Bachelor of Engineering (first year): Finding resources

Library resources for students studying first year engineering

How to search for library resources with keywords

Keywords are words in a question that tell you the approach you should take when answering an assignment question. 

Keywords can include content (topic), limiting (restricting), and task (instruction) words.

You can search for library resources such as e-books and journal articles by their title or by using keywords on your topic. Think about the keywords from your assignment question or tutorial task and use these words in Library Search to find relevant resources.

Keywords can include:

Content Words      

  • Tell you what the topic area is.
  • Help you to focus your research and reading on the correct area.
  • Think about synonyms or similar words, e.g. engineering PBL projects

Limiting Words 

  • Tell you what area(s) to focus on;
  • Define the topic area further;
  • Indicate aspects of the topic area you should narrowly concentrate on, e.g. in Australia.

Task Words

  • Tell you what to do; the action(s) you need to perform, e.g. compare, contrast, describe, summarise; e.g. review

When you are searching for information for an essay question, assignment or project, use the identified content and limiting keywords to search for information sources in our Library Search and online.

Keyword searching strategies - Video

Boolean operators

Boolean Operators are the words AND, OR, and NOT used in library databases that can make searches more precise, and save you time by removing the need to go through all the search results in order to find most relevant articles.

AND narrows the search resulting in more focused results, for instance, searching for  “fuel cell” AND "solar', all articles in your result will include both concepts (keywords)

OR broadens the search by instructing the database to search for any of the words, which is particularly useful for synonyms or related terms, i.e. “fuel cell” OR “solar” OR “lithium”

NOT narrows the search by instructing the database to remove all unnecessary search results, for example “fuel cell” NOT “solar”


Search tools on the VU library website

Link through to the library website

Many (but not all) VU Library resources can be accessed through VU Library Search. Keywords or search terms can be entered in the search box.

VU Library Home Page


The library also provides tools to allow users to search for the book, journal article, video, or newspaper whether in physical or electronic format. These tools are located below the main search box on the library website. Consider the text listed under each of the search tools. 

1. A-Z Databases - Find articles, ebooks, streaming videos, case studies and special collections.

2. Publication Finder - Find online publications by title - journals and ebooks.

3. BrowZine - Easy browsing of scholarly journals on any device.

VU Page with Resources listed


VU Library Search Overview: Part 1

VU Library Search Overview: Part 2

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Evaluating sources

Transcript for 'Evaluating Sources' video

If you want to succeed in your assignments for research you should only use quality information whether it's found in books, journal articles, or websites. Use the following criteria, also known as the crap test, to critically evaluate any source of information.

Currency - when was the information published, updated, and/or, revised? Is the information out-of-date for the topic? 

Relevance or intended audience - how much information is presented? Provided is a superficial treatment, or a detailed analysis? Is the information related and relevant to your topic? Is the readership level appropriate: right, too simple nor too sophisticated? 

Authority - not all books or journal articles in an academic library are scholarly. Who are the authors and/or editors and what are their credentials for journals? Are articles peer-reviewed, that is, do they have the approval from other experts in the field. For books, are they published by scholarly presses, popular presses, or self-published? 

Accuracy, and verifiability - does the source match your understanding of the topic? Can you verify the claims and other sources? Never rely on just one source. Is there a bibliography or a list of works cited? What types of sources, and how many relevant sources are cited? This is an indication of the depth of the author's knowledge.

Purpose and objectivity - is the purpose stated? Is the subject approached from the objective standpoint? If not, what is the author's bias and how might it influence the information presented? Be wary, there may be more than one perspective on any given issue.

Using these criteria of currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose to critically evaluate sources of information will help ensure you are only using quality sources of information. If you need more help with the evaluating sources visit one of our research help desks.

View this video

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Engineering in the news

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. Here are the latest 'Science & Technology' articles.

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