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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.
Find Articles
Start here: www.lib.utexas.edu > Research Tools > Find Articles Using Databases


Subject-specific - Recommended:

  • IEEE Xplore: full-text access to IEEE & IET journals, conference proceedings, & current IEEE standards.
  • INSPEC: more than 7 million citations with abstracts to worldwide literature of physics, electronics & electrical engineering, computing & control, and information technology.

Additional Suggestions:
  • Compendex: Contains more than 11 million citations with abstracts from more than 5,600 journals, reports and conference proceedings covering fields of engineering and technology.
  • SPIE: SPIE journals and proceedings are core information resources for the subject areas of optics, photonics and imaging.
  • ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Digital Library - Includes the full text of all ACM publications, including journals, magazines, newsletters, transactions and proceedings. 
No full-text? Click on the  button to see if the article is available in full-text or in print in the library.

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

Database Searching Tips
Come up with keywords and think of synonyms and 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)
  • Spell out acronyms, especially if they have common other meanings: Search "near field communications" rather than NFC (e.g. National Football Conference; National Finance Center)
    NOTE: Some acronyms are very established in the EE literature, for example, RFID is more commonly used by engineers than "radio frequency identification."  When in doubt, search using both terms.

Your results list may bring back a lot of hits.  I recommend adding additional terms to focus your results.   

Re-do the search with related terms to expand your results.  A good place to look for alternative terms is under the Subject Terms in Academic Search Complete or in Keywords in IEEE Xplore.

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 (Co-Founder of Google)

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.  But you can request the book by clicking on the Pick it Up link.

Additional notes:

  • Most engineering textbooks are available for 2 hours checkout at the PMA Library in the RLM building.
  • You can request most items in the catalog to be sent to any library using the Pick it Up link (but not reserve books).
  • You can request an article or book chapter in any library by clicking the  button.  Library staff will scan it and email you a PDF of the article/chapter for free.
  • InterLibrary Services Borrowing: will obtain books, article photocopies, and other material not owned by the University of Texas libraries.
Find Standards
What is a standard? 

"A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose." ISO (International Organization for Standardization)

  • IEEE 802.11 (WiFi) - 425 pages
  • IEEE 11073-10419 (Insulin Pump) 138 pagess

Who creates standards?

Standards are created by a variety of organizations including:
  • Professional societies e.g. IEEE, ASME
  • Assocations e.g. American Wire Rope Manufacturers
  • Government agencies e.g. NASA
  • International bodies e.g. ISO, IEC

How to find standards in the library?

While some standards are free (e.g. W3CDOE), most standards are expensive and are not freely available on the web.  The library provides access to only a fraction of the total number of standards.
  • IEEE standards can be found in IEEE Xplore via our library link
  • Click on Browse (top left side) and select Standards
  • You can search by number (if you know the standard you need) or by keyword 
For all other standards see our Finding Engineering Standards and Specifications guide
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!

Citations & Avoiding Plagiarism
Additional Resources
How to read a research (scholarly) paper
How to Read a Primary Research Paper- University of Alberta Libraries

This easy-to-follow powerpoint explains the various sections of a research article e.g. literature review, methods, and results.