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CIE 100: Introduction to Civil & Environmental Engineering

Searching URSUS (Books, Gov. Publications) Searching Indexes and Databases for Articles Searching for Technical Reports and Data  Searching Newspapers Sustainable Engineering on the Web

Searching for Technical Reports and Data

For engineers, technical reports and data are often the most important types of information sought for up-to-date, primary source material. This type of information lies in a murky area of information sources aptly called "gray literature". Some gray literature can be found in traditional abstracts, indexes and databases such as Environmental Science Collection, but more often than not technical information does not get published in traditional venues. Often we must search archives or websites of the organizations and agencies that produce the literature, and often gray literature can be found in corporate or academic repositories.

Selected Resources

Chemical Data Access Tool (CDAT) NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)
Current Index to Statistics National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Publications
DOE Data Explorer National Sea Grant Library Database
EIS: Digests of Environmental Impact Statements National Technical Reports Library
Energy Citations Database NISEE Database of University Research Reports Series
Geothermal Technologies Legacy Collection Proquest Statistical Insight
GreySource Index Science Accelerator
(MEMAP) Maine Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program Index  

Search Examples

Tip 1: While some of the tips provided in the URSUS examples also apply to technical reports databases, more often than not these databases do not provide the robust search features that URSUS and our licensed databases have. It is a good idea to start your search with broad search criteria or else you may not get any search results at all.

Tip 2: Every database has it's unique characteristics and features. If you are not getting the intended search results, be sure to read the help files provided by each vendor on their respective database page.

Tip 3: Many of the technical information databases listed above will provide full-text pdf documents, but this is not always the case. If you are having trouble finding the full text of one of your search results, feel free to contact me for help.

Example 1: In this example we will find technical information published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) related to their offshore wind turbine projects.

  1. Start at National Renewable Energy Laboratory Publications.
  2. Change the drop down menu labeled More Fields... to Abstract.
  3. Enter the search word Offshore into the adjacent search field. Leave all other drop down menus and search fields alone. Click the Search button. (screenshot)
  4. You should get around 99 results. Click on the linked report titles to view the abstracts. Click on the pdf icons to open the full text documents.

Example 2: In this example we will find technical information related to greywater treatment and use. We will use the Science Accelerator search engine. Science Accelerator actually searches fourteen different databases at once. Science Accelerator does not understand Boolean search operators and it automatically "ANDs" all keywords together. So, it is best to search using only one keyword, or a phrase wrapped in quotation marks.

  1. Start at Science Accelerator.
  2. In the search field, enter Greywater. Click the Search button.
  3. It may take up to a minute for the search to complete, because it is searching twelve unique databases at once. Click the Yes button when the search completes and it asks if you want to display all of the results. (screenshot)
  4. There should be about 240 results in the list. You may be happy with these search results, but you could also narrow them down more. In the Refine Results search box near the top of the page, enter the word Treatment and click the Refine Results button. You should now have about 110 results left in your list. Note: I would recommend reviewing the first set of results before trying to narrow them down or you may miss some good resources.

Remember! These examples are only a few ways to find information for your projects. Many other resources are available for students' use at the Science & Engineering Center on the 2nd floor of Fogler Library, and additional electronic journals and databases are accessible from the library's website.

If you need help finding resources, don't hesitate to contact us - that's what we're here for! There are many ways you can reach us:


Created by: Martin Wallace | Revised: 01/06/2014
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