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Writing 150: Issues in Sustainability

Created for Issues in Sustainability Spring 2018



Welcome to the Research Guide for Writing 150: Issues in Sustainability.  We created this guide to help students find research and cite sources for assignments. 

According to Yale University Library, "Sustainable and sustainability are 'hot topics' everywhere. Since sustainable is an adjective, you can put just about any noun behind it and have a subject that students are studying, faculty are teaching, and nonprofits are researching."  What this means is that there is a plethora of resources on sustainability. After we help you find those resources, we will help you figure out how to discern if a source is reliable, and then how to give credit – or cite – those sources in your papers.

So, let’s get started!

Overview (Powerpoint Slides)

Finding Resources

Finding Resources

Finding Resources:

There are different types of resources and materials for research. USC Libraries gives students access to books, journals, databases, and other materials. You do have to sign in to the library website with your USC credentials (netID and password) to access some of these resources.

Some specific sources of materials on the topic of sustainability – since that is the topic of this writing course – can be found by a keyword search on  the USC Libraries catalog on the main page of the USC Libraries website:

Searching for sources

Some of the ways you can narrow your search beyond keywords is to use the advanced search function on the libraries website. This is essentially a Boolean search which involves the functions of AND, NOT, OR and it narrows your search to be more specific. The benefit of this function is that the materials this search uncovers may be more relevant as the search is narrowed. The drawback may be that too narrow a search produces limited results.



Assistance in locating resources

If you are having trouble finding materials for your research, you can get help from a librarian through live chat (when available), email, and face to face reference at the libraries' reference desks during reference hours.  You can also go to "Ask a Librarian" at this link:

Helpful links

Open Access

What is Open Access ("OA)?

Some Open Access Resources

Some sources for finding Open Access Research Materials:

Google Scholar (

University of New Orleans (

Fordham University (

Google (

Even Wikipedia:  if the articles have a bibliography, some of those sources might be a good start


Here are some other links to Open Access resources:

Analyzing Sources

Analyzing Sources

Analyzing Resources:


Not only must your sources be relevant, but they must also be credible. Relevance to your research will be readily evident as you examine the material. Credibility may be trickier to determine.

Here are a couple of considerations to make when analyzing the credibility of a source for scholarly research:

Who wrote it?

            What are the author’s credentials? Are the author’s sources credible? Have you seen similar conclusions or research with similar results in peer-reviewed or other credible materials?

What is the purpose of the material?

To sell something? To persuade the reader? To inform the reader?   Does the writer convey a neutral tone in the writing? Does it feel like he or she is trying to persuade you to a way of thinking or trying to sell you a product? Generally, scholarly materials should have a neutral tone:  this is what we did to conduct our research and these are the results. Anything else may convey a bias on the part of the author and should be a red flag. Here are some links to analyzing your sources for credibility:


Peer Review

Let’s talk a little bit about peer review, since we mentioned it in reference to analyzing materials for credibility.

Peer review is one criteria for analyzing material for credibility. It is a process by which academic materials are examined by experts in the writers’ fields or research. Below is a diagram of the process:


As you can see, it is a lengthy and complex process. In fact, one of the drawbacks is that by the time an article passes review, the information may be outdated and no longer relevant.

Scholary Journals Vs. Popular Magazines

When analyzing materials for scholarly research, you want to use materials that are academic. Now, sometimes, it happens that non-academic publications might publish research results, but keep in mind that your credibility as a researcher might be jeopardized if you cite a non-scholarly source.  As an example, here is a comparison of Academic journals and popular magazines:

(grahpic is from: )

Citing Sources

Citation Guides