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Environmental and Sustainability Education

This guide has been designed for all University of Toronto researchers, students and educators working at the intersection of environmental sustainability, climate change, and education.

Searching the academic literature

Searching the literature

Situating yourself within the existing literature of your field is a key component of your work as a student. The Association of College and Research Libraries frames this process as a conversation. They write: "Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations." (ACRL, 2015). Being part of the conversation in your field involves taking on responsibility for entering the conversation, citing the work of others in your own work, and seeing yourself as a contributor to scholarly discussion, not just a consumer of it. The books, articles, dissertations, and other works that you find and read will help form your thinking about your topic and shape the direction of your research. They are important entry points that will help you situation your position in the scholarly conversations in your field. Once you have located items that look relevant, your job is to determine how to read and use the things you have found.

As you begin to position yourself within the scholarly conversation in your area of expertise, We also want to challenge you to reflect on your reference and citation practices. Please read Sara Ahmed's blog post (linked below) and consider the questions posed by Tuck, Yang, and Gaztambide-Fernández in their 2015 piece that examines citation practices:


  • Whose work do you build on to make arguments, describe the field and the problems you engage in your work?
  • Who are you citing, and why do you cite them (and not others)?
  • Consider what you might want to change about your academic citation practices.
  • Who do you choose to link and re-circulate in your work? Who gets erased? Who should you stop citing?


Ahmed, S. (2013). “Making Feminist Points.” Feministkilljoys. Accessed July 4, 2021,

Association of College and Research Libraries. (February 9, 2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. American Library Association. (Accessed October 21, 2020)

Tuck, E., Yang, K. W., & Gaztambide-Fernández, R. (2015). Citation practices challenge. Critical Ethnic Studies. (Accessed October 21, 2020)