Introductory Research Guide

An Introductory Guide to Conducting Sustainability Research

  • Sustainability Research Underpinnings
    • Research requires critical thinking—not just regurgitating others’ writing or data. This might seem obvious, but it is nevertheless important to review what it means to think critically while diving into reviewing relevant literature and analyzing proprietary data. See a handy pocket guide here.
    • Although your project may take many different forms of deliverables, it will also be a large undertaking in writing. It never hurts to refresh your memory and go back to the basic with grammar and sentence structure games. They are available from Kahoot for free.
    • Interdisciplinary research (such as sustainability) benefits from utilizing systems approaches. Donella (Dana) Meadows largely pioneered systems thinking in sustainability and the short primer is worth a careful read (at least twice). Systems thinking helps researchers understand relationships between a site-specific project and larger scales without leading inquiry off-topic.
  • Project Formation and Formatting
    • Part of the project’s one page summary includes research questions the team will seek to answer. It is helpful to review what makes a strong research question as the project evolves. A quick, but thorough guide is available here.
    • Although sustainability capstone projects can have many homes outside the social sciences, Kristin Luker’s 2008 book Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in the Age of Info-Glut is an excellent guide on how design, conduct, and complete a research project regardless of academic discipline. It is available entirely online through CCNY’s library.
    • A Manuel for Writers of Research, Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is the book distributed in capstone workshops. While it is primarily a guide on using Chicago style, it is also a great resource for mapping out research projects and papers.  
  • Literature Review Resources
    • CCNY’s Architecture library sources for sustainable urbanism is here. This is a list of peer-reviewed journals and other heavily cited sources of urban sustainability material. Not only is this useful for research, but to look at how researchers frame problems and analysis in work similar to the capstone topic.
    • Another good place to see examples of research design in urban sustainability is on the website for the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
  • Data Resources
    • Analyzing and presenting data in new ways is a foundation of a lot of capstone project inquiry. While not an exhaustive list, there are many tools to exploring and visualization data here.
    • For projects and research questions focused on New York, it’s never too early in your research to begin examining what’s available from NYC OpenData.