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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.


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

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.