Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Mechanical Engineering): Getting started

Mechanical Engineering subject guide

On this page

This page provides information on getting started on your assignment and keyword searching strategies.

Library training programs

Check out the training program offered by the Library introducing e-books, and referencing using the bibliographic software EndNote.

Referencing management software

Harvard or IEEE referencing styles are generally the recommended styles by the Mechanical Engineering lecturers:

Referencing Guides

VU Library has a number of reference management tools to help you to manage bibliographies and references when writing essays, papers, reports, and articles.

Academic Integrity at VU

Steps to a successful assignment

  1. Collect all the relevant information about the assignment
  • the handout on the assignment and the steps you should take for its completion
  • the types of resources required for your reference list, e.g. books, handbooks, journal articles, etc.
  • note down the assignment's due date and start early collecting and preparing information for the assignment
  1. Analyse and prepare
  • identify and locate the required reading, if supplied
  • identify keywords & search the Library for additional resources e.g. books and journal articles to support your ideas in drafting the assignment (see below the information on keywords and search strategies)
  1. Read for Information
  • read the required reading and make notes
  • read the additional information sources for information not supplied in the required reading
  • prepare each reference as you go through the reading material ensuring it is written in the suggested referencing style (Harvard or IEEE). Refer to Harvard or IEEE referencing guides for further assistance
  1. Start writing
  • collect notes from your readings and start writing your assignment
  • prepare the Reference List (list of materials that you have used or referred to) by collating all the references for each of your reading

          Refer to the Academic Resources & Referencing page to read about acknowledging the sources of the ideas you use in your writing.

 

Finding information

Do you know what you are looking for? 
Think about what types of information you would require in order to tackle your assignment, e.g. textbooks, handbooks or manuals, ebooks, research articles, standards, government publications? Write down any significant words (keywords) that describe your topic.

Readings
Course or unit coordinators generally provide a list of references (reading material) linked to a unit that is a good starting point for getting familiar with the topic. If the reading list is not provided, then you can start with a textbook, encyclopedia or a subject dictionary to gain a basic understanding of the topic.

Know where to look for information sources
Use the Library Search, the library’s discovery platform to find library resources. The Library Search enables you to search across the range of library’s online and print resources in one search. View the results of your search in the retrieved list of records. Each record gives brief bibliographic details of the item and either a link that provides the full access to the item, or the information about the item’s location including how many copies are available.

Library catalogue
The classic library catalogue is still available and convenient as it allows for field searching (e.g. unit code) that the Library Search does not allow for. It is also the fastest tool for looking up the exact title or the author you are looking for.

For more information on using e-books, books, and journal articles view the Books & eBooks, or Databases & journals tabs.

Browse the shelves
A number of useful print material is available on the library shelves. A book is shelved according to its call number. Call numbers group similar subjects together on the library shelves. View the subject areas and call number ranges that are typically relevant to Mechanical Engineering.

What are keywords?

Keywords (or key words) are words that tell you what approach you should take when answering an assignment question. 

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

Assignment example:

"Research different types of jib cranes and apply fundamental mechanics and scientific skills in the design of a crane boom structure. The boom will be designed to allow for a gantry style sliding."

    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. in this example: design a crane boom.

    Limiting Words 

  • Tell you what area(s) to focus on, e.g. gantry style sliding
  • Define the topic area further, e.g. research different types of jib cranes
  • Indicate aspects of the topic area you should narrowly concentrate on.

 

 

 

    Task Words

  • Tell you what to do; the action(s) you need to perform, e.g. compare, contrast, describe, summarise, i.e. research, apply, and design in this example.

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 search strategies

Sample assignment topic: "Research different types of jib cranes and apply fundamental mechanics and scientific skills in the design of a crane boom. The boom will be designed to allow for a gantry style sliding."

Once you have analysed your topic and done some preliminary reading, you are ready to break down the chosen research topic into key concepts selected from both the topic and your readings. It is best to identify 2 to 4 key concepts, with each concept containing up to 2 words, which will serve as keywords or search terms you'll type in Library Search to find relevant resources.  You might need to build separate search strategies for different aspects of your research as well as use a variety of keywords to ensure you cover all aspects of the topic.

For example, focusing on the assignment topic, listed are the main concepts or keywords: 'jib cranes', 'boom', and 'design'. Alternatively, you could use more encompassing or inclusive concepts, as well as synonymous terms, such as:

jib crane design

boom structural design

crane boom design, etc.

Apply the following strategies to combine them:

  • for a basic search, enter the identified keywords in the Library Search field, for example: jib crane design
  • you can combine keywords with some other aspects of your research, for example, you can combine 'jib crane' and 'gantry' in your searches by using the Boolean operators (AND, OR & NOT) for narrowing or broadening your searches, or for excluding some search terms from your searches, if appropriate. The use of Boolean operators allows for constructing more complex search statements, for example:

 jib crane AND (design OR construction OR structural analysis OR structural optimisation)

  • think of possible synonyms and related words or phrases, for example, 'jib' OR 'boom'
  • search exact phrases by enclosing the phrase in quotes, for example, "jib crane"
  • find a term with various endings by using as a truncation symbol represented by an asterisk (*), for example, structure* will retrieve structure, structural, and structures
  • group related or synonymous terms together by placing them in parentheses, for example, (design* OR construct OR model*). Note that model* includes both modelling (Australian English) or modeling (American English) spelling. 

 

 

 

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 the most relevant articles. For example, for searching for certain types of renewable sources of energy, you could apply the following terms and operators:

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”

 

Keyword searching strategies Video