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Mechanical Engineering

Basic Search Tips

Search Effectively: Male using a mobile phoneUnlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. You will need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - the KEYWORDS.

Example Topic: 

  • How is 3D printing being utilized in the field of mechanical engineering?


  • 3D printing
  • mechanical engineering

3D printing and mechanical engineering are highlighted

Remember! When searching databases, you only need to include the most essential components.

Brainstorm: Person writing on colored sticky notesMost words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym or another very similar keyword. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!

Example 1: 

Keyword: 3D printing

Possible synonyms: additive layer manufacturing

Example 2:

Keyword: rapid prototyping

Possible synonyms: rapid prototypes, fabrication, scale model

Keep an Eye Out!

Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.

Focus: Person holding a magnifying lensMost library databases have search tools built in.

Try some of these:

  • Subject: 
    Think of subjects as official hashtags. Use them to find sources about that subject.
  • Date Range: 
    Limit your search to sources published between specific years.
  • Peer Reviewed: 
    Limit your search to scholarly journal articles.
  • Full Text: 
    Make sure all of the results are available to read in full.

Look on the left and right of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools - and more!

Advanced Search Tips

Venn diagram: rapid prototyping AND 3D printing


Use the operator AND to find only sources that mention your keywords:

  • rapid prototyping AND 3D printing

Add Keywords

Add more keywords in order to focus the results even more:

  • rapid prototyping AND 3D printing AND surgical

Venn diagram: surgical OR surgeryUse OR

Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords:

  • surgical OR surgery

This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.

Combine OR and AND

A great way to use OR, is to combine it with AND. So, to expand your search results, you could try this:

  • rapid prototyping AND (surgical OR surgery

When you do this, put parentheses around the keywords connected with OR. Now you will have a list of results that all mention rapid prototyping, and either surgical or surgery.

Choices IconIf your search results are not what you expect, there are several options you can try.

Use Quotation Marks

If your results don't seem to match up with your keywords, try putting quote marks around exact phrases. This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.

"rapid prototyping" AND "3D printing"

Check Your Spelling

It's always a good idea to make sure that your search terms are spelled correctly. You may also need to try using a different form of a word

Ask a Librarian!

Sometimes you just need to ask for help. Some research topics are more tricky than others and getting help from a librarian can save you a lot of time.