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Engineering Majors Research Skills
What Should Engineering Majors Know?
By the time they graduate all majors in Engineering should be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and use information effectively and ethically. Specifically they should be able to:
- Describe the scholarly process of research design and communication of results;
- Negotiate the information resources available at Smith, on-line, and in the profession;
- Recognize, evaluate, and undertake high quality engineering research;
- Maintain the research skills they will need as successful engineers keeping abreast of new innovations in technology;
- Use these information literacy skills in self-directed and lifelong learning
Writing Intensive Classes
Students who have taken writing intensive classes should already have learned basic information skills and be able to:
- Define and articulate the need for information and identify a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information beyond the web search engine
- Identify some kinds of information they need – typically writing intensive courses focus on non-scientific types of information such as biographical, historical, or literary -- and to know where to find it. In other words, they should be familiar with various electronic resources, particularly the MLA Bibliography, and some reference books. They should also be aware that web search engines are often inadequate for scholarly research.
- Articulate and apply initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources – what is a source’s reliability? Who wrote it? When? Who published it?
Students should be able to distinguish between popular and scholarly materials in a variety of formats such as books, periodical literature, and websites.
- Acknowledge and cite the sources used in conducting research for an assignment using an acceptable style guide. Citations are appropriate in that students can discern when it is necessary to cite sources, and provide citations in an appropriate and consistent format. Students can identify ethical and unethical citations, per the online plagiarism quiz.
These skills may be regarded by all students as a base for further study. Help is available through the Smith College Libraries’ Ask a Librarian options.
Beginning Engineering Majors
At the end of the second year (completion of EGR 100 and a series of three to four 200- level classes including EGR 260) engineering students should be able to:
- Access a variety of scholarly resources in engineering, including general references, technical handbooks, patent databases, and peer-reviewed journals.
- Enumerate different approaches to acquiring data: literature search, field measurement, laboratory measurement, computer simulation, expert elicitation, and estimation.
- Evaluate the merits of the research they are citing as well as the credentials of the investigators;
- Distinguish between peer-reviewed sources and other types of information in engineering
- Identify specific disciplines in engineering, their professional organizations and related bodies of literature;
- Explain how knowledge is produced in science and engineering, and the importance of peer review for advancing knowledge in the field;
- Evaluate the quality of web-based information, and articulate a critique of search engines as a delivery vehicle for information
- Present visual information with appropriate labeling, including units
- Attend to precision and accuracy issues in presenting information, including error estimation.
- Recognize the expertise of reference librarians and ask for help at appropriate times
- Beginning students undertaking research in engineering must learn the appropriate use of basic scholarly reference sources, such as the following:
|Source||Science Call Number|
How Stuff Works
|Patent Databases||e.g. U.S. PTO Database|
|Standards||e.g., ANSI, ASTM, ASME, IEEE, ISO, NIST|
General News Magazines
|Prism Magazine (ASEE)||back issues|
|IEEE Spectrum||TK 1 .I15|
|Techology Review (MIT)||T 171 .M47 / online|
|Chemical and Engineering News||TP 1 .C35 / online|
|Science||Q 1 .S35 / online|
|Issues in Science and Technology||Q 127 .U6 I77 / online|
|Students will be familiar with topical and subject based scholarly encyclopedias in education.|
- To locate scholarly engineering sources students need to become skilled users of standard databases such as (but not limited to) the following:
|Resources||SCL Website Locations|
|Books & Media:
Five College Library Catalog
and the WorldCat database
- Beginning students should be prepared to alter search terms to find materials when their first try is unsuccessful.
- The following represent important specialty journals for six areas in engineering:
|Specialty Resources for Fields in Engineering||Science Call Number|
Q 130 .J68
|Journal of Engineering Education||T 61 .J64|
|IEEE Transactions on Education||T 61 .I2|
|See also Proceedings of Engineering Education
conferences sponsored by ASEE
|Civil and Environmental Engineering|
|ASCE's Electronic Information Retrieval Service
Earthquake Engineering Abstracts
Environmental Science and Technology
TD 180 .E5 / online
|Journal of Environmental Engineering||online only|
|Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management||online only|
|Journal of Engineering Mechanics||online only|
|Journal of Structural Engineering||online only|
|Journal of Hydraulic Engineering||online only|
|Water Research||online only|
|Water Resources Research||GB 651 .W32 / online|
|Advances in Water Resources||TC 1 .A27 / online|
|Journal of Industrial Ecology||TS 161 .J68 / online|
|Environmental Engineering Science||TD 811.5 H3957|
|Risk Analysis||online only|
|SciFinder Scholar (availbe in Young Library only)||click here|
|AIChE Journal||TP 1 .A634 / online|
|Environmental Progress||online only|
|Chemical and Engineering News||TP 1 .C35 / online|
|Electrical and Computer Engineering|
|Databases & Other Resources|
|Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Digital Library||click here|
|Computer Science Database||click here|
|Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electonics Engineering||click here|
|ACM Transactions||ACM Digital Library|
|IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering||R 895 .A1 I25|
IEEE Transactions on Education
|T 61 .I2|
|IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement||UMass|
|IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging||UMass|
|IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks||UMass|
|IEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering||UMass|
|IEEE Transactions on Speech and Audio Processing||TK 7882 .S65 I38|
|PubMed (Medline)||click here|
|Biological Abstracts||click here|
|Annual Reviews: Biomedical Sciences||click here|
|Journal of Applied Biomechanics||TA 1 .U6|
|IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering||R 895 .A1 I25|
|International Journal of Sport Biomechanics||RC 1235 .I5|
|NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)||click here|
|Journal of Applied Mechanics||TA 1 .U6|
|Journal of Fluids Engineering||TA 357 .T69|
|Journal of Mechanical Design||TA 174 .J692|
|Journal of Materials Research||TA 404.2 .J68|
Advanced engineering students should be able to:
- Document sources accurately, in correct and consistent formats. No single format is standard in engineering; therefore the important thing is to use any given format in a correct and consistent way.
- Conduct a patent search.
- Solve an engineering problem where they must identify the need for and locate supporting data from engineering references or the literature.
- Apply their skills in order to lay the groundwork for independent research with faculty guidance.
- Glean information from visual presentations of data such as psychrometric charts, correlation curves, bar charts, pie charts, Moody diagram, nomographs, etc.
- Select appropriate graphical formats (line chart, bar chart, scatter plot, pie chart, schematic, flow chart, Venn diagram, etc.) for presenting information. Develop professional graphics with attention to scale, axes, labeling, units, etc.
- Recognize the tradeoff between the value of information and the time and cost to obtain it.
- Choose appropriate approaches for acquiring data: literature search, field measurements, laboratory measurement, computer simulation, and estimation.
- Use sophisticated search strategies including the use of multiple keywords, Boolean operators, truncation, multiple searches, multiple databases, and other strategies where necessary. They should be able to follow citations and cited references to obtain additional articles.
- Read scientific papers efficiently, making use of abstracts and conclusions to discern when it is useful to obtain or read an entire work.
- Read scientific papers critically, distinguishing among facts and opinions, comparing a variety of sources to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias.
- Understand and use statistical treatment of data as evaluative criteria.
- Design and conduct experiments to gather data in the laboratory or field, and analyze and interpret those data.
- Validate understanding and interpretation of information through discourse with other individuals, small groups or teams, subject-area experts, and/or practitioners.
- Present data in oral, visual, and written forms clearly and professionally, selecting appropriate media and formats for the intended audience.
In Which Classes Should Students Learn These Skills?
The Engineering Program proposes to incorporate information literacy into the following courses.
|Beginning||EGR 100: Engineering for Everyone
EGR 260: Mass and Energy Balances
EGR 220: Engineering Circuit Theory
EGR 270: Continuum Mechanics I
EGR 271: Continuum Mechanics II
EGR 273: Mechanics Laboratory
|Advanced||EGR 320: Signals and Systems
EGR 321: Digital Signal Processing
EGR 330: Engineering and Global Development
EGR 380: Neuroengineering
EGR 410: Engineering Design Clinic
EGR 373: Skeletal Biomechanics
EGR 390: Topics in Engineering (Acoustics, Risk)
EGR 430: Senior Thesis
In addition, the engineering department works closely with students in conducting original research. Students may work in faculty labs or, with faculty approval, initiate an independent research project. In both of these instances students are routinely asked to conduct literature searches in order to contribute to the research enterprise. Students who work with faculty on research often enroll in Engineering 400 (Special Studies) or Engineering 430d (Honors Thesis).
In What Ways Will Student Skills be Assessed?
Students in EGR 100 normally do the College-wide plagiarism challenge quiz and receive instruction from a College librarian about using engineering sources appropriately. Students incorporate this in a semester-long project, for which they must conduct background research using peer-reviewed and other literature. Furthermore, students are introduced to issues in the presentation of visual information through a case study such as the Challenger accident and through numerous oral presentations and written reports throughout the semester.
Students in EGR 260 engage in a semester-long life-cycle assessment project which entails the construction of an annotated bibliography and a reflection evaluating the sources, which are required to include peer-reviewed work, patents, and other sources. Students also learn the basics of data presentation and the ethics of citing sources appropriately. In EGR 270, students produce an educational video about motion. To do this, they must find relevant information, evaluate its quality, and cite it ethically.
In EGR 220 and 273, students engage in laboratory work in which they plot data and discuss the results.
In advanced courses, students complete projects and term papers where sources reflect the use of a variety of engineering sources, including peer reviewed journal articles. Students should be prepared to defend the validity of sources cited. For example, in EGR 373, students write a 20-page term paper on a research topic of interest to them in the field of orthopaedic bioengineering, based on peer-reviewed publications in the medical, basic science and engineering literature.
In EGR 410, students prepare multiple formal written and oral reports about their team-based design projects that include (1) discussion and understanding of relevant background research (2) technical documentation of the students' designs and design process, and (3) visual presentation of design results. They deliver the written reports to their sponsoring organizations, and present their work orally to a wide audience, including students, faculty, alumnae, and practicing engineers. Students complete individual assignments based on readings or case studies that require analysis, reflection, and citation of external sources. Students conduct patent searches of technology connected with their design projects. Students also participate in discussions of engineering ethics, some of which address faulty communication and/or information.
Authorship - Students must learn how to make clear distinctions between received knowledge and the production of new knowledge. The ethical use of information means that students must be able to acknowledge when they incorporate the work of others into their own work. Therefore, every written or oral production in the discipline must clearly state its sources. This extends to visual information, written information, and data collections. This ethical issue will be enforced in all engineering courses at Smith College. Students should be able to identify when and how to acknowledge contributors to original work, awarding authorship and acknowledging other assistance appropriately.
Proprietary Information – Engineering students must recognize that information may be proprietary, have limited access, or require specific data management expertise. Students need to have an understanding of organizational structures involved in data production and management. Students should be able to discern a plan of action when they face a choice around divulging proprietary information in the public interest
Honesty in data presentation – Students must be able to recognize prejudice, deception or manipulation in data collection or use, ethical issues in data omission, and the need to present all information that is pertinent, without skewing or excluding data that impact an individual’s value system. Students should be able to recognize conflicts of interest and agenda-setting in the scientific establishment that determine (for example) which projects are funded, and use this information in evaluating scientific information.
Experimental Subjects – Students should be familiar with ethical issues, standards and process for data acquisition with human and animal subjects.
March 7 , 2007