Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

EGR390: Special Topics in Engineering: Search Tips & Background Information

Fall 2016 Dorsey

Encyclopedias

Scholarly encyclopedias will provide background information and references as well to other useful resources.

Wikipedia - Beware

 

Wikipedia

BEWARE:  Can provide useful background information, but don't believe everything you read!  Evaluate and verify.

 

Contentious Science Topics on Wikipedia Subject to Editing Mishchief
by Meghan Rose, Science News [188;7, Oct. 3, 2015, p. 5.]

 

Search Tips

Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database, it pays to be organized as you start your search.  Break down searching into a three step process.

STEP 1
Write down as much information about your topic as possible. (You can use Encyclopedias and other reference books to help gather background information). Answer the following questions:

  • What is your topic?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know? What don't you know?

Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.

EXAMPLE: I would like to learn more about mems, specifically, some used in medical applications (for the heart, eye, etc.). 

STEP 2

Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.

EXAMPLE: mems, medical applications, eye, heart

 

STEP 3
Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focussing your search.

 

mems

micro-electro-
mechanical systems

 

 

 

 

medical application*

heart

eye

 

 

 

 

fabricat*

manufactur*

 

 

 

 

You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between concepts. For instance:

(mems) AND (medical OR heart)  

Download this worksheet (with bonus search tips!) to help you organize your search strategy.

Science and Engineering Research Help

Rocco Piccinino's picture
Rocco Piccinino
Contact:
413-585-2951
rpiccini@smith.edu
Young Library 106