This guide is here to help you when researching for your Engineering projects and assessments.

Each section introduces the steps you should take when researching for an assessment. You'll find links to videos and resources that will give you the tools to find great information. Use the activities on the Test Your Knowledge tab to see what you need to revise.

Getting started

The first thing is to make sure you clearly understand the task and what topic you are seeking information for; this is called topic analysis.

With an understanding of your task you then need to plan how you will search for information. This starts with identifying keywords and phrases from the task and brainstorming related terms.

Let's use an example research essay task:

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using seawalls to reduce coastal erosion.

Keywords Synonyms or related terms
coastal erosion coast, shoreline, coastline, shore erosion, loss, displacement, abrasion...
seawalls sea wall, revetments, vertical, sloping, curved, mound...
advantages and disadvantages*  

*Broad terms like these may not be helpful or effective when searching in databases. If you know specific advantages or disadvantages list them as keywords. You should also discover relevant terms as you start researching and can include these in future searches.

For guidance in topic analysis check out:

Create a search strategy

When you search using Primo Search or a library database use the keywords you identified above to create your search. Combine the keywords with search operators, rather than searching with a whole sentence or question. Search operators tell Primo or the database how to search with your keywords.

Search Operator Example
Use AND to retrieve results that contain both of your search terms. coastal AND erosion
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. coastal OR shoreline
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. shoreline NOT lake
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase. "sea level"
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (coast OR shoreline) AND erosion
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. manag* = manage, managed, managing, management
A question mark can be used to replace a single letter within a word. analy?e = analyse, analyze

For your assessment topic potential search strings could include:

  • seawall AND erosion
  • seawall* AND erosion
  • seawall* AND (coast OR shoreline) AND erosion

Remember: you will need to try a range of searches. Don't stop after just one.

To understand how search operators work check out:

Choose the right place to search

Before you start searching, think about what types of information you need and where you can search to find those types of resources.

Primo Search

Primo Search is a good place to start as it allows you to use one search box to bring back results from most of our Library collection including books, eBooks, journal articles, newspaper articles and more. You may get a large number of results and some of these will be from outside your subject/discipline area. Check the content is relevant to your assessment task before you use it.

Library databases

Databases will help you find academic resources and are often subject specific. You will get fewer results than Primo, but they will be more relevant to your subject/discipline. 

I recommend trying the following database:

The Engineering list has more databases you can search.

Don't restrict yourself to just "your" discipline list, there may be relevant databases in other discipline areas. As our example essay question has a focus on coastal erosion it may be helpful to search in Environmental Science databases.


Learn how to search efficiently in Primo and Library databases:

Using the internet

The internet is a great place to locate background information and additional resources outside of scholarly publications. These resources, often referred to as grey literature, can include government reports, consumer issues, companies’ information, statistics, latest news, design manuals, technical reports and more.

Most often you'll use Google to search the internet. There are tips and tricks you can implement to make the most out of Google Search and improve the relevance and quality of your results. These strategies are slightly different to those offered in Primo Search and journal databases.

You can also find recommendations in our guides linked below.

Using standards

As engineering students you will regularly need to use standards.

If you don’t know the standard you need:

  • Check if it’s been mentioned in your provided readings/documentation or other resources you’ve found
  • Try a quick Google search

When you have the standard number and/or name use Standards Online to access Australian Standards.

Standards Online search tips:

  • Search with the standard number only. Don't include the prefix and year/date
  • Check the status column to make sure it’s current

Standards Online isn't your only option. Remember to check relevant state government websites. See the Engineering Library Resource Guide, and your subject content for guidance and recommendations.


Using credible information will improve the quality of your assessment and may result in better marks, but how can you tell whether the resources you've found are credible and suitable for your assessment? Have you been asked to use peer reviewed, academic or refereed articles? Are you using authoritative websites?

The information below will help you evaluate the information you find, in books, journal articles, or online to make sure it’s reliable.

Reading, writing, and referencing

The Academic Skills team help you build your writing, referencing and reading skills to be successful at Uni.

Check out their support and resources under Learning Skills in the Student Portal.

Here are some pages to get you started:

To find out how to reference standards, council guidelines, plans and drawings and other engineering specific resources, you can use the Engineering Addendum to the APA Referencing Summary.

Using AI

Have you been asked to use Generative AI Tools (GAITs) in your assessment? Or are you thinking of using GAITs for research and study? 

Make sure you are aware of the risks associated with using GAITs:

  • Academic integrity
  • Plagiarism
  • Inaccurate content
  • Intellectual property
  • Privacy concerns.

For more information see:

Microsoft Copilot

Microsoft Copilot is a chat interface that uses ChatGPT 4 to generate answers based on questions or prompts that you write.

Copilot is free, does not require a login and provides real-time information and citations. To learn more check out the Digital Skills modules.

Keen for more?

If you're interested in finding out more, check out the following: