Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) (Honours): Getting started

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

Library training programs

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

Referencing management software

IEEE and Harvard referencing styles are generally the recommended styles by the Electrical and Electronic 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 your information about the assignment.
  • the handout on the assignment
  • the type of resources required for your Reference List e.g. books, journal articles
  • 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 Resources & Referencing page to read about the writing process and its steps.


What are keywords?

Key words 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.

Assignment example:

"Determine and describe the basic components of an electric power system for a small business centre with five 20 storey high rise buildings."

    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: electric power system.

Source: University of New South Wales

    Limiting Words 

  • Tell you what area(s) to focus on, e.g. basic components
  • Define the topic area further, e.g. for a small business centre
  • 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. determine and discuss as 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: "Determine and describe the basic components of an electric power system for a small business centre with five 20 storey high rise buildings."

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.

Source: University of Texas Libraries

If, for example, you want to focus on 'electric power systems' and its 'basic components', list your main concepts or keywords:

electric power systems
basic components

Apply the following strategies to combine them:

  • for a basic search, enter the identified keywords in the search field, for example: electric power systems
  • if you want to combine 'electric power systems' and some others aspects of your research such as: basic design, usage, distribution, transmission, etc. in your searches, you can also use the Boolean operators (AND, OR & NOT) to narrow or broaden your searches, or exclude some search terms from your searches. The use of Boolean operators allows constructing more complex search statements, for example, electric power systems AND (usage OR management OR regulation) AND design
  • think of possible synonyms and related words or phrases, for example, "electric power system" OR "alternative power sources"
  • search exact phrases by enclosing the phrase in quotes, for example, "electric power system"
  • find a term with various endings by using as a truncation symbol represented by an asterisk (*), for example, system* will retrieve system, systems, and systematic 
  • group related or synonymous terms together by placing them in parentheses, for example, (design* OR architecture 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 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”