Sustainability Research Guide

Librarian: Debbie Currie

NC State is the only university on the East Coast that has colleges and academic departments focusing on agriculture, natural resources, earth sciences, marine sciences, atmospheric sciences, engineering, landscape and architectural design, management, education, economic policy and social sciences. Simply put – sustainability is inherently part of our university’s curriculum.

But where to start with sustainability? Sustainability is about as multi-/inter-/trans-disciplinary as you can get. When you consider that the three pillars of sustainability - economy, society, and environment - are themselves broad and sweeping topics, it’s no wonder that conducting research in the area of sustainability can seem daunting.  

This research guide is designed to help make sustainability research less daunting and more achievable. To get you started doing basic library research into sustainability, we’ve included in this guide recommended databases to search for article citations, select reference materials, and some relevant online resources available to NC State students, faculty, and staff.

NCSU Libraries Resources


Use the catalog - which is searchable by author, title, subject and keyword - to locate books and other materials, or to locate journal subscriptions. Searches can be limited by material type (such as book or journal title), language, or publication date.

Databases by Subject

These databases allow you to search for articles within specific disciplines. Sustainability is a highly interdisciplinary subject area. This list is for identifying databases in other disciplines that may be relevant to your work.


Use the Journals page to search for electronic publications. For more information, see Information about journals.

Research Support

Your go-to hub for information and support throughout the scholarly research lifecycle.

Video Tutorials and Interactive Guides


Since sustainability is such an interdisciplinary topic, you can find useful research articles, background information, and data in a variety of databases. Simply scan this list for the type of information you are seeking.


Academic Search Complete covers all disciplines and includes full-text that you can narrow by peer-reviewed articles.

CAB Abstracts covers the significant research in the applied life sciences, including agriculture, forestry, the environment and more. Coverage dates back to 1973.

CQ Researcher provides background information on controversial social and environmental topics.

Sustainability science abstracts explores the management of human use and conservation of the natural resource base. Coverage includes relevant papers, reports, books and reviews from standard peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Web of Science covers 3,330 major journals across 100 scientific disciplines and allows you to trace a particular research topic in the scientific literature.

GreenFILE provides a collection of scholarly, government and general-interest titles and covers content about the human impact on the environment.

Environment Complete offers extensive full-text coverage in the areas of agriculture, ecosystem ecology, energy, and affiliated areas of study.

Social Science and Design

Communication Source provides indexing and abstracts for more than 800 journals in communication, mass media and related fields.

Design and Applied Arts Index (DAAI) covers all areas of design and craft, including industrial design, architecture, environmental design, and more.


ABI/INFORM Complete offers indexing, abstracts, and full-text of scholarly and trade journal articles in business, management, and trade.

Business Source Complete provides bibliographic and full text content, including indexing and abstracts for scholarly business journals back as far as 1886.

Data on Energy, Food, Environment, and More

UNdata provides statistical time series for countries from around the world covering a wide range of economic and socio-demographic topics.

World DataBank is an analysis and visualisation tool that contains collections of time series data on a variety of topics.

Selected Reference Titles

Achieving sustainability : visions, principles, and practices

Encyclopedia of sustainability

Green Culture: an Z-to-Z guide

Encyclopedia of sustainability science and technology

Handbook of metal biotechnology: applications for environmental conservation and sustainability

Measuring and evaluating sustainability : ethics in sustainability indexes

Sustainability: a cultural history

Selected Open Access Journals

Ecology and Society: A Journal of Integrative Science for Resilience and Sustainability

Electronic Green Journal

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

Environmental Health Perspectives


Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy

Additional Resources

Sustainability at NC State

Online videos


The Story of Stuff Project

Green: A collection of TED Talks (and more) on the topic of green

Your Environmental Road Trip (YERT) Video Clips

Online maps

EPA MyEnvironment

TOXMAP Environmental Health Maps

UN Atlas of the Oceans

UN Statistics Division - Environmental Indicators


60-Second Earth Podcasts

NPR Podcasts - Environment     Environmental Podcasts