To successfully search for prior art and relevant literature for an engineering design project, you'll need to build upon the skills you learned in Lib 160 and other classes you've already taken in order to make sure you find a set of comprehensive, authoritative sources of information. The goal of this literature review is to make sure you thoroughly understand the problem, existing solutions, suitable materials, industry standards and trends, and so on.
The following tabs contain links to databases where you can search for articles, handbooks, patents, standards, and other documents that may be useful to your research.
These tools will get you started searching for authoritative engineering research in a variety of formats including scholarly articles and professional handbooks.
Note: There is currently a known issue with Knovel. You do not need to create a personal account to access the database - you only need to check the box accepting the terms and conditions.
Because Compendex and Knovel together are extremely comprehensive, you may not need to do much searching in other databases to find what you need. If you have trouble finding what you need using Compendex or Knovel, contact your librarian or try one of these databases:
You can also use the library's Quick Search to find books, articles, standards, and other materials in our collections:
Don't forget: if the item you need isn't available through the library's subscriptions, as an ISU student you can still request it from Interlibrary Loan and get a copy at no cost to you!
While it's true that you can find mechanical property data by searching Google, often you can find better property data by searching in vetted databases accessed via the library. These databases contain information on a wide variety of materials and properties, but you may still need to search more than one to find what you're looking for.
Below you'll find suggested databases for starting your properties search. If you can't find what you're looking for, email me!
Not all of the items in our collection are available online, and that includes our books on materials properties.
Properties for many alloys can be found in the Library's Standards Center (Room 161), in the Aerospace Structural Metals Handbook. We also have a print copy of the ASM Handbook in the Standards Center.
You can also find materials property information in our reference collection on Tier 2, in the call number range TA459-483. If you need help navigating the collection, let me know!
Because patent documents contain highly technical and oftentimes obfuscating language, it can be difficult to locate relevant patents especially if you do not know the patent number or inventor's / assignee's name. Keyword searching alone will only get you a small part of the full scope of patent documents related to a particular topic. Happily, modern search tools are making it possible to search for patents much more easily.
Keyword searching is probably the most familiar search strategy, since this is typically what we use when searching for other types of documents. Finds patent documents containing the word(s) you entered, and sometimes common variations on those words.
This involves searching for the person who invented the item being patented, or who has been assigned the patent rights. The assignee can be a company, not just a person. The inventor can waive their right to be named in the patent document, so this is not a foolproof method even if you know the inventor's name.
Precision searching using a patent classification system, typically Cooperative Patent Classification scheme (CPC). These systems organize patents hierarchically based on what they are about or for. If you know the classification for the type of item you're interested in, you can quickly locate all patents for that type of item regardless of language used.
Contact me for more help with patent searching. A librarian can help you develop search strategies, navigate a CPC search, and more.
If you are considering patenting an invention and require an absolutely thorough search for existing patents, your best bet would be to get in touch with a patent attorney.
Simply put - standards are an agreed-upon way of doing something. Industry standards are used by producers of goods and services. They specify how an item should be made by providing exact measurements and specifications about the materials. The resources below will help you find relevant standards to use for your projects.
The ISU Library is able to provide access to some standards online.
Most of the ISU Library-owned standards are located in the Standards Center, Room 161, Parks Library. If you need assistance locating standards, or the Standards Center, please ask at the Main Desk or contact your librarian.
The citation to a standard typically has at least two parts, a number and a title. It may include more information, such as a date of revision or the number of pages. The alphabetic section of the standard number is often an acronym for the issuing body, or a combination of acronyms representing multiple issuing bodies. For example, the following standard was issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in 1990: ASTM F1299-90, "Standard Specification for Food Service Equipment Hoods for Cooking Appliances."
If you only know the number of a standard:
Use Quick Search to search for the number. You should filter ("Tweak my results") to just ISU Collections (Books & more) on your search results page. Standards will be labeled as "text resource". They will be listed as located in the REFERENCE Standards Center and will have a call number that includes the standard number.
If this does not find the standard you need, check IHS Global to make sure you have the right number and to obtain the title. Other options: try searching Google or Google Books to see if the standard is included in any books that might be in our collection, then use Quick Search to check if we have those books. (For example, many ACI standards can be found in the ACI Collection of Concrete Codes, Specifications, and Practices.)
If you only know the title of a specific standard:
Use Quick Search to search for the title. If this returns too many results, use Advanced Search and set the drop-downs to "Title" and "starts with"). To preemptively limit only to ISU's collections, you should change the "Search Scope" to "Library Collections". You should leave "Material Type" set to "All".
Versions: Often, our collection includes more than one version of a standard. You may see a message that a number of versions exist -- this is usually a result of standards being revised over time. Click on this combined record and you'll see all the versions in our collection. From there, choose the version you want.
Location: To find where a standard is located in the Library, look for text that says "Available at Parks Library." The next few words will describe where the item is. For most standards, this will be REFERENCE Standards Center (Rm 161).
Note: Almost all of our standards currently display a message stating, "Your search did not match any physical resource in the library." This is not true. If there's a call number, the standard is in the location listed previously (usually Standards Center). This is due to a quirk of the platform underlying Quick Search and the way standards are cataloged.
Call number: The code that follows the location is the call number for the standard. Often, this is the standard number. (Be aware: if you've used a citation to identify the needed standard, the call number may vary from the number cited.) You will need to know this number in order to find the standard.
The majority of the standards are housed in filing cabinets that line the room. They are arranged alphabetically by the acronym for the issuing organization and by code/number. It's typically best to interpret punctuation as spaces. For example, ANSI/AASHTO/AWS D1.5M/D1.5:2010 is filed before ANSI C82.3, which comes before ANSI/ISO/ASQC 9000-2. If you have identified a standard and found it in Quick Search, but can't find it in the library, ask at the Main Desk or contact your librarian.
Search in IHS Global, looking for a standard title that corresponds to the specific topic of interest. You may have to start your search under a broader subject category or try keyword variations. Once you've identified a standard of interest, check Quick Search to see if it's part of our collection. If it is not in our collection and you are certain it will be useful to your research or project, you can talk to the standards librarian about adding it or request it for free through interlibrary loan!
These tools will help you find information on companies, products, and more, including market reports.
Once you've identified an item of interest (an article, handbook, conference paper, standard, etc.), you have many options for getting a copy to use.