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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.
Create A Research Plan Using Keywords
Read through your articles/websites and pull out important terms and synonyms to use as keywords when searching the library's databases. Pick terms that are broader, narrower, and related to the key terms that you picked out.

Topic The benefits and risks related to genetically modified crops.
Key Concepts Genetically modified organism (GMO) Benefits                          Risks
Related Keywords "genetically modified foods"

"genetically engineered plants"

"transgenic organisms"

"synthetic biology"

"bioengineered food"

"agricultural productivity"


"climate change"

"food security"


"health risks"

"environmental aspects"

"side effects"




Then combine them using AND and OR 
  • AND narrows your search by looking for articles with all of the words
  • OR broadens your search by looking for articles with any of the words
Finding Articles
Library home page > Research Tools > Find Articles using Databases
Multidisciplinary Databases:

  • Academic Search Complete: A comprehensive and scholarly database containing magazine, newspaper, and journal articles from across disciplines. 
  •  Opposing Viewpoints in Content: Brings together viewpoint articles, contextual topic overviews, government and organizational statistics, biographies of social activists, court cases, profiles of government agencies and special interest groups, newspaper and magazine articles, as well as links to more than 1,800 reviewed and subject-indexed web sites.


  • 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.

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

InterLibrary Services: will obtain books, article photocopies, and other material not owned by the University of Texas libraries.  Set up a free account.  No charge, no limit. Check out this 3 minute tutorial on using Interlibrary Services.

Find Books
 "There is fantastic information in books. Often when I do a search, what is in a book is miles ahead of what I find on a Web site." —Sergey Brin

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, you can 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.
  • Take note of the location of the book, we have over 10 libraries.
  • The call number will help you locate the book on the shelf
  • Take note of the current status: If there is a date listed instead of "AVAILABLE" that means the book is checked out to another person.  You can request the book back by clicking on the Pick it Up link.


NOTE: If there is a book we don't have in the catalog you can use InterLibrary Services and they will obtain books, article photocopies, and other material not owned by the University of Texas libraries.  Check out this 3 minute tutorial on using Interlibrary Services.
Sample Search
1. Come up with keywords and synonyms or related terms.  

Some terms are more common in the scientific literature (e.g unmanned aircraft) while others are more often used by the general public (e.g. drones).

  • unmanned remote-controlled aircraft
  • unmanned aircraft
  • unmanned aerial vehicle  
  • unmanned aircraft systems  

When searching on popular topic your first search may bring back too many results.  I recommend adding additional terms to focus your results. 

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

  • high resolution imaging
  • digital cameras
  • aerial surveillance 
  • imaging sensors
  • image analysis
  • imagery system

Read lots of articles and take note of new or related concepts: you may need to do several searches to get the best articles.

2. Look for background information
(I won't use these sources in my cited reference list)
  • Wikipedia - encyclopedia (authors are anonymous, vetted (maybe) by the public )
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library (written by experts, vetted by editors) 

3. Find articles using the library's amazing databases:
  • Academic Search Complete - multidisciplinary
  • Opposing ViewPoints - multidisciplinary
  • AIAA - aerospace
  • IEEE - engineering 
 4. Find books:
  • library catalog
5. Websites:
6.  Don't forget to ask for help if you are:
  • not finding enough material on your topic
  • having problems finding the full-text of an article
  • can't find a book or are having problems with an e-book

Scholarly vs. Popular publications

Popular (e.g. Magazines, Trade Publications)
Authors: Staff writers and journalists; business or industry professionals
Content: To inform or entertain (Magazines); 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 (e.g. Journals, Conference Proceedings)
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 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? Ask a librarian. 
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
More information: 

Peer Review  - 3 minute video from NCSU Libraries explaining peer review.  Peer review is not without flaws.  See also: Retraction Watch

Evaluate Books and Articles
 - this decision tree helps you evaluate scholarly and non-scholarly books and articles

C.R.A.P. test for evaluating research sources 
Subject Specialist
Picture: Robyn Rosenberg

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

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.
Where is the Article?
 Where is the article?

available in findit@ut
Follow this gold button  to see if it is available in another database or in print in the library.

Click this green button if you find that your article is only available in print in the library, and the library will scan it and email you a pdf of the article for free.

Already have a citation? Learn more at  How to Find an Article from a Citation.

How to Read a Scientific Article
How to Read and Comprehend Scientific Research Articles - 5 minute video from the University of Minnesota Libraries
Citations & Avoiding Plagiarism