This article offers an exploratory and descriptive analysis of the characteristics of inter-disciplinary sustainability studies (ISSs). The paper explores the academic and disciplinary nature of inter-disciplinary inquiry and studies themes, imperatives and methodologies, together with institutional characteristics. Our analysis of 70 articles published between 2003 and 2008 suggests that the publication of ISSs is growing and that this effort is largely based upon attempts to integrate aspects of different disciplines. These studies mostly relate to resource management studies and typically adopt qualitative, case study or mixed methodologies. The articles reviewed have a practical orientation, with nearly two-thirds of studies explicitly addressing policy-making issues, and over half cover the orientations, mechanisms and institutions towards people's participation in decision-making. The research effort is typically made in Europe and North America, and by scholars working in inter-disciplinary teams. The implications of these findings for research in, and the practice of, sustainability studies are discussed in conclusion. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.