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ASU101: Fulton Schools of Engineering

Introduction to the ASU Library resources, services and spaces for engineering students

How to Research a Topic: The Search Process

Step 1: Build Your Knowledge Foundation First
Get summaries from encyclopedias, handbooks and other types of reference material so that you become familiar with your topic before you do the actual research.  The knowledge that you gain will make you a better searcher and will help you recognize relevant material.

  • Library One Search
    • Type your topic in the search box
    • When you get a results set, look in the far right-hand column.  If your topic exactly matches an encyclopedia article, the first part of the article will be displayed.  If an encyclopedia entry is not displayed, go to the "Contents Type" box in the left-hand column and select two items: "Book Chapter" and "Reference"
    • Review the results set and track down the most relevant items (usually those at or near the top of the list)
  • Knovel
    • Type your topic in the search box
    • When you get a results set, the set is listed in relevance order, so the most relevant answers should be at the top of the list
    • You can also use the "Content Type" limiters in the left-hand column to limit to "text" or "data" depending on the types of documentation that was found. 

Step 2: Now It's Time to do the Research 

  • Library One Search
    • Type your topic in the search box
    • When you get the results set, go to the "Contents Type" box in the left column and select "Book/eBook"
    • Review the results set and track down the most relevant items
    • Go back to the "Contents Type" box and unclick "Book/eBook"; then click on "Journal Article" 
    • Review the results and track down the most relevant items

If you need more material, use these resources which are specifically designed for engineers: 

  • EI Compendex/Inspec
    EI Compendex covers journal articles and conference papers in all areas of engineering including manufacturing; Inspec covers books, journal articles, conference papers and more in the areas of physics, electrical engineering and computing. 
    • Type your topic in the search box(es)
    • Review the results set and for items of interest, use the either the "Full Text" icon or the yellow "Get It @ ASU button to track down the item
    • Go to left column of the results set and open the "Control Vocabulary" section by clicking on the down arrow to the right
    • If there is any terminology that is describing your topic with different keywords, return to the main search screen and search for that terminology.
  • Optional:
    The following databases cover material of interests to engineers and function similarly to EI Compendex/Inspec:
    • ABI/Inform
      Covers the business literature including the trade magazines of engineering- and science-related industries. Use if your topic concerns engineering management or if you are looking for industry news such as sales, mergers, etc. 
    • ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Digital Library
      Covers the literature of the association but can be expanded to include results from other societies and publishers.  Use for any type of computer science/engineering topic. 
    • ASCE Library
      Covers the literature of the association; use for all types of civil engineering topics.  
    • IEEE Digital Library
      Also called "IEEE Xplore"; covers the publications of the IEEE plus coverage for other societies is now being included. Use for any topic about electrical engineering or the use of electronics applied to other aspects of science/engineering. 

Practice Exercises

Using "Library One Search," can you find encyclopedia articles, books, and journal articles that relate to each of the following topics?


  1. Golden Gate Bridge

  2. Industrial Waste Treatment 

  3. Metal Fatigue

  4. Reinforced Concrete

  5. George Westinghouse

The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.