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Research Papers, Term Papers, Reports - Engineering Library


Engineering Coat of Arms
Room 1B08, Engineering Building, 57 Campus Drive, Saskatoon SK, Canada S7N 5A9 306-966-5976

Research Papers, Term Papers, Reports
A Guide


This guide outlines how to make effective use of the Library and its resources to research and write research papers, term papers or reports. There are 9 basic steps:

  1. Choose your topic.
  2. Do some preliminary reading.
  3. Narrow your topic.
  4. Prepare a preliminary outline.
  5. Gather your information resources.
  6. Prepare a working bibliography.
  7. Prepare your final outline.
  8. Write the paper
  9. Write the bibliography.
  10. Proof and submit.

You may also find it useful to look at a Tutorial for Graduate Students from the Education Library for more useful hints and information.

Choose Your Topic:

Decide early and begin. This allows for mistakes, adjusting your topic, time to get information from other sources that take longer to obtain (Interlibrary loans, materials that others have out, information from the original sources, etc.) Most of all it allows you time to critically analyse the information and to produce an original paper from the information you have gathered.

Preliminary Reading:

Do some preliminary reading to make sure you understand the topic, and to get some idea of the amount of information available to you. Insufficient or overwhelming amounts of information are both good reasons to abandon or alter your topic.

Encyclopedias are helpful here. Browsing the Library's On-Line Catalogue or the periodical indexes for materials on your topic are other means of finding out how much information is available.

Narrowing Your Topic:

Make sure your topic is narrow enough so that you can thoroughly research and analyse it, and to arrive at your own conclusions. A topic that is not narrowed enough will result in a paper that is a disunified collection of facts, that is insufficiently critical, and is too general in its conclusions.

Prepare A Preliminary Outline:

Prepare a working outline of the major headings for your paper from the information you have gathered so far. Derive from this the points you intend to address or the questions that you will answer. This will serve as a guide for the gathering of your information resources, and keep you on the topic as you do your research.

Gather Your Information Resources:


There are many types of information sources available in the library. But don't fool yourself!! Just any book or article on your topic will not suffice for your paper. An important part of doing any research is evaluating the sources you consult.

Information sources can be broadly divided into:

PRIMARY SOURCES: - present new information, original research, or discuss known information in a new light. Academic journal articles, technical and government reports, dissertations, conference proceedings, patents, standards, etc. are examples of such sources.

SECONDARY SOURCES: - are compiled from primary sources, usually to review the knowledge in the area, or to distil it into a convenient form. Review journals, newspaper or magazine articles, encyclopedias, textbooks, tabular compilations, bibliographies, indexing and abstracting periodicals, dictionaries, and handbooks are all such sources.

Some of these sources are reviewed below:


Encyclopedias provide review articles on general topics. But the information is usually years out of date and are secondary sources of information - the result of someone else's research. Their usefulness lies primarily as sources of background information and for preliminary reading. Encyclopedias sometimes publish yearbooks which attempt to update the information.

In the sciences, one series of encyclopedias stands out. The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedias listed below provide authoritative articles in all areas of the pure and applied sciences. They are an excellent place to start any research.

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Engineering.
ENGIN/Ref TA9 .M36 1993

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. 8th Ed
ENGIN/Ref Q121 .M14 1997

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Ocean and Atmospheric Science.
MAIN/Ref GC9 .M32 1980.

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Environmental Science.
EDUC/Ref QH540.4 .M14 1980
MAIN QH540.4 .M14 1980
LAW QH540.4 .M14 1980

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Energy.
ENGIN/Ref TJ163.2 .M3 1981
MAIN/Ref TJ163.2 .M3 1981

McGraw-Hill Handbook of Essential Engineering Information and Data.
ENGIN/Ref TA151 .M34 1991


Books are usually two or more years out of date when published, and are typically secondary sources of information. Don't just look for books specifically on your topic! Other useful information can be found in books on more general topics.

Use the On-line Catalogue to find materials on your topic that are in the Library.

BROWSING: Be aware that books on similar subjects are shelved together in the Library. If you know of a book that is on your topic, browse the area around the shelf where the book is shelved for other materials of possible interest.

HOLDS: If a book that you are interested in has been borrowed by someone else you can place a "hold" on it yourself at the nearest On-line Terminal, so that you are notified when it is returned. As this can take some time, especially if you are not first in line, it is a good idea to start your research early.


These can be highly specialised original reports or more general information pamphlets. There is a separate Government Publications Department on the second floor of Main Library which contains over 375,000 government publications from Canada, the US, the UK and the UN. These include a vast array of technical reports, environmental impact studies, and general information brochures. The materials in this Department are listed in the Library's On-Line Catalogue, or you can ask at the Reference Desk in Government Publications. There is a separate index to the U.S. Government Printing Office held on microfiche by the Government Publications Department available through the subject access section of the Library's On-Line Catalogue system Don't overlook this important source of information!


Periodicals include such resources as magazines, journals, and newspapers. Articles found in them can provide you with both primary and secondary sources of information. They usually cover topics that are narrower in scope.

Carefully evaluate the periodicals you use for sources. Do they contain articles based on original research or do they just compile the work of others? Is the periodical scholarly or popular in nature? Are the articles reviewed by peers in the field, as is the case with most academic journals? Or are they just edited? Is there a detectable bias to the periodical as a whole? Answering these questions will help you evaluate the information that you obtain.


To find articles on your topic you must use Periodical Indexes and Abstracts. These list and index (by author, title, subject, etc.) the articles published in selected periodicals within a prescribed discipline or field. Abstracts have a short summary of the articles in addition to the indexes already mentioned. (Save yourself a lot of time and frustration by asking a Library staff member how to use them.) Most of the current literature is indexed through online editions.Click here for the ones most related to Engineering

Consult the indexes or abstracts appropriate to your topic,Click here for all available subjects and then check the On-line Catalogue to see if what you want is in the Library. If the Library does not have the particular publication you need you can still obtain it through the Library's Interlibrary Loan Service.


Dissertations held in the Library are listed in the On-Line Catalogue. Recent Theses are available online. Canadian Theses PortalOther dissertations can be identified by using Proquest Digital Dissertations. However, microfilms of American dissertations must be purchased, and Canadian dissertations cannot always be borrowed through the Interlibrary Loan Service. Enquire at any library for details.


There is nothing more frustrating than trying to write a paper and finding that you are missing the citations to the sources you have used! As you do your research, compile a working bibliography of the sources you consult which you can keep or discard for the formal bibliography.

There are many formats you can use for citing sources in a bibliography. If your instructor has not stated a preference choose one from the list of style guides and standards listed below. Whatever you use, be consistent!

Style Guides And Standards

American National Standard for library and information sciences and related publishing practices - basic criteria for indexes. ANSI Z39.4 - 1984.
American National Standard for library and information sciences - abbreviations of titles of publications. ANSI Z39.5 - 1985.
American National Standard guidelines for format and production of scientific and technical reports. ANSI Z39.18 - 1974.
ENGIN/Ref TK275 .I.591

AMERICAN NATIONAL STANDARDS INSTITUTE. American National Standard for the preparation of scientific papers for written or oral presentation. ANSI Z39.16 - 1979.
ENGIN TK275 .I.591

AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS. ASCE authors' guide to journals, books, and reference publications. New York: A.S.C.E., 1988.
ENGIN/Ref T11 .A54 1988

ENGIN/Ref T11 .A545 1984

Chicago manual of style for authors, editors, and copywriters. 14th ed. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993.
ENGIN/Ref Z253 .U69 1993

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA. Government of Canada style manual for writers and editors. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1966.
ENGIN/Ref Z253 .C271

THIBAULT, D. Bibliographic style manual. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1990.
ENGIN/Ref Z1001 .T45 1990

Writing Your Term Paper:

A selection of guides for the final preparation and writing of research reports and term papers is given in the separate Engineering Library guide "Scientific & Technical Writing". For many others consult the Online Catalogue under the subject headings TECHNICAL WRITING and REPORT WRITING.


Education Library
ENGIN: Engineering Library
NAT: Natural Sciences Library
LAW: Law Library
MAIN: Main Library
MED: Health Sciences Library
VET: Vet Med Library

Res: Reserve Collection
Ref: Reference Collection


The following is a guide to where engineering information can be found in the library system:


Main location for all aspects of engineering and the applied sciences, including chemical engineering, hydrology, waste and hazardous waste disposal, water pollution, nuclear power, environmental engineering and testing, etc.


Contains information and resources in the agricultural, biological and soil sciences, ecology, geography and general science. Most books and materials on environmental subjects are located here including environmental chemistry, environmental engineering, environmental health, environmental protection, environmental policy, etc. Government Documents is also located in the Main Library. See below for more details about this.


Houses materials related to the Geological Sciences including geological engineering, mining, hydrogeology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, Biology and Computer Science.


Has materials on all aspects of law, including contractual, environmental, and safety law.


The Government Publications Department contains almost 400,000 publications from Canada, the United States, Great Britain, the United Nations, the European Economic Communities and a few other international agencies. The materials held in the Department are included in the Library Catalogue available through the On-Line Catalogue. The Maps area contains over 85,000 maps, the largest part of which are topographic maps published by the Canada Map Office. Over 1.2 million items are held in the Microforms area, in a number of different formats, including many U.S. Government documents which are indexed in the USGPO database, also on theOn-Line Catalogue. These Departments are on the third floor of the Main Library.