In creating effective and
marketable designs, it is highly important that you be aware of information
available in the literature.Some
obvious reasons for this need are:
You do not wish to “reinvent the wheel.”
By making use of other people’s work, you can
make products that are far better than what you would have been able to
achieve by yourself.Remember what
Isaac Newton said about his accomplishments, “If I have made any progress
at all, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”It may not be obvious where to find a
giant to stand on in a literal sense, but in a figurative sense, they live
at the library.
Continual reference to the vast ocean of
information available will stimulate new ideas.
You may have a mental block as to how to
accomplish a certain task.The
answer will almost certainly be in the literature if you know how to find
Literature takes on several
forms, as outlined below:
Single subject books by a small number of authors
(typically 1 to 3).
Collections of articles by several authors.
Refereed articles on a specific experiment.
Review articles summarizing a variety of
findings on a given topic.
The World Wide Web
You are also familiar with
books, such as the textbook for this course.However, a large amount of information may not yet be available in book
form.For example, experiments that were
done last year on the use of layer-by-layer assembly in nanotechnology will
probably not come out in book form for several years.They will only be available in conference
proceedings and, in some cases, in journal articles.You should be aware that there is also a lag
between when an experiment is performed and when it appears in a journal.The referee process itself can take several
months, and even once an article is accepted for publication, it may not be
published for up to a year later, depending on how backlogged the journal is.
A good place to start your
research in an area is to look for review articles on a topic and read through
them carefully.These will generally be
somewhat newer than a textbook on the subject, but not as new as the latest
Periodicals, such as Time and
Newsweek, can also be good sources of information, but remember that they are
not peer reviewed and that most of the articles are not written by scientists
You certainly already know
about the value of the world wide web, and you know
how to do a Google search to find specific
information.This vehicle can be
valuable, particularly in the initial stages of your experiments, but you must
be careful with information taken from the web.You need to be able to
distinguish between non-refereed information and refereed articles that are
linked to a person’s web site.Just because something is stated on someone’s web page does not mean
that it is true.
As someone who has training
in engineering but is not up to date on a specific area of interest, you should
consider the following strategy:
Do an initial search on the topic on the
web.This approach is easy and
inexpensive and will provide you with background information which you
must weigh carefully for its veracity.You cannot use this as a citation to your design proposal, unless
you pull up a refereed journal article that is connected to a web
site.In that case, you should
reference the article in your proposal in the same way that you reference
all journal articles.In other
words, do not cite the article as www.latech.edu/~mcshane/articles/glucose_nanoparticles_publication.pdf.Cite it in the following format: McShane M, Duffy DP, and Fender AA, “Use of nanocoatedmicroparticles
for glucose sensing,” J Diabetic Research, -40, 2004.
Check the library for books on the topic.Sometimes this is fruitful and sometimes
it is not.For example, if you are
interested in understanding a problem that relates to transport in the
kidney, you can certainly benefit from reading a book on kidney function
in general and finding out how the biology and medical community views
this organ.You may even find a
book that specifically relates to kidney transport, although you are
unlikely to find one that is up to date.
Check the electronic index for review articles on
the subject.These will be highly
valuable and can be used as references in your proposal.
The above resources should generate a variety of
questions that you will want answered.It is a good idea to write these questions down as they come to
you.To answer them, you can go
back to the electronic index and look for articles related to the specific
The library’s electronic
index can be found on the Louisiana Tech web site at:
Several of the databases
listed here are of value, but one that is particularly useful is Medline.This database contains a wide variety of
journals related to medical research, including biomedical engineering
journals.Several convenient features
You can search through titles and abstracts in
the same way that you do a Google search for web
pages.Type in appropriate key
words as necessary.
Once you have a list of articles, you can search
through the titles and the abstracts to identify ones that are clearly
relevant to your interests (or equivalently, to eliminate those that are
You can download the citation and abstract to
each article in one of two ways:
Have the system email this information to you
(particularly useful if you are using the library’s computer system).
Have the system save the information to disk
(not so useful if you are using the library’s computer system, but highly
useful if you are connected through your own computer).
The most difficult step is in locating the
specific articles.In this case,
there are several possibilities.
The article is one for which the library has a hardcopy
subscription.Look up the call
number on the library’s
catalogue database, find the journal, and make a photocopy.
The library does not have a hardcopy
subscription, but has an electronic subscription.In this case there will be an entry in
the library’s catalogue and it will be marked as an electronic
subscription.You can then go to
the web site that is referenced and download the article.If you have trouble downloading the
article, ask one of the library staff to help you with it.I have noticed that often it is
difficult to download articles if I am connected from my office, whereas
it is easy to download them from the library computers.In theory, you should be able to
download them whenever you are online from one of the university’s network
nodes, but in reality that doesn’t always work.
The library does not have a hardcopy or
electronic subscription, you can request the
article from interlibrary loan.You will need to ask me to do this for you since,
in general, undergraduates cannot order articles on interlibrary loan
themselves.Please make sure that
the article truly is unavailable in our library or electronically before
asking me to order it.