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American Cultural Landscapes: A Brief Guide to Research

American Cultural Landscapes is a research and bibliographic guide to UC Berkeley resources for the study of the American cultural and built environment. This guide will be of particular interest to students in Environmental Design 169. For additional assistance consult the Environmental Design Library reference staff.

UC Berkeley faculty, registered students, and staff who are off campus may use items marked UCB Only or UC Only by using the Library's proxy service or the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Content reviewed: February 2011. Compiled by Elizabeth Douthitt Byrne, Environmental Design Library.

recommended= Recommended

Getting Started

Remember to start early. Allow time to recall books checked out or stored off-campus, and to borrow from other libraries' materials not here at UC Berkeley.

Getting Organized

Be sure to configure your home computer so you can access UC Only or UCB Only licensed resources remotely. For instructions on how to do this, see Connecting from Off Campus.

Below are guides to writing research papers, and style manuals that help you properly cite and organize your information sources.

Managing Your Bibliographies

Managing bibliographic citations is a necessary and sometimes tedious aspect of written research. Use RefWorks, a web-based bibliographic management program to manage citations, format papers, and create bibliographies efficiently and quickly in a variety of styles. It allows you to download citation information directly from selected online databases into your own bibliographic database.


Research & Methodology

Research Techniques

Be sure to check Library catalogs for additional and newer titles using the subject headings

See also the Environmental Design Library guide, Designing a Research Strategy.


Reading the Physical Environment

How to interpret and write about the built environment. See also related sections in our guides Finding Local Information, Vernacular Architecture, and History of Architecture.


Additional Resources

American Communities
Methods in Architectural History
Designing a Research Strategy
Methods in Vernacular Architecture
Finding Local Information
Finding Primary Sources


Research Strategy Worksheet

recommended Use this search strategy worksheet to develop a plan for your information search. Once you have planned your search, use these keywords, subject words and concepts to search the basic resources (dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, periodical indexes, etc.) in this guide.

Another good method to plan your research strategy is by "concept mapping." See the Rhode Island School of Design's short visual tutorial on Concept Mapping.

Truncation Symbols

Looking for Books

An easy way to begin is to use the keyword approach in the OskiCat or Melvyl catalogs, which allow you to search key words from titles or subject headings of books. (You may want to initially limit your search to the most recent ten years.)

Place Name (City, State, Neighborhood) Oakland
Type of Building or Project Garden or Plaza
Fire Station
Function Barbershop
Style Art Deco
Mission Revival
Time Period 19th Century
20th Century
People for Whom Built Irish-Americans
Name of Building or Site Golden Gate Park
Berkeley Bowl
Wurster Hall
Designer, Builder or Creator Morgan, Julia
Pomo Indians
Eichler Homes


BOOKS: Bibliographies & Guides

See also the bibliographies in encyclopedias and articles you find helpful. Use the keywords and subject headings you identified in the Research Strategy Worksheet to search in bibliographies.

BOOKS: Sources on Ethnic Groups

If you are focusing on a particular ethnic or cultural group, be sure to use the Main (Doe) Library Reference collections on American cultures and ethnicity, which include many titles. Other specialized resources are in the various ethnic studies libraries listed at the end of this guide.

Starting Your Ethnic Studies Research
Ethnic Studies Library
Asian American Studies
American Communities
Chicano Studies
Native American Studies
Social & Cultural Factors in Environmental Design


BOOKS: Specific Types of Buildings or Sites

Use subject or title words describing your building type to search in

The books below are selected examples of collected works on building types or sites.

This is a very selective list of examples of specific building types or kinds of sites. Use these and similar terms in your search for books and articles.


Journal Article Indexes

An enormous amount of specialized information on the cultural environment can be found in journal (periodical or magazine) articles.

JOURNAL ARTICLES: Architecture, Landscape Architecture & Planning

recommendedAvery Architectural Periodicals Index UC only
More article indexes:
Architecture Periodical Indexes
Finding Information on Buildings and Places
Finding Local Information Periodical Indexes
Planning Periodical Indexes
Planning History Periodical Indexes
Landscape Architecture Periodical Indexes
Vernacular Architecture Periodical Indexes


JOURNAL ARTICLES: Multi-Disciplinary, General, & Social Science

Be sure to consult the numerous periodical indexes and abstracts available to UCB through the Library's Electronic Indexes and Abstracts, especially by those listed under General, and those by Subject.

These periodical indexes cover journals in many disciplines, not just one subject.

JOURNAL ARTICLES: Ethnic & Cultural Information

In addition to the indexes mentioned above, these indexes and abstracts below are particularly helpful sources for finding articles which focus on specific ethnic or cultural groups and their contributions to the built environment.


Associations, Organizations, Archives & Historical Societies

The directories below will also help you locate organizations or historical societies, and their publications, concerned with your topic or location.


Newspaper Articles

Local newspapers are vital sources of information on their communities. Increasingly, recent issues are available in full text through the Web or other databases. Several databases have historical indexes and/or full-text for newspapers.

For additional newspaper indexes and databases useful in researching the built and cultural environment see our guides:

Maps & Plans




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