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Engineering: The Literature Review Process : 5. Where to Look for it

How to do a thorough literature review for a dissertation, thesis, applied project or grant application.

Science and Engineering Information

Where to look for science and engineering information depends on what type of information you are trying to find.   Listed below are the different types of publications in which science and engineering information usually appears.  Read the description for each publication type to decide if you need to search for these materials.  Suggested resources are given for each publication type and/or use the appropriate library guide (listed in the right-hand column) to find specialized resources in that subject area. 

  • Articles (scholarly journals and trade magazines)
    Articles must be covered in any type of engineering literature search as they are the most likely place where scholarly research will be published; additionally, some researchers select journal articles to be the first place where they publish their latest research.  Articles generally cover current research of a very specific topic and are usually 5-20 pages in length.
      
    To find articles, use:
  • Books  
    Books cover a specific topic in depth or are used to provide an introduction to a broad area of interest; they are usually 200-500 pages.  The broad introductory book is useful when you need background information.   Books that are an in-depth treatment frequently have chapters written by different authors, essentially making them the equivalent of long journal articles; sometimes these book chapters are  treated as journal articles and indexed in many of the same databases as journal articles are.   
     
    To find books use:
  • Conference Proceedings
    Some researchers prefer to introduce their research at a conference rather than in a journal article.  If the proceedings of a conference have been published commercially or by a society, they are frequently covered in the same databases that cover journal articles.

    To find proceedings use:
  • Dissertations and theses
    Dissertations and theses are useful if you are trying to find information from an individual who may be new to a field and therefore not yet published in journal articles or presenting at conferences.   Much of the material found in dissertations and theses will eventually turn up in journal articles IF the author goes on to do academic research.  Dissertations and theses, along with patents, also may be important to those trying to establish the first public instance of a technology.

    To find dissertations and theses use:
  • Patents
    Patents are a grant from a government agency providing the inventor with certain rights which vary from country to country.  The rights usually include the right to exclude others from manufacturing the invention.  Searching for patents is essential if you are working on a new technology, process, or object; you need to determine if someone else has already patented the technology, process or object.  Searching the patent literature could save time and money by identifying what has already been patented (your whole invention or just a part of it).  Patent searching requires special search strategies that involves patent classification systems. 

    For how to do a patent search see:
  • Standards
    Many processes and products are subject to standards (sometimes codes and regulations); you'll need to investigate this area if you are manufacturing and/or creating new technology.

    To find standards see:
  • Technical Reports
    Those who received U.S. government funds for research are required to provide a report on the research, however, not all of these reports are available to the general public.  If your project is in an area for which the U.S. government funds research, you should determine if reports are available.  These technical reports can be difficult to find - see us if you are having difficulties finding any reports you've identified.  Please note that reports generated from private sources are seldom available to the public. 

    To find publicly available technical reports use:
  • U.S. government agency publications
    If a U.S. agency is involved in your area, look for their publications as well.

    To find U.S. Government Publications use:

Business, Law and Other Information Sources

In addition to science and engineering information, you may also need:

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