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Background Information (Reference Sources)
Reference sources can help you find and develop a research topic by providing background articles, facts, statistics, dates and other general information on most topics.

Using Wikipedia for Academic Research - this is a very helpful 3 minute tutorial on using Wikipedia to locate background information.
Finding Articles
Library home page > Research Tools > Find Articles using Databases
Multidisciplinary Database:

  • Academic Search Complete: A comprehensive and scholarly database containing magazine, newspaper, and journal articles from across disciplines. 
Recommended Databases:

  • AIAA:  full-text access to all AIAA journals and meeting papers from 1963 to the present.
  • IEEE Xplore: full-text access to IEEE & IET journals, conference proceedings, & current IEEE standards.
  • Compendex: contains more than 11 million citations from more than 5,600 journals, reports and conference proceedings covering fields of engineering and technology.
Additional suggestions:


 No full-text?    Click the  button to see if it is available in another database or in print in the library.

 If the full-text isn’t available try a Google search with the title of the article in quotes. This tends to work with government sponsored research agencies i.e. NASA, but not with proprietary material such as journals and conference proceedings.

Because library article databases have to be searched differently than Google, it's best to start by brainstorming keywords

Choose keywords which represent the main concepts of your topic. Then for each concept, choose a number of keywords, including synonyms and related terms.  

Some terms are more common in the scientific literature (i.e. hydraulic fracturing) while others are more often used by the general public (i.e. fracking.)

A good place to look for alternative terms is under the subject terms: 

  • "water supply"                                                
  • "water pollution"                            
  • "industrial wastes"                  
  • "groundwater pollution"
  • "fracturing fluids"   
  • "injection wells"
  • "shale gas industry"

Another example:

Find Books
Start here: www.lib.utexas.edu > Research Tools > Library Catalog

  • To find a book on your topic, start with a keyword search.
  • When you find a good title, follow the subject headings for more books on the topic.
  • To locate the book, make sure you write down the entire call number, including the library that owns it.
  • When you find the book, browse other books in the same area for similar resources.
Scholarly Articles
Non-Scholarly (i.e. Magazines, Blogs, Trade Publications)
Authors: Staff writers and journalists 
Content: To inform, entertain or elicit an emotional response; to inform people in a business or industry about relevant news, trends, and products (Trade Magazines)
Audience: General public 
Reviewed by: Editor
Bibliography: Few, if any, citations
Illustrations: Many have pictures, cartoons, infographics, etc.
Examples: Time, Newsweek (titles you can find at a bookstore)
Scholarly (i.e. Journals, Conference Proceedings, White Papers)
Authors: Professors and researchers
Content: Articles reporting research results
Audience: Scholars, researchers, college students
Reviewed by: Other scholars within the field (Peer-reviewed)
Bibliography: List of references or work cited
Illustrations: Charts, Graphs, Math Equations, etc.
Examples: Journal of Heat Transfer, Journal of Applied Mechanics (titles you would find in an academic library)
Peer-reviewed (refereed) Publications
**NOTE: An article may be considered scholarly, for example a conference proceeding or technical report, but you cannot assume it was peer-reviewed.  Unsure if an article is from a peer-reviewed journal? Check the title of the journal in the library database Ulrichsweb.  
To make things even more confusing, peer-reviewed journals contain some non peer-reviewed information, such as 
  • letters to the editor, 
  • new briefs,
  • editorials, 
  • review articles,
  • book reviews

Exercise: Look up the following titles in Ulrichsweb to determine if they are peer-reviewed. 
Hint: The database uses a referee's jersey icon  to indicate if the journal is refereed (another term for peer-reviewed).
  1. Materials Today
  2. Geophysical Research Letters
  3. The Futurist 
Subject Specialist
Picture: Robyn Rosenberg

Robyn Rosenberg
Engineering Library - Science Instruction Librarian
Tel: (512) 495-4646

Citation Guides
TIP: Look at a couple of journal articles (within your discipline's core journals) to see how an author cites their sources.

Citations & Avoiding Plagiarism
Additional Resources
Talk to a Librarian!
If you need help please contact an Engineering Librarian!

If we are offline, email or call the Engineering Librarians or try Ask a Librarian.