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:
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.
You can get an introduction to just about any engineering concept via encylopedias and handbooks; use these to read about your topic before you start your research. For example, if your topic is about bridges, do you know what the different types of bridges are? What forces are at play in each type? What materials are typically used in each?
In addition, dictionaries can be used to determine what a technical term means. Whether in print or online, always have a technical dictionary for the field you're researching on-hand to help you decifer what you're reading.
As an undergraduate, you'll use primarily two types of resources:
Use the "Books" and "Journal Articles" links above to discover what library resources will help you find appropriate books and journal articles for your topic.
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?
Keep in mind that literature research is a not a linear process; it's not "search, read, write, turn it in". It's more "search, read, refocus, search again ..." as many times as is necessary before you can write your paper. It may take two or three cycles of "search, read, refine" before you have what you need to write.
If your paper or talk is relatively short and only requires a few supporting pieces of documentation, you can probably keep your book and journal articles citations written down on paper. 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:
But what if your assignment is for a long paper with extensive documentation? Instead of trying to manually keep track of everything, you need to have Refworks. RefWorks is "citation management software" and is the quickest and easiest way to manage the citations from your library research. And it's free for you because ASU has already paid for it.
With RefWorks you can:
How to use Refworks:
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) with the later style being preferred for many areas of engineering.
For more information about MLA and APA styles, see the libguide 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.