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Ekstrom Library

Engineering Education

Starting your Research Journey

After you have chosen a topic and wrote a research question that is open ended, focused, and unbiased, you are ready to start your research journey. Examples of research questions that need some adjustments:

  • Closed: Does additive manufacturing impact supply chains?
  • Too broad: What are impacts to supply chains?
  • Biased: How does additive manufacturing negatively impact supply chains?


Open ended, focused, and unbiased research question: How does additive manufacturing impact supply chains?

Generating Keywords for your Search

  1. Write out your research question. For example: "How does exercise affect the mental health of college students?"
  2. Pull out the most important words from your research question. exercise, mental health, and college students.
  3. Think of synonyms for these keywords.  Exercise: workout, fitness. College students: university students, post-secondary students.
  4. Think of broader keywords. Mental health: well-being. Broader keywords are helpful if you aren't getting enough results.
  5. Think of narrower keywords. Mental health: anxiety. Narrower keywords are helpful if you're getting too many results.
  6. Start searching a library database with your keywords. Remember to try out different keyword combinations to get the best search results.
  7. Collect additional keywords as you search.

Narrowing or Broadening Your Search

Boolean Operators can help broaden or narrow your search results. The most commonly used Boolean Operators are AND, OR, and NOT. You have to capitalize the operator for the search engine to recognize it's functionality. 



  • A search on cars AND trucks will return results where both cars and trucks appear, not just one or the other. This will narrow your search.
  • A search on cars OR trucks will return results where either cars, trucks, or both cars and trucks appear. This broadens your search.
  • A search on cars NOT trucks will return results with cars and without trucks. This will narrow your search.

Finding Resources

Researchers often find references through three types of sources:

  • Subscription databases and journals - The University Libraries pays fees to provide access to hundreds of journals and databases containing the most recent and innovative research. 
  • Government Publications - Researchers often have to make their manuscripts and data publicly available when receiving funding from the federal government. 
  • Professional Societies - Many professional societies produce standards and have affiliated journals and publications that are peer reviewed and a reputable source of information.

Recommended databases

Use these databases to find articles and/or essays in scholarly journals and books.

Limiting to Open Access References

When using Engineering Village, you can refine your results by selecting all the open access options and clicking limit to:


All of your results will be open access and available to you even if your institution does not have a subscription.

Government Resources


Patents can provide a wealth of information on:

  • Research that hasn't been published in scholarly literature
  • Background information on the invention itself and on the field of research pertaining to the patent
  • Company research activity that isn't published in any other sources
  • How a process, machine, design, plant, or the composition of matter was developed or how it works in a highly technical level of detail

Information included about a Patent can help you find other sources to support your research:

  • Sources cited by the patent
  • Sources citing the patent
  • Related or similar patents
  • Patents within the same classifications


UofL Bioengineering Patent: Computer aided diagnosis system for classifying kidneys


For more information check out the Patent Research Subject Guide.

Professional Societies and Associations

Engineering Professional Societies can be a good source for networking, funding, continued education, standards, and journal publications.


National Society of Professional Engineers

  • NSPE was established in 1934 to realize a simple but vital goal: create an inclusive, nontechnical organization dedicated to the interests of licensed professional engineers, regardless of practice area, that would protect engineers (and the public) from unqualified practitioners, build public recognition for the profession, and stand against unethical practices and inadequate compensation. Their current mission is to foster licensed professional engineers in service to society.

American Society of Civil Engineers

  • The American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 members of the civil engineering profession in 177 countries. Founded in 1852, ASCE is the nation’s oldest engineering society. The Society advances civil engineering technical specialties through nine dynamic institutes and leads with its many professional- and public-focused programs.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

  • Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education, and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.

American Society of Safety Professionals

  • The American Society of Safety Professionals supports occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals in their efforts to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. They provide education, advocacy, standards development and a professional community to our members in order to advance their careers and the OSH profession as a whole.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)


Standards are an agreed-upon way of doing something.

Industry standards are used by producers of goods and services. They specify how an item should be made by providing exact measurements and specifications about the materials. 

For more information, check out the Standards Guide.

Discover. Create. Succeed.