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Researching Vacant Lands: TERRA Learning Community


This research guide is designed to connect students in Dr. Wright's ENGL 201C: "Confronting the Eco-Apocalypse" course (TERRA Learning Community) with resources to assist them in their community-engagement project with the organization Grounded Strategies, for which they will find and annotate articles on a number of themes regarding urban vacant lands.

On this first page students will find advice on search terminology and strategy. On the second page they will find examples of how to use the preset strings of search terms, and on the third page they will find links to the DUQSearch online catalog, as well as appropriate databases indexing scholarly and popular literature in many disciplines.

If you need help with research, contact Ted Bergfelt, Humanities Librarian, at If he is not available, Ask Gumberg.


Search Words

Databases in which to perform the searches presented on this page can be found by clicking "Resources" on the menu on the left.

Concept 1

  • Vacant lands
  • Vacant lot
  • Empty lot
  • Land vacancy

Copy and paste this search string into the first database search box:

(vacant land* OR vacant lot* OR empty lot* OR land vacancy)

Concept 2

  • Crime
  • Violence
  • Shootings
  • drugs

Copy and paste this search string into the second database search box:

(crime OR violence OR shooting* OR drug*)

Concept 3

  • Health (for" physical health")
  • Mental health
  • Mental illness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

Copy and paste this search string into the second database search box:

(health OR mental health OR mental illness* OR depression OR anxiety OR stress )

Concept 4

  • Urban gardens
  • Community gardens
  • Urban agricluture
  • Urban farms


Copy and paste this search string into the second database search box:

(urban garden* OR community garden* OR urban agriculture OR urban farm*)

Concept 5

  • Business
  • Economics

Copy and paste this search string into the second database search box:

(business* OR economic*)

Concept 6

  • Greening
  • Remediation
  • Reuse
  • Rehabilitation
  • Regeneration
  • Urban land use

Copy and paste this search string into the second database search box:

(greening OR remediation OR reuse OR rehabilitation OR regeneration OR urban land use)

Finding Review Articles

There are types of scholarly articles called "review articles," in which researchers, instead of performing their own  study and then writing it up as a research article for publication, gather together many individual studies on a well-defined topic, and then evaluate these studies in an article that gives a picture of what is known at the time about the topic they have researched.

There are many types of review articles, but three of the most well-known are "systematic reviews," "scoping reviews," and "narrative reviews." At this point, the exact definitions and distinctions between the types of reviews are not important, just that you know such useful types of articles exist.

To find review articles of various sorts on urban vacant lands, copy and paste the following searches into the first search box of any of the databases on the "Resources" page:

vacant lands AND (systematic review OR scoping review OR narrative review)

vacant lands AND systematic review

vacant lands AND scoping review

vacant lands AND narrative review


General Strategies

General Strategies

  1.  If a search gives you a very large result, look for your search words as words in document titles (Use the pulldown menus to the right of the search boxes.)
  2. The asterisk (*) on certain words in the search strings will bring up singulars and plurals.
  3. If using the Concept 1 search string retrieves too many items, limit your search to the phrase "Vacant lands" which is the Library of Congress Subject Heading for this concept (many databases base their subject headings on LCSH), and the term for this concept that seems to be used most by those in the know.
  4. Keywords can always be added to any search string. Expect to find additional useful keywords as you search.
  5. In searching Subject-Specific databases, the Concept 1 search string may be all you need to search, since the Subject-Specific database content will mainly be made up of articles on that general subject and so will automatically limit articles to those related to the subject covered by the database.