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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.

  • Gale Virtual Reference Library is database of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources to help find background information and define your topic.  TIP: Try different terms for your topic, for example, if you type "fracking" as a keyword you will only get 4 hits, but if you use the technical term "hydraulic fracturing" you will get 49 hits.

  • CQResearcher: explores a single "hot" issue in the news in depth each week. Topics range from social and teen issues to environment, health, education and science and technology. Examples include: Fracking ControversyManaging Nuclear Waste, and Domestic Drones.
  •  Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center - This database gathers together viewpoints and information about controversial social issues.  Start with a keyword search and click on the Reference tab for background information.

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


  • Academic Search Complete: A comprehensive and scholarly database containing magazine, newspaper, and journal articles from across disciplines.  
  • LexisNexis Academic This is a powerful, full-text database that searches much more than just newspaper articles.  


  • ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Digital LibraryProvides online access to all available volumes of the technical journals of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and to ASME conference papers starting with 2002.

  • IEEE Xplore: full-text access to IEEE & IET journals, conference proceedings, & current IEEE standards.
  • 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.

Additional suggestions:


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

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.

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"
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)

A peer-reviewed article is read and evaluated by one or more scholars within the discipline.

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
Subject Specialist
Picture: Larayne Dallas

Larayne Dallas
Engineering Librarian
Tel: (512) 495-4503

Picture: Robyn Rosenberg

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

Additional Resources
Cite your sources
NoodleTools (NoodleBib) - is a web-based student research service that helps you correctly cite sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian citation styles. Use NoodleTools throughout a research project to track your sources, take notes, create outlines, collaborate with classmates, and format and print your bibliography. 
  1. You must first create a free account 
  2. To start click on "Create a New Project" 
  3. Choose your citation style
  4. Give the list a name (i.e. ME 333T); click "Create Project"
  5. Click on "Bibliography" [at the top]
  6. Start adding citations

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

Evaluate Web Sites
- use these criteria to evaluate web sites 
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.