P = the product, process, problem or population to be studied
I = the improvement, investigation, inquiry, or intervention you plan to use on [P]
C = the comparison to either a current practice or opposing viewpoint
O = the measurable outcome
Research Question Format: For [P] will [I] or [C] provide [O] ?
Example: In PV cells [P] does Gallium [I] or Silicon [C] provide more efficient electrical production [O]?
The ASU Library purchases access to the types of information that your instructors want you to use and what you'll be expected to use when you become a professional engineer. To find this information you'll need to know where to look and what to look for. Here's how to do it ...
Has your instructor given you the option to pick your own research topic?
A good topic:
Having trouble coming up with a good topic? Try these engineering sites to get ideas:
If your paper or talk is relatively short and only requires a few supporting pieces of documentation, you can probably keep a record of your searchs and your book and journal articles citations written down on paper such as in a notebook. Be sure to keep complete "citations" for everything you read - check those citations before you return the book to the library or before you leave the photocopy/printer with your article.
For books a complete citation includes the:
For journal articles a complete citation includes the:
The books and and journal articles you'll be using in college are written for people who are already knowledgeable about the subject. Just as every structure needs a good foundation, you'll need to learn the basics about a topic so you'll be able to understand what your research finds.
Start by asking yourself the broad, traditional questions: who, what, where, when, how and why?
Next read to:
You can get an introduction to just about any engineering concept via encyclopedias and handbooks; use the Encyclopedias and Handbooks & Manuals links under Resources tab above to find suggested resources.
As an undergraduate, you'll use primarily two types of resources:
For Books use the Library One Search database.
After searching your topic, use the Content Type option in the left-hand column to limit the results set to only Book/eBooks.
For Journal Articles use two different databases:
Most research at this level will require that you use more than one resource as each resource will cover different parts of the literature. (Even Google can't find everything.) Also, you may find that you have to try several times before you find the best combination of words for searching that resource. What words you use for searching and how you ask the computer to combine them will directly affect your results, so it pays to use different word combinations and strategies.
So how do you know what are the best words for your search? Well, that depends on what you're looking for!
First, you need to focus on what your research question is. The research question consists of 4 elements:
When you search databases, you'll use the [P] AND [I] concepts from your Research Question. The [C] and [I] concepts will help you determine which are the best entries as you browse your results set.
Keep in mind that literature research is a not a linear process; it's not "search, read, write, turn it in". You won't find all the good articles in your first try; you need to explore using different terminology that an author might use for your topic. The search strategy is more of a cyclic "search, read, refocus, search again ..." as many times as is necessary before you'll find enough good articles that you will reference in your paper.
Both style manuals and citation guides explain how to format bibliographies; a bibliography is the list of books and journal articles you cited in your paper or talk. Your instructor will tell you in what style or format s/he wants your bibliography. In college, the two most popular styles are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association) and of those two, APA style works well for most engineering areas. The field of engineering as a whole does not have a preferred style but some sub-fields do (ex. IEEE Style is a common style in Electrical Engineering).
For more information about APA style, see the library guide Citation Styles.
If your instructor specifies a different style, see the Advanced Guide for that engineering area to find links to guides for that format.