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Social Justice

Exploring topics: Setting up your first search


Every first search is an educated guess about what search terms will best connect you with the articles and books you need.  

Before you begin, think about the concepts that will need to be present in the articles and books you need.  For example, if I am interested in environmental justice issues related to city planning and sustainability, I will definitely want to include the concepts of "environmental justice, "city planning," and "sustainability" in my search for information.  Our three concepts would be:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
"environmental justice" "City planning"          sustainability      


Now that we know what concepts we want to search, we need to think about other terms authors may be using to describe those same concepts.  If authors are using different language to describe the concepts, we may not see their articles or books in our search results.  Let’s list out some synonyms and related terms below our concepts.


Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
"environmental justice" "City planning"          sustainability      
poor people & the environment "urban planning" "environmental policy"
"social justice" zoning conservation
ECO-justice "new urbanism"  

Boolean operators

Now we can combine our search terms with Boolean Operators to construct our first search:

"environmental justice" AND ("city planning" OR "urban planning") AND sustainability

If we searched for information using that string of search terms, our search results would show every article and book that references "environmental justice" and sustainability and either "city planning" or "urban planning." 


Example Keywords & Phrases

  • Racial Injustice
  • Black Lives Matter Movement
  • Anti-Asian Racism
  • Asian Coalition for Equality (ACE)
  • Black liberation
  • Race riots/peaceful protests
  • Transgender rights
  • Homosexuality & religion
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Equity vs Equality
  • Intersectionality
  • Police brutality



Terms & Definitions


1. The refusal to recognize the rights, needs, dignity, or value of people of particular races or geographical origins.

2. The devaluation of various traits of character or intelligence as ‘typical’ of particular peoples.


The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of ethnicity, age, sex, or disability.

Gender Equality

The state in which access to rights or opportunities is unaffected by gender.


Dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.

Domestic Violence

Violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of spouse or partner.


Dislike of or prejudice against transgender or transsexual people.


A person with a dislike of or prejudice against gay people.

Sexual assault

(1)The action or an act of forcing an unconsenting person to engage in sexual activity. (2) A rape.

(3) (Law)A crime involving forced sexual contact, variously defined s inclusive or exclusive of rape.


The quality of being fair and impartial.

Bodily Integrity

The right of each human being to autonomy and self-determination over their own body.