NBC1112 Building Science: Getting started on your assignment

A Library guide for Building Science

On this page

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

Library drop-in sessions

Students can get advice with:

  • database searching
  • accessing articles
  • finding and evaluating resources
  • referencing
  • any other information research skills

When: Monday - Friday 12pm to 1pm. 

Where: Footscray Park Library and Learning Hub (Level 2)

Library Drop-in Footscray Park Learning Hub Monday to Friday 12 to 1pm

The Library Search

The Library Search is a good starting point for conducting research on any topic, including the building and construction.  Off-campus users are prompted to log in with their VU username and password when they first enter search criteria in the search box. You may search using single keywords, but it often makes sense to combine keywords into terms or concepts, e.g. "building science".


The image is showing the search result brought up by entering the “building science” keywords. There is a range of material brought up, mostly consisting of e-books and books, and journals and conference articles. You can further filter the search result by using different facets shown on the left-hand side, such as publication date, academic journals, and full-text online filters, or Books & e-books or Journal articles filter shown above the search box. An effective search is an iterative process of finding some relevant information sources, modifying your search strategy by varying the keywords or key concepts based on what you did and did not find, and then searching again to find yet more relevant information sources.

Steps to a successful assignment

  1. Collect all your information about the assignment.
  • the handout on the assignment
  • the type of resources required for your Reference List e.g. journal articles, book chapters, etc.
  • notes from classes on how to do the assignment
  1. Analyse and prepare
  • identify the Required Reading 
  • identify keywords & search the Library for additional resources e.g. books, journal articles (see the boxes below to know what are keywords and for some keyword search strategies)
  1. Read for Information
  • read Required Reading and make notes
  • read the additional articles etc. for information not in the Required Reading
  • prepare each Reference as you read it, and ensure 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 reading and start to build your assignment
  • write the correct References for each of your readings for your Reference List

          Refer to the Academic Writing page to read about the writing process and its steps.


Keyword search strategies

Assignment topic sample - Case study - Includes the selection and evaluation of the suitability of the range of building materials for structural beams. For example:

"Propose a range of materials for all ground and upper floor beams for a residential building."

It is suggested to do some brief research to gain more specific information on the focused topic.

Initially, you can use and enter in the Library Search the following concepts or keywords to find some resources of interest.

structural materials

construction materials

structural elements materials

structural materials beams

structural elements design

floor beams materials

structural elements materials residential building

building material

structural design building material

structural elements construction

structural components building material

material selection structural design

Apply the following strategies to combine them:

  • for a basic search, enter the identified keywords in the search field, for example, structural elements materials
  • if you want to combine "structural materials" and some others aspects of your research such as properties, sustainability, load factor design, or durability, you can also use the Boolean operators AND, OR & NOT to narrow or broaden your searches, and construct more complex search statements, for example:

 "structural materials" AND (load* OR behaviour OR behavior OR fatigue)

  • think of possible synonyms and related words or phrases
  • search exact phrases by enclosing the phrase in quotes, for example, "structural materials"
  • find a term with various endings by using the truncation symbol represented by an asterisk (*), for example, load* will retrieve load, loads, loading, etc.
  • group related or synonymous terms together by placing them in parentheses, for example, (model* OR prototype OR 3D design)
  • it is helpful to include in the search both American and the UK/Australian spelling of words, for example, (behavior OR behaviour)