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Information Literacy


What Should Engineering Majors Know?

By the time they graduate all majors in Engineering should be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and use information effectively and ethically. Specifically they should be able to:

  • Describe the scholarly process of research design and communication of results;
  • Negotiate the information resources available at Smith, on-line, and in the profession;
  • Recognize, evaluate, and undertake high quality engineering research;
  • Maintain the research skills they will need as successful engineers keeping abreast of new innovations in technology;
  • Use these information literacy skills in self-directed and lifelong learning

Writing Intensive Classes

Students who have taken writing intensive classes should already have learned basic information skills and be able to:

  • Define and articulate the need for information and identify a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information beyond the web search engine
  • Identify some kinds of information they need – typically writing intensive courses focus on non-scientific types of information such as biographical, historical, or literary -- and to know where to find it. In other words, they should be familiar with various electronic resources, particularly the MLA Bibliography, and some reference books. They should also be aware that web search engines are often inadequate for scholarly research.
  • Articulate and apply initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources – what is a source’s reliability? Who wrote it? When? Who published it?
    Students should be able to distinguish between popular and scholarly materials in a variety of formats such as books, periodical literature, and websites.
  • Acknowledge and cite the sources used in conducting research for an assignment using an acceptable style guide. Citations are appropriate in that students can discern when it is necessary to cite sources, and provide citations in an appropriate and consistent format. Students can identify ethical and unethical citations, per the online plagiarism quiz.

These skills may be regarded by all students as a base for further study. Help is available through the Smith College Libraries’ Ask a Librarian options.

Beginning Engineering Majors

At the end of the second year (completion of EGR 100 and a series of three to four 200- level classes including EGR 260) engineering students should be able to:

  • Access a variety of scholarly resources in engineering, including general references, technical handbooks, patent databases, and peer-reviewed journals.
  • Enumerate different approaches to acquiring data: literature search, field measurement, laboratory measurement, computer simulation, expert elicitation, and estimation.
  • Evaluate the merits of the research they are citing as well as the credentials of the investigators;
  • Distinguish between peer-reviewed sources and other types of information in engineering
  • Identify specific disciplines in engineering, their professional organizations and related bodies of literature;
  • Explain how knowledge is produced in science and engineering, and the importance of peer review for advancing knowledge in the field;
  • Evaluate the quality of web-based information, and articulate a critique of search engines as a delivery vehicle for information
  • Present visual information with appropriate labeling, including units
  • Attend to precision and accuracy issues in presenting information, including error estimation.
  • Recognize the expertise of reference librarians and ask for help at appropriate times
  • Beginning students undertaking research in engineering must learn the appropriate use of basic scholarly reference sources, such as the following:
Source Science Call Number
General References AccessScience
How Stuff Works
Patent Databases e.g. U.S. PTO Database
Standards e.g., ANSI, ASTM, ASME, IEEE, ISO, NIST

General News Magazines

   Prism Magazine (ASEE) back issues
   IEEE Spectrum TK 1 .I15
   Techology Review (MIT) T 171 .M47 / online
   Chemical and Engineering News TP 1 .C35 / online
   Science Q 1 .S35 / online
   Issues in Science and Technology Q 127 .U6 I77 / online
Students will be familiar with topical and subject based scholarly encyclopedias in education.
  • To locate scholarly engineering sources students need to become skilled users of standard databases such as (but not limited to) the following:
Resources SCL Website Locations
Books & Media:
Five College Library Catalog

and the WorldCat database

1. Quick Search on the libraries' homepage
2. Education subject page: Engineering / Books & Media
3. Smith College Libraries Research (links to library catalog)
4. Research / Find Books & Media page

Engineering Village 2


Web of Science

1. Engineering subject page: Engineering / Articles
2. A-Z list: Research / Databases by Title

  • Beginning students should be prepared to alter search terms to find materials when their first try is unsuccessful.
  • The following represent important specialty journals for six areas in engineering:
Specialty Resources for Fields in Engineering Science Call Number
Engineering Education  

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

Q 130 .J68

  Journal of Engineering Education T 61 .J64
  IEEE Transactions on Education T 61 .I2
  See also Proceedings of Engineering Education
conferences sponsored by ASEE


Civil and Environmental Engineering  


ASCE's Electronic Information Retrieval Service
Earthquake Engineering Abstracts
LexisNexis Environmental

click here
click here
click here

Environmental Science and Technology
TD 180 .E5 / online
  Journal of Environmental Engineering online only
  Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management online only
  Journal of Engineering Mechanics online only
  Journal of Structural Engineering online only
  Journal of Hydraulic Engineering online only
  Water Research online only
  Water Resources Research GB 651 .W32 / online
  Advances in Water Resources TC 1 .A27 / online
  Journal of Industrial Ecology TS 161 .J68 / online
  Environmental Engineering Science TD 811.5 H3957
  Risk Analysis online only
Chemical Engineering  
  SciFinder Scholar (availbe in Young Library only) click here
  AIChE Journal  TP 1 .A634 / online
  Environmental Progress online only
  Chemical and Engineering News TP 1 .C35 / online


Electrical and Computer Engineering  
  Databases & Other Resources  
  Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Digital Library click here
  Computer Science Database click here
  Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electonics Engineering click here
  ACM Transactions  ACM Digital Library
  IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering R 895 .A1 I25

IEEE Transactions on Education

T 61 .I2
  IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement UMass
  IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging UMass
  IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks UMass
  IEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering UMass
  IEEE Transactions on Speech and Audio Processing TK 7882 .S65 I38


  PubMed (Medline) click here
  Biological Abstracts click here
  Annual Reviews: Biomedical Sciences click here
  Journal of Applied Biomechanics  TA 1 .U6
  IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering R 895 .A1 I25
  International Journal of Sport Biomechanics RC 1235 .I5


Mechanical Engineering  
  NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)  click here
  Journal of Applied Mechanics  TA 1 .U6
  Journal of Fluids Engineering TA 357 .T69
  Journal of Mechanical Design TA 174 .J692
  Journal of Materials Research TA 404.2 .J68

Advanced Students

Advanced engineering students should be able to:

  • Document sources accurately, in correct and consistent formats. No single format is standard in engineering; therefore the important thing is to use any given format in a correct and consistent way.
  • Conduct a patent search.
  • Solve an engineering problem where they must identify the need for and locate supporting data from engineering references or the literature.
  • Apply their skills in order to lay the groundwork for independent research with faculty guidance.
  • Glean information from visual presentations of data such as psychrometric charts, correlation curves, bar charts, pie charts, Moody diagram, nomographs, etc.
  • Select appropriate graphical formats (line chart, bar chart, scatter plot, pie chart, schematic, flow chart, Venn diagram, etc.) for presenting information. Develop professional graphics with attention to scale, axes, labeling, units, etc.
  • Recognize the tradeoff between the value of information and the time and cost to obtain it.
  • Choose appropriate approaches for acquiring data: literature search, field measurements, laboratory measurement, computer simulation, and estimation.
  • Use sophisticated search strategies including the use of multiple keywords, Boolean operators, truncation, multiple searches, multiple databases, and other strategies where necessary. They should be able to follow citations and cited references to obtain additional articles.
  • Read scientific papers efficiently, making use of abstracts and conclusions to discern when it is useful to obtain or read an entire work.
  • Read scientific papers critically, distinguishing among facts and opinions, comparing a variety of sources to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias.
  • Understand and use statistical treatment of data as evaluative criteria.
  • Design and conduct experiments to gather data in the laboratory or field, and analyze and interpret those data.
  • Validate understanding and interpretation of information through discourse with other individuals, small groups or teams, subject-area experts, and/or practitioners.
  • Present data in oral, visual, and written forms clearly and professionally, selecting appropriate media and formats for the intended audience.

In Which Classes Should Students Learn These Skills?

The Engineering Program proposes to incorporate information literacy into the following courses.

Level Courses
Beginning EGR 100: Engineering for Everyone
EGR 260: Mass and Energy Balances
EGR 220: Engineering Circuit Theory
EGR 270: Continuum Mechanics I
EGR 271: Continuum Mechanics II
EGR 273: Mechanics Laboratory
Advanced EGR 320: Signals and Systems
EGR 321: Digital Signal Processing
EGR 330: Engineering and Global Development
EGR 380: Neuroengineering
EGR 410: Engineering Design Clinic
EGR 373: Skeletal Biomechanics
EGR 390: Topics in Engineering (Acoustics, Risk)
EGR 430: Senior Thesis

In addition, the engineering department works closely with students in conducting original research. Students may work in faculty labs or, with faculty approval, initiate an independent research project. In both of these instances students are routinely asked to conduct literature searches in order to contribute to the research enterprise. Students who work with faculty on research often enroll in Engineering 400 (Special Studies) or Engineering 430d (Honors Thesis).

In What Ways Will Student Skills be Assessed?

Students in EGR 100 normally do the College-wide plagiarism challenge quiz and receive instruction from a College librarian about using engineering sources appropriately. Students incorporate this in a semester-long project, for which they must conduct background research using peer-reviewed and other literature. Furthermore, students are introduced to issues in the presentation of visual information through a case study such as the Challenger accident and through numerous oral presentations and written reports throughout the semester.

Students in EGR 260 engage in a semester-long life-cycle assessment project which entails the construction of an annotated bibliography and a reflection evaluating the sources, which are required to include peer-reviewed work, patents, and other sources. Students also learn the basics of data presentation and the ethics of citing sources appropriately. In EGR 270, students produce an educational video about motion. To do this, they must find relevant information, evaluate its quality, and cite it ethically.

In EGR 220 and 273, students engage in laboratory work in which they plot data and discuss the results.

In advanced courses, students complete projects and term papers where sources reflect the use of a variety of engineering sources, including peer reviewed journal articles. Students should be prepared to defend the validity of sources cited. For example, in EGR 373, students write a 20-page term paper on a research topic of interest to them in the field of orthopaedic bioengineering, based on peer-reviewed publications in the medical, basic science and engineering literature.

In EGR 410, students prepare multiple formal written and oral reports about their team-based design projects that include (1) discussion and understanding of relevant background research (2) technical documentation of the students' designs and design process, and (3) visual presentation of design results. They deliver the written reports to their sponsoring organizations, and present their work orally to a wide audience, including students, faculty, alumnae, and practicing engineers. Students complete individual assignments based on readings or case studies that require analysis, reflection, and citation of external sources. Students conduct patent searches of technology connected with their design projects. Students also participate in discussions of engineering ethics, some of which address faulty communication and/or information.

Ethical Issues

Authorship - Students must learn how to make clear distinctions between received knowledge and the production of new knowledge. The ethical use of information means that students must be able to acknowledge when they incorporate the work of others into their own work. Therefore, every written or oral production in the discipline must clearly state its sources. This extends to visual information, written information, and data collections. This ethical issue will be enforced in all engineering courses at Smith College. Students should be able to identify when and how to acknowledge contributors to original work, awarding authorship and acknowledging other assistance appropriately.

Proprietary Information – Engineering students must recognize that information may be proprietary, have limited access, or require specific data management expertise. Students need to have an understanding of organizational structures involved in data production and management. Students should be able to discern a plan of action when they face a choice around divulging proprietary information in the public interest

Honesty in data presentation – Students must be able to recognize prejudice, deception or manipulation in data collection or use, ethical issues in data omission, and the need to present all information that is pertinent, without skewing or excluding data that impact an individual’s value system. Students should be able to recognize conflicts of interest and agenda-setting in the scientific establishment that determine (for example) which projects are funded, and use this information in evaluating scientific information.

Experimental Subjects – Students should be familiar with ethical issues, standards and process for data acquisition with human and animal subjects.

March 7 , 2007