecture graduate students beginning their professional report, thesis, or dissertation work.

Getting started


Thesis and Dissertation Research is a strategic bibliographic guide for architecture, city planning, urban design, and landscape architecture graduate students beginning their professional report, thesis, or dissertation work. The guide will be especially helpful to students starting a literature review.

To get started, check out Library Services for Graduate Students for a description of the many practical library support services available. As your research takes you into unfamiliar disciplines remember to identify the library subject specialist(s) best placed to help you.

Deconstruct Your Topic

Deconstruct your topic to uncover its complexities and hidden conceptual connections, to focus your research, and to increase your search vocabulary. Another term for deconstructing a research question is 'concept mapping;' see the Rhode Island School of Design Library's slide show, Concept Mapping, for a visual tutorial.

  • Write down your topic.
  • Ask the 6 journalist's questions about your chosen topic:
    Who designed/authorized/regulated the project? Who are/were the client(s)? Who paid for it? Who were the intended users?
    What type of land use is it? What were the design/regulatory/financial constraints?
    Where is the project located (city, state, neighborhood, country)?
    When was it constructed (date completed, century, historical period)?
    Why was the project approved or rejected?
    How did the public/client/intended audience respond to the project?
  • Pay attention to the questions you can't answer about your topic. Look for the answers in the specialized reference sources in the following section.
  • Add to your 'deconstruction notes' as you learn more about your topic.
  • For additional ways to explore your topic, see Finding Information on Buildings and Places.

Contact Information

Environmental Design Library
210 Wurster Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Website / Blog Page

Developing Proposals

Note that many of the books listed in the General Research Methods section also include good advice on how to put together a proposal.


Selection of titles to get you started on your writing journey. Find more: Search the library catalogs by subject--Dissertations, Academic.

Is English grammar a challenge? See The Little, Brown Handbook, H. Ramsey Fowler, Jane E. Aaron. New York: Longman, 2010.

Writing Advice by Discipline

Selection of titles on writing, focusing on specific discipline requirements.

Literature Reviews

Note that information on writing literature reviews is also available in some of the general writing and research titles listed in this guide.

Style Manuals

Find more: Search the library catalogs by subject--Authorship. Style manuals.

Citation Management

Managing bibliographic citations is a necessary and tedious aspect of written research. Use the following computer-based bibliographic management programs to manage citations, format papers, and create bibliographies in a variety of styles. Each program allows you to download citation information directly from selected online databases into your own bibliographic database.

  • Zotero: A full-featured, free, open-source citation manager especially useful for new media sources (emails, websites, blog posts, maps, etc.). It can be used with Firefox, Chrome, or Safari browsers. Zotero makes it easy to annotate, attach PDFs, and take snapshots of websites for future reference. It also facilitates collaboration and backup by synching to an online server. Learn how to use Zotero using this guide.
  • RefWorks - UCB Only. RefWorks is a web-based bibliographic management service licensed by The Library for use by all current UCB faculty, staff and students. To sign up for an individual account, use the RefWorks New User form.
  • EndNote: A proprietary bibliographic management software and a powerful tool for reseachers. Offers sophisticated, flexible tools for organizing references for creating bibliographies.
  • Online tutorials (UC Berkeley, Library) Here's a helpful directory of online tutorials for using citation managers such as Zotero, RefWorks, EndNote, and others.

Research Methods

General Research Methods

Print Resources

See these guides for more information

Case Studies and Projects

Where can you find case studies?

  • Case studies are often published in journal articles, so consult the journal indexes listed in this guide.
  • Some case studies are presented as conference papers, which are sometimes published as part of conference proceedings (see below), as well as in journals.
  • Look for projects that have received formal recognition; awards announcements will usually provide details about a project that may be helpful to you. These announcements are sometimes published in journals, as well as on the web sites of the organizations making the awards.
  • You may also discover compilations of case studies published as books; start with the OskiCat catalog: combine a keyword search describing your topic with a subject search with the phrases case studies or case method.
  • Books on "best practices" are often illustrated with case studies. See, for example, the best practices section of the Urban Design guide.

Case Study Methodology

Case Study Sources


Interpreting the Built Environment


Doing interviews? See the UC Berkeley, Office for the Protection of Human Subjects requirements.

Making Presentations

Doing Local History

Using Maps and Images for Research

Copyright: Copyright law applies when using published images. Here are a couple of web sites that may help.

Selected titles on using maps and images in research

Find more: Search the library catalogs by subject: Visual sociology or Photography in the social sciences.

Finding the Basics

Interlibrary Loan

If we don't own what you need, you can try to borrow it from another library using the Interlibrary Borrowing Service. UCB faculty and grad students may also request materials directly from Stanford University and the University of Texas, Austin, via the Research Library Cooperative Program.

Finding Books

Finding Journal Articles

Journal article indexes: See the following web guides for descriptions of the core journal article indexes for landscape architecture, environmental planning, city planning, and architecture.

UC-eLinks helps you retrieve full-text articles listed in many of our journal databases and Google Scholar.  For more information, view this 2-minute video.

UC-eLinks Citation Linker. Use this handy form to locate the article from your citation. UC-eLinks will retrieve the full-text article, if available.  If not, it may direct you to a printed version in OskiCat or request it through Interlibrary Loans.

Google Scholar: Lists journal articles, books, preprints, and technical reports in many subject areas (though more specialized article databases cover architecture and design more completely).  Use the UC-eLinks option, when available, to find UCB access to a publication. Be sure to set Google Scholar Settings/Library links to “University of California Berkeley – UC e-Links”.

Full-text articles (electronic)

Once you have created a successful search in a periodical index or database, keep yourself informed as new items that match your original search appear. Some online indexes and databases (e.g., Avery Index, Sociological Abstracts and Environmental Sciences and Pollution Management) provide an 'alert' service, that sends an e-mail notifying you of new citations added to the database on your topic. Most require you to log in after creating a password. If you need help, ask a librarian.

Finding Newspaper Article

Use the geographic card file in Newspapers and Microforms, 1st Floor, Doe Library, to identify newspapers by location. For newspapers on the web see News Article Databases on the library's website,

Finding Statistics and Data

For assistance using data sets and analytical software, consult with the Data Lab.

See the guide Statistics & Data for City Planning for more resources.

Searching for maps

The Earth Sciences and Map Library collection and the Bancroft Library have outstanding collections of maps, especially for California and the Bay Area.

Searching for images

Note that archives are often an excellent source of images. See the guide Image Sources for the Built Environment or  Image and Sound databases for more resources.

More Resources


An archive is a collection containing original records, documents, images, drawings, correspondence, or other materials. For a researcher, archives are a treasure house of primary resources. See Archival Collections and Primary Source Databases for additional archival sources.

Using archival materials For information on locating and using archives and special collections, see these research guides.:

Finding archival materials

Selected archival collections in California


Book Reviews

Note that in several journal article databases you may limit your search to reviews.

Book review sources for architecture city planning, and landscape architecture (UC Berkeley, Library). Bibliographic guides to book reviews on subjects in environmental design. Includes search instructions.

Citation Indexes

Use citation indexes to track the work and impact of a particular author. Also a good way to identify other authors working on the same topic. The following citation indexes help you discover where a particular article is cited.


Dissertations not owned by UC Berkeley may be purchased or borrowed through Interlibrary Service. Note that ordinary Melvyl subject searches will frequently miss dissertations which often are not given subject treatment; in Advanced Search use main title searches in combination with format=dissertations.

Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs)

Environmental impact reports (EIRs), also known as environmental impact statements (EISs), are the product of an environmental impact assessment process. EIRs document the site conditions for specific proposed projects or developments, and can be extremely valuable sources of data about current and past site conditions. EIRs may be found in many campus libraries. To locate them, search OskiCat or Melvyl, using the subject environmental impact statements in combination with a place or site name. Public libraries also collect local EIRs.

Building Codes and Technical Literature

General Plans

General and area plans are often good sources of neighborhood histories, maps, and basic socio-economic statistics. See the research guide Finding general plans (UC Berkeley, Library).


Community and professional organizations can be valuable information resources, e.g., local historical societies; neighborhood planning groups; regional and national landscape architects' associations.

See the following online guides for listings as noted:


Papers from proceedings, colloquia, etc., are indexed somewhat haphazardly through journal article indexes. Note types of materials covered when using an unfamiliar index.

How to Find a UCB Thesis or Dissertation


Due to space restrictions, only the most recent 10 years of theses, dissertations and professional reports are kept on site, and older volumes are stored at NRLF (Northern Regional Library Facility).

Please note that the CED Library does not always receive a copy of every CED thesis or dissertation.

Doe Library maintains an archival, non-circulating copy of each (they have call numbers that begin with 308t).

Call Numbers in Environmental Design

In general, recent DISSERTATIONS have these call numbers:


City & Regional Planning  

Landscape Architecture







     Alphabetical by author

     Alphabetical by author

     Alphabetical by author


In general, recent THESES have these call numbers:


City & Regional Planning

Landscape Architecture







      Alphabetical by author

      Alphabetical by author

      Alphabetical by author


In general, recent PROFESSIONAL REPORTS have these call numbers:


City & Regional Planning

Landscape Architecture







       Alphabetical by author

       Alphabetical by author

       Alphabetical by author


Search terms

Examples of NOTES/TABLE OF CONTENTS Keyword Searches:

  • Bachelor architecture berkeley 1963
  • City Planning berkeley 1974
  • Thesis architecture berkeley 1994
  • Thesis PHD architecture berkeley 1985
  • Professional report landscape berkeley 1999
  • professional landscape berkeley 1982|
  • urban design berkeley 1995
  • ms arch* 1990-2004

Search tips

To search by department use OskiCat and search SUBJECT:

  • University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Architecture Dissertations.

  • University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of City and Regional Planning -- Dissertations.

  • University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Design Dissertations

  • University of California, Berkeley. Program in Visual Design -- Dissertations.

  • University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Dissertations

To search by AUTHOR or TITLE use OskiCat or Melvyl.

OskiCat (UC Berkeley):

  • Limit your search to DISSERTATIONS/THESES.

  • In the NOTES field use the following types of terms and phrases in your search strategy:

  • - Degree (bachelor, MA, MS, PHD)

  • - Type of publications (thesis, professional report, etc.)

  • - Subject area (architecture, landscape architecture, city planning, urban design, etc.)

  • - Year

  • You may also BROWSE "subject begins with..." "dissertations academic ucb [name of department]" e.g., architecture, or city and regional planning, or landscape.

Melvyl (all UC Campuses):

  • Use KEYWORDS search for author, title, notes fields.

  • Or, select TITLE WORD and enter up to 3 key words that might appear in the title (UCB theses and dissertations do not get subject headings, so you cannot search them by subject).

  • Limit library to UCB Libraries.

  • Limit year to date appropriate: specific year or range of year

Databases to search.

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