Thesis and Dissertation Research in Environmental Design: Home

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

Research Guide

Thesis and Dissertation Research

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.

UC Berkeley faculty, registered students, and staff who are off campus may use items marked UCB Only or UC Only by using The Library's off-campus access services.

Compiled by Elizabeth Byrne and Deborah Sommer. Updated April 2013 by Tam Vuong.

Getting Started: Deconstruct Your Topic | Proposals | Writing | Literature Reviews | Style Manuals | Citation Management

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.

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 | Case Studies | Fieldwork | Interpreting the Built Environment | Interviewing | Making Presentations | Doing Local History | Using Maps and Images


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

  • Development case studies (Urban Land Institute) - UCB Only. Provides case studies of completed projects ranging from low-income housing to mixed-use downtown developments to commercial and industrial sites.
    • Request User ID and Password at the Environmental Design Library Reference Desk.
    • IMPORTANT: Click the LOGOUT button after every session; otherwise the database is unavailable to everyone.
  • PapersFirst via FirstSearch/OCLC - UC Only Contains citations for papers presented at worldwide conferences, symposia, meetings, expositions, congresses, and workshops received at The British Library. Excellent source for interdisciplinary work; the index covers disciplines in the social sciences, sciences, arts, and the humanities. Coverage: October 1993--
  • Planning through projects: moving from master planning to strategic planning: 30 cities, M. Carmona, [ed. in chief] in collaboration with R. Burgess and M.S. Badenhorst and others. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Techne Press, 2009.
  • Urban design: a typology of procedures and products, by Jon Lang. Burlington, MA: Elsevier/Architectural Pr., 2005. Illustrated with more than 50 case studies.


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

See also the visual resources section of this guide. Find more: Search the library catalogs by subject: Visual sociology or Photography in the social sciences.

Finding the Basics:  Books | Journal Articles | News Articles | Maps and Images | Statistics and Data | Research Guides | Web Searching | Campus Libraries

If we don't own what you need, you can try to borrow it from another library. Use the Interlibrary Borrowing Service - UCB Only. Make your request at any reference desk or online. 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

  • Guide to Library Catalogs, Helps in determining which UC library catalog to use and how to use them.
  • OskiCat  Find books and other materials from most UCB libraries.  Limit the location to the “Environmental Design Library” to narrow your search. Holdings from Law and Earthquake Engineering are not included. Quick guide to OskiCat (PDF) .
  • Preferred Searches in OskiCat Create "alerts" to be notified of new acquisitions on your topic.
  • Melvyl Includes materials from all the UC libraries and more than 10,000 libraries.
  • Other catalogs: You can identify resources not in the UC system by using the catalogs of other U.S. and international libraries. On The Library's SunSITE visit Libweb: Library Servers via WWW for links to over 7900 pages from libraries in over 146 countries.
  • NRLF (Northern Regional Library Facility) Off-campus storage facility for the UC northern campuses. Materials located in NRLF can be requested online in OskiCat by clicking on the REQUEST tab and completing the form that appears, or by filling out the form on the NRLF website. Most material is delivered within 48 hours (excluding Sundays). Nearly half of the Environmental Design Library's collection is now stored in NRLF.

Finding Journal Articles

For off-campus access to The Library's online resources use The Library's off-campus access services.

  • 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 – UCe-Links”.
  • Full-text articles (electronic): For a list of full-text journals available electronically at UC Berkeley, see The Library home page and select Electronic Resources. Here's a selection of available full-text journal article databases. Note that these databases are available for UCB students, faculty, and staff only.
    • AltPress watch via ProQuest, A full-text resource that covers newspapers, magazines, and journals of the alternative and independent press. Good for environmental justice and environmental policy issues. Coverage: Generally begins with 1995.
    • IngentaConnect Provides full-text access to domestic and international scholarly and academic publications, in a wide range of subject areas. Coverage: Varies
    • JSTOR A full-text archive of interdisciplinary scholarly journal literature, including sociology, African-American studies, ecology, and political science. Coverage: Varies
    • Lexis-Nexis Academic Provides access to thousands of full-text news, business, and legal sources. Coverage: Varies
    • PolicyFile Indexes research and publication abstracts addressing the complete range of public policy research. Access to home pages, electronic mail addresses, and selected full-text articles are made available within the individual abstracts. Coverage: 1990--
    • Urban studies and planning Provides bibliographic information on and full-text of 12 journals published by SAGE Publications and participating societies, some journals going back 37 years. Coverage: Varies
  • Current awareness service - 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 Articles

Use the geographic card file in Newspapers and Microforms, 1st Floor, Doe Library, to identify newspapers by location. For newspapers on the web via The Library's Web site, in Articles select News Article Databases. These databases are available for UCB students, faculty, and staff only.

  • Access world news via NewsBank Provides selected full-text articles from regional, national, and translated international news media, including newspapers, wire services, and broadcasts. Coverage: 1991 (U.S.) or 1996 (international)
  • Ethnic NewsWatch via ProQuest Full-text coverage of approximately 100 newspapers and other periodicals published by ethnic and minority presses in the U.S. Includes articles published in African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Chicano, Native American, Asian, Jewish, Arab, and European/Eastern European publications. Coverage: 1990--Ethnic NewsWatch; 1959-89 Ethnic NewsWatch: A History
  • Historical Newspapers via Proquest - UCB Only Full-text of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times (1881-1986) and San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922), and more. To search select newspapers on the ProQuest page, click on the “Searching databases” down arrow. Then select from the menu list the newspaper you wish to search.
  • Historical Newspapers Online - UCB Only Contains four major historical resources: Palmer's Index to the Times (London) 1790 to 1905; The Official Index to the Times (London), 1906 to 1980; The Historical Index to the New York Times, 1851-September 1922; Palmer's Full Text Online 1785-1870, providing access to the full text articles referenced in Palmer's index to the Times.
  • Lexis-Nexis academic Includes full-text newspapers. Coverage: Varies
  • World news connection (WNC) and Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Electronic Index Contain full-text translated transcriptions and summaries of radio and television broadcasts, newspaper articles, conference proceedings, periodicals and non-classified technical reports, from all over the world. Note: from the primary link for FBIS, scroll down to the detailed link. Coverage: WNC,1996-- ; FBIS, 1975-1996

Finding Maps and Images

See also Image and Sound Databases or the Using Images for Research section of this guide.

  • Aerial photos: The Earth Sciences and Map Library (EART) has an excellent collection of aerial photos of California, 1939--present. A master index is available in EART.
  • ARTstor Includes over 1.5 million digital maps and images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with an accessible suite of software tools for teaching and research.
  • College of Environmental Design Visual Resources CenterHas digital images, slides, and lantern slides depicting architecture, landscapes, cities and related materials. SPIRO, the center’s visual online public access catalog, provides access to more than 250,000 35mm slides and 20,000 photographs.
  • Cities and buildings database (Univ. of Washington Libraries) An international image database of cities and buildings; search the database by country, city, style, title, architect, date of construction, as well as other fields.
  • Environmental design videotapes in the Media Resources Center (UC Berkeley, Library) A guide to environmental design videos at UC Berkeley.
  • Great Buildings A searchable, gateway site to plans, drawings and photographs of buildings worldwide throughout history. Also available on CD-ROM.
  • Image sources for the built environment (UC Berkeley, Library) A selective list of books that provide views, plans, sections, elevations, and/or details of important buildings and sites.
  • Old Maps Online is an easy-to-use portal to digitized historical maps from libraries around the world.
  • Fire insurance maps, also called Plat maps, show a variety of details, including actual lot boundaries, special uses, building materials and building footprints.
    • Digital Sanborn maps, 1867-1970 (UMI) - UCB Only Site provides digital access to more than 660,000 large-scale maps of California towns and cities. The maps "are large-scale plans containing the outline of each building, the size, shape, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers."
    • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, San Francisco, California, 1899/1900, courtesy of San Francisco Genealogy. The black and white maps presented here are from six volumes that covered San Francisco in 1899 and 1900. To locate a specific location, consult the various indexes to locate the correct Map Sheet. Then select the appropriate link.
  • San Francisco Maps Courtesy of San Francisco Genealogy. Guide and links to historic, street and other maps.
  • UC Shared Images: LUNA Imaging Collections UCB Only Provides 330,000 high resolution, zoom-able digital images in about a dozen image collections including the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Cross-disciplinary coverage. 
  • U.S. historical city maps Digitized maps from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the Univ. of Texas, Austin.

Finding Statistics and Data

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

Research Guides

Here's a selected list of topical research guides to UC Berkeley library and web resources. See also Environmental Design Library Guides for a complete list of subject guides and useful research tools.

Searching the Web

  • RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a technology that delivers frequently-updated online content on the web. Subscribe to the RSS feeds of blogs or news sites that you visit frequently using an RSS feed reader, a web or desktop application that allows you to view all of your RSS feeds in one, convenient location. To learn more about RSS feeds and feed readers, see Introduction to RSS (UC Berkeley, Bioscience Library), as well as an excellent 3.5-minute video: RSS Feeds in Plain English (Common Craft).

    Look for these common icons that indicate an RSS feed is available:
    RSS radio button RSS RSS Safari icon RSS 2.0 icon XML Atom feed icon
  • Web catalogs: Consult the guide Recommended Subject Directories for lists of web catalogs. For example, Ipl2 - the result of a merger of the Internet Public Library (IPL) and the Librarians' Internet Index (LII) is subject guide to Internet resources constructed by librarians. Includes more than 20,000 links.
  • Web tutorials: Enhance your web searching skills and discover the 'Invisible Web.'
  • Gateway sites:


SPECIALIZED RESOURCES: Archives | Biography | Book Reviews | Citation Indexes | Dissertations | EIRs | Building Codes and Technical Literature | General Plans | Organizations | Proceedings


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.


Additional electronic biographical resources are available from The Library's home page: go to Electronic Resources; select "Electronic resources: A-Z," and choose Biographical Sources.

Book Reviews

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

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.

  • Web of Knowledge (or Web of Science) Indexes citations for the following disciplines: Arts and Humanities (1975-present); Science (1900-present); Social Sciences (1900-present); CABI or CAB Abstracts and Global Health (1910-present); and more. In the search interface, narrow your search by clicking on the database of interest.
  • Google Scholar Allows you to discover in which journal articles and books a particular article or book is cited. REMEMBER that Google Scholar includes only scholarly publications; does NOT include journals published by Elsevier; and makes no claims to comprehensive coverage.


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.

  • Dissertations and theses (ProQuest) - UCB Only Includes citations for materials ranging from the first U.S. dissertation, accepted in 1861, to those accepted as recently as last semester. Some abstracts included. Many titles are available full-text. UC dissertations since 1996 are available full-text. UCB master’s theses are not included in this database.
  • How to find a UCB thesis or dissertation (UC Berkeley, Library) Provides browsable call numbers to locate College of Environmental Design (CED) professional reports (PRs), theses, and dissertations.  Older volumes are stored at NRLF..
  • Index to theses - UCB Only A comprehensive listing of doctorate theses with abstracts accepted for higher degrees by universities in Great Britain and Ireland since 1716.
  • Inside field statement. 1971-- . Field statements by students in the Dept. of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley. Finding Aid: EnvDesign HT110 I57 Reference Desk.
  • WorldCatDissertations - UC Only Contains more than 5 million listings for dissertations, masters theses, and publications based on dissertations or theses. Go to WorldCat; click on the Databases tab. Deselect WorldCat and select "WorldCatDissertations" at the end of the list. Coverage: pre-1861--
  • DART-Europe E-theses Portal. Access to hundreds of thousands of European theses and 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.
  • CEQAnet database (Calif. Governor's Office of Planning and Research) Contains key information from all California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documents submitted to the State Clearinghouse for state review since 1990. Includes summaries, but not full text, of EIRs, EISs, and other documents. Use the database to discover the existence of a report; then search the library catalog or use interlibrary borrowing service to locate a copy.

Building Codes and Technical Literature

  • Building Codes and Regulatory Resources Environmental Design Library guide to locating codes, especially for California and the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Building Green Suite UCB Only Electronic collection of resources, including GreenSpec building products directory, Environmental Building News, and more.
  • CuminCAD UCB Only Cumulative index of computer aided design. Includes bibliographic information and abstracts for articles and papers from journals and conferences. Some full-text materials also available.
  • How to Find Standards A guide to finding standards compiled by the UCB Science Libraries.
  • How to Find Technical Reports A guide to technical reports in the UCB Kresge Engineering Library and how to find other technical reports.
  • Material ConneXion, a online resource of new and innovative materials for architects, artists, and designers.
  • NTRL (National Technical Reports Library) NTRL is the gateway to indexes, abstracts, and technical reports of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). Especially good for construction and related technical architectural information. Indexes and archives US government-sponsored research and worldwide scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information from 1964 to present.
  • Product and Manufacturer Information UNLV Architectural Librarian's links to major sources of architectural product information.
  • Standards and Specifications compiled by the UCB Science Libraries, includes how to find and purchase standards, links to organizations that develop standards, links to sites with full-text standards.
  • Technical Handbooks Selected listing of major architectural handbooks and manuals in the Environmental Design Library.
  • Electronic Handbooks, Manuals, Dictionaries compiled by the UCB Kresge Engineering Library. UCB Only Includes computer software manuals, and other dictionaries and handbooks related to architecture and Engineering.
  • Trade and Product Literature Selected listing of major sources of architectural trade and product 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.

Some directories are available in the Environmental Design Library and many organizations have web sites. See also 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.

  • PapersFirst via FirstSearch/OCLC - UC Only Contains 580,000+ citations for papers presented at worldwide conferences, symposia, meetings, congresses, etc., received at The British Library. Excellent source for interdisciplinary work; the index covers all disciplines. Coverage: October 1993--
  • Proceedings via FirstSearch/OCLC - UC Only Indexes worldwide conferences, symposia, meetings, expositions, and congresses, in many disciplines.Coverage: 1993--

Subject Librarian

David Eifler
Environmental Design Library
210 Wurster Hall
University of California, Berkeley
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