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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 Databases:

  • Academic Search Complete: A comprehensive and scholarly database containing magazine, newspaper, and journal articles from across disciplines. 
  •  Opposing Viewpoints in Content: This database gathers together viewpoints and information about controversial social issues.   
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.

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.
  • 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  link.

Sample Search
1. Come up with keywords and synonyms or 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.)

  • "hydraulic fracturing"
  • "injection wells"
  • "shale gas industry"

Often times when searching on popular topic your first search will 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: 

  • "water supply"                                                
  • "water pollution"                            
  • "industrial wastes"                   
  • "groundwater pollution"
  • "fracturing fluids"   

You may need to do several searches to get the best articles for your needs. 

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
  • Compendex - engineering 
 4. Find books:
  • library catalog
5. Websites:
  • NASA
6. Read lots of articles and take note of new or related concepts and re-do steps 1 thru 5 as needed.
7.  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 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? 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: 
This grid will help you distinguish between scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles and popular articles.  Compare your article with the components of a scholarly article.

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

Peer Review explained; but is not without flaws.  See also: Retraction Watch

Evaluate Web Sites - use these criteria to evaluate web sites 
Subject Specialist
Picture: Robyn Rosenberg

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

Career Resources for Undergraduates
Career Resources for Undergraduates page has lots of great resources including: 

Industry Overviews (Good for Interview Prep)
  • MarketLine Advantage : Includes detailed company and industry reports with analyses of company strengths and weaknesses.
  • IBISWorld: Industry reports contain key statistics and analysis on market characteristics, operating conditions, current and forecast performance, major industry participants and more.

For additional databases see Company and Industry Information
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.
Citations & Avoiding Plagiarism