Library Resources



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:


  1. You do not wish to “reinvent the wheel.”
  2. 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.
  3. Continual reference to the vast ocean of information available will stimulate new ideas.
  4. 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 it.


Literature takes on several forms, as outlined below:


  1. Books
    1. Single subject books by a small number of authors (typically 1 to 3).
    2. Collections of articles by several authors.
  2. Journal Articles
    1. Refereed articles on a specific experiment.
    2. Review articles summarizing a variety of findings on a given topic.
  3. Proceedings
  4. Periodicals
  5. 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  The referee process itself can take several months, and even once an article is accepted for publication, it may not be published for up to a year later, depending on how backlogged the journal is.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 journal articles.


Periodicals, such as Time and Newsweek, can also be good sources of information, but remember that they are not peer reviewed and that most of the articles are not written by scientists and engineers.


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:


  1. 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  Cite it in the following format: McShane M, Duffy DP, and Fender AA, “Use of nanocoated microparticles for glucose sensing,” J Diabetic Research, 18:32-40, 2004.
  2. 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.
  3. Check the electronic index for review articles on the subject.  These will be highly valuable and can be used as references in your proposal.
  4. 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 question.


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 are:


  1. 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.
  2. 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 clearly irrelevant).
  3. You can download the citation and abstract to each article in one of two ways:
    1. Have the system email this information to you (particularly useful if you are using the library’s computer system).
    2. 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).
  4. The most difficult step is in locating the specific articles.  In this case, there are several possibilities.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.