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UST 436: Urban Sustainability: Keywords and Searching


Identify your research topic or research question. Before you start looking for sources for your paper, take some time to brainstorm your KEYWORDS.

Think of synonyms and related terms, as well as broader terms and narrower terms. You will search on different keywords and combinations of terms to find information. Review your syllabus, assignment instructions, textbooks, and readings to identify search terms. Remember, you must address the three "E's" of sustainability: environment, economics, and equity!

Include keywords like planning, policy, policies, economy, economic, economics, environment, environmental justice, equality, equity, effects, effectiveness, impact, justice, alternatives, challenges, problems, solutions in your searches. For example:

Green jobs AND United States AND equity

Sustainability AND housing AND challenges

Sustainability AND transportation AND economy


  • Logic used in online searching
  • Use Boolean operators to combine search terms in library catalogs, research databases, and search engines
  • The most common Boolean operators are:  AND, OR, NOT

Boolean Operator: AND


  • Use AND to connect your main search terms
  • AND limits results by requiring all terms to be present; fewer items are retrieved


climate change AND environmental justice

sustainability AND college campuses


Boolean Operator: OR


  • Use OR to connect synonyms or related terms
  • OR expands results since only one of your search terms needs to be present; more items are retrieved


global warming OR climate change

sustainable OR sustainability

Boolean Operator: NOT



  • Use NOT to exclude a term; fewer items are retrieved


Lake Erie NOT Ohio

pollution NOT water



Try NESTING your search terms by using both AND & OR:




(dormitories OR residence halls OR student housing)

Green jobs


(economy OR economic)

Green space


(design OR planning)