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MIE315: Design for the Environment

This research guide is designed to help students complete the literature review component of their assignment.

Selecting resources for most relevant information

Check out these examples from your professor - what approaches would you try? 

(Scroll down for list of best resources for engineers)

a) "I need to know the material inputs for glass bottle manufacturing."

  • Try looking at handbooks, books, and e-books because this is information is pretty general.
  • Also try looking at Wikipedia, and follow the references that are cited by the article.

b) "I want to know how wine is produced."

  • Handbooks, books, and e-books would likely have information because this is a general topic. 
  • Codes and standards will also likely have information because safety is a concern for both the final product and the processes used during fabrication.

c) "I want to know what options exist for energy storage technologies"

  • This is a pretty new topic, so there may not be many books (but you can still try).
  • If you're looking for the state of current research & development, try using Compendex or Scopus and limit your search to review articles.

d) "How often does the engine on a bus need to be rebuilt?"

  • Possibly look up SAE (society of automotive engineers) standards and articles
  • Look for information on the website of the manufacturer of a bus engine.
  • Look for information about maintenance procedures in documents on the website of a transit operator (e.g. TTC)
  • Try contacting a person at the manufacturer or a transit operator to see if they can tell you (Hint: phone calls are harder to ignore than e-mails).

e) "How well does extruded polystyrene insulate buildings?"

  • Look at data sheets available from the manufacturer
  • Look at the building code, or use TechStreet to search ASHRAE codes
  • If you can't find information, assume a temperature difference, measure the material thickness, find material properties, and calculate the rate of heat transfer using engineering equations. 
  • If you can't find the material properties, consider designing and conducting an experiment to measure them. (In this specific example, the material properties should be available in literature e.g., CRC handbook of materials science in the reference area of the Engineering & Computer Science Library or use Knovel database)

f) "Are commuter students more likely to carry an e-reader or a textbook?"

  • Search scholarly journals for studies done on this
  • If no information is available, consider surveying a group of students and analyzing the data yourself.

g) "There is a new specific type of solar panel that shows promise. I want to know how long those devices last."

Resource Types for Engineers

Books, eBooks & Handbooks

  • Books, eBooks, and textbooks are usually on general topics and will help with introductory and background research. 
  • Handbooks are essential sources of technical data on all sorts of topics. They are also useful sources of background information and descriptions of theories and their applications. 

Articles from Scholarly Journals

  • Research articles are often on a specific research topic, and are usually written in technical terms. They may be original research, or a retrospective look (review) at what has been done in a field. Articles may be peer-reviewed (or not), conference proceedings, or journal articles.
  • To search for articles, use a database. More info on databases in included Articles tab. Each database is slightly different and covers different resources, so you might want to search 2 or 3 databases in order to ensure you aren't missing anything!


  • When you're looking for information, particularly reports or data,  try to think of who might collect or produce that kind of information - a professional organization, a government department, or some other body.  These types of organizations, particularly government departments at all levels of government, often have the resources available online. 
  • Use websites that cite their sources. Avoid citing commercial websites or ones covered with ads. Look more for reliable sources like websites addresses that end with: org (non-profit), .edu (educational institutions), or .gov (government).  

Standards & Codes 

  • Standards are documents that describe the important features of a product, service, or system.
  • Codes are collections of laws and rules which provide procedures to maintain uniformity and safety.
  • The MIE315 guide has quick links to some of the standards and codes but to find out even more about standards and codes, check out the UTL full listing of standards and codes