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Planning: Plan your Search

How to search for and find information on planning

What is Planning research?


Planning research draws on the fields of business, design, environmental science and the law. As befits such a multidisciplinary area of research, planners use a wide variety of literature types, from traditonal books and articles through to legal documents, case studies, white papers and news articles.

The sample search below will show you how to construct a search from an assignment question. We'll then take this search and look for information on the Search for Information page. 

Sample assignment topic


Photovoltaic solar cells

Schwarzenberger, M. [@blickpixel]. 2014. [Photovoltaic solar cells] [Stock Image]. Pixabay.

Investigating best practice solutions for global sustainability issues facing Sydney 

For this assessment you will investigate a global resilience/sustainability challenge and its specific impact on Greater Sydney. Identify two relevant case studies from global cities/metro areas that are struggling with this same issue and who have developed some solutions (and started to see success/failure of the solution). 

Conduct in-depth research on those case studies to identify key lessons learned from the case study and how these are applicable to Sydney.  

Finally, analyse the key lessons and how they could be applied in Greater Sydney, and from this develop a plan of action (POA) for Greater Sydney to address the urban resilience/sustainability challenge you have chosen. 

Identify your key concepts


Before you begin searching, try to identify the main ideas (or keywords) in your assignment question and list them. You can then create searches to find some or all of these keywords within a single document.

Our assignment topic asks us to look at 2 case studies of a city or urban area facing a sustainability challenge or developing its urban resilience. 

There are three main elements to this: the sustainability challenge itself (keyword 1) , the urban location in which it's being addressed (keyword 2) and finally the way information on that situation is being reported (a case study, keyword 3)

Keyword 1 Keyword 2 Keyword 3

Sustainability Challenge

Urban Location

Case Study

If you can find all 3 keywords in a document, great! But if you can't, just concentrate on keywords 1 and 2 - a sustainability challenge applied to an urban location.

Brainstorm keywords and synonyms


Before searching it's a good idea to map out some similar or related terms. Wikipedia is great for brainstorming, but you can also try: 

Sustainability Challenge Urban Location Case Study

Urban Resilience
Water Sensitive Design
Sustainable Development
Affordable Housing

Greater Sydney


The sustainability challenge  is keyword 1. We've added urban resilience to this too, as specified by the assignment question. and a more general term in sustainable development. We've also used a couple of examples of sustainability challenges: things like affordable housing and water sensitive design.

Location is keyword 2. Now, we won't use the word location in our search, instead we'll write the word city, or specify a particular city, for example Sydney. 

Case study is keyword 3. There weren't many related terms for this that we were aware of, but if you can think of one, great. 

Remember, you don’t need to find something from all three columns in every search. You might be able to find things that profile a sustainability intervention in a city that aren't called case studies but can still inform a case study in your work.

Build your search


Often it's best to start with a simple search. For our topic that would probably be just urban resilience or urban resilience Sydney 

If you don't find much, try using Boolean Operators.. Boolean Operators can be used to search for many similar or related terms at once. The idea behind this is to find more material, and also to save you time in having to run many different searches. 

Boolean searches for our topic


Use OR to add similar and related terms into your search.  

  • If you have keywords that are two words or longer enclose them in double quotes
  • Use parentheses to group your related terms together, otherwise the search often won't work

("urban resilience" OR "sustainable development" OR  "water sensitive design")

You can then combine OR searches together using the operator AND

(Sydney OR city) AND ("urban resilience" OR "sustainable development" OR  "water sensitive design")

To see how these searches can be used to find material in the library, refer to the Search for Information page