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M E 415: Mechanical Systems Design

Learn about tools for finding articles, books, standards, and prior art for the Mechanical Engineering capstone design class. This guide also includes tips and techniques engineering students need to know for conducting successful library research.

Tools for finding information

Engineering design projects rely on successful literature and prior art searches. This means you'll need to build upon the skills you learned in Lib 160 to find a set of comprehensive, authoritative sources of information. As you search, your goal should be to thoroughly understand the problem, existing solutions, current research in progress, industry standards and trends, and so on.

Use the tabs below to access databases where you can search for articles, handbooks, patents, standards, and other documents that may be useful to your research.

Engineering 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!

Standards & Codes


The ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) is the largest set of ASME standards owned by the ISU Library. While we do not have an annual subscription, the 2019 edition of the BPVC is currently available in the Standards Center. The library also owns print copies of many individual ASME standards. These can be found in ISU’s ANSI standards collection.



SAE International groups its standards into three sections: Ground Vehicle Standards, Aerospace Standards, and Aerospace Material Specifications. The ISU Library does not currently provide online access to any of the SAE standards sections.

Full text of SAE Ground Vehicle Standards, Recommended Practices, and Information Reports can be found in the SAE Handbook in the General Collection (TL151 S1 - the library has scattered years from 1937-2005).

Some Aerospace Material Specifications (AMS) are in the General Collection for 1999-2003 (TL950 .A37x). The ISU Library does not own the Aerospace Standards section.

Some individual SAE standards, if they have been adopted by the American National Standards Institute, can be found in the ANSI standards cabinets (Room 161 Parks Library) and are listed in Quick Search on the Library homepage.

Descriptions of individual SAE standards are available through subject groupings at the SAE website.


These safety and health standards are located in Title 29, Part 1910 of the Code of Federal Regulations (In Reference at KF70 A3), which includes a comprehensive subject index. An electronic version of the standards with a searchable index is available on the OSHA website.


The ISU Library has copies of some ISO standards. These standards can also be purchased for the collection by request.

The ISU Library also has reprints of some ISO standards as part of a series called ISO Standards Handbook. To see which volumes we own in the series, search Quick Search for "ISO standards handbook" (with the quotation marks). Note: It is not possible to search for specific ISO standards listed in each of these volumes - you need to browse the table of contents to see which standards are in each volume.

Other standards/for more help

It's entirely possible that you may need standards, codes, or specifications published by an organization not covered on this page, or that you will need to identify useful standards on your own. If you need access to a standard that is not covered here or would like help finding relevant standards, contact your librarian.

Patents & Intellectual Property

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.

Below is a quick video tutorial for patent searching with Lens.

Patent search techniques

Patent searching typically requires some specialized search techniques. Here are the basics:

Assignee or inventor searching

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. (Depending on the search tool, this may also be called "owner".)

Classification searching

Precision searching using a patent classification system, typically Cooperative Patent Classification scheme (CPC). These systems organize patents hierarchically based on what type of product they are for or what their intended use is. 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.

Keyword searching

Keyword searching is probably the most familiar search strategy, since this is typically what we use when searching for other types of documents. Using this technique will Find documents containing the word(s) you entered, and sometimes common variations on those words. However, this is not very effective for finding patent documents. Since patents frequently use vague or opaque terminology, many documents will be missed if you don't correctly guess what terms the author used.

More help

If you need more help finding patents and intellectual property:

Trade & Business Information

Trade and business publications focus on industry, rather than on the academic aspects of engineering. You're likely to find information on industries, companies, and new product developments by searching this type of literature.

Getting Materials

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.

If the library has a hard copy

  • Find it on the shelf, then check it out or scan what you need
  • Use Pick from Shelf and pick it up at the Main Desk in a few hours or days
  • Use Pick from Shelf, choose Library Material Delivery as your pickup location, and put your off-campus address in the comment box to have an item mailed to you
  • Use Document Delivery to have a scan emailed to you (only articles, proceedings papers, and book chapters, not full books)

If the library has a digital copy

  • Look for "full text" or "PDF" in the search tool you're using
  • Use Get It@ISU button to check for online access in databases that don't have full text articles

If the library doesn't own a copy

  • Request with Interlibrary Loan to borrow a copy / receive a scan from another library
  • Email your librarian to request a purchase (for standards and books we don't have)

Course materials

The ISU Library provides print and/or online access to the recommended texts for this course. Below you'll find links to all of them and information on where/how to access them online, where applicable.