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I need to do a paper for my ME2500 class about a famous engineering accident. How can I find sources for this paper?

Last Updated: Sep 02, 2015  |  72 Views

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Here is a step by step process for finding sources for the ME2500 accident paper.

Step one - What do you already know about this incident?  What information has your professor given you on this accident or engineering failure? Find out some general facts - this will help with all of the next steps.
You can do this by just going to Google and typing in some keywords relating to your topic (Previous papers have covered the Quebec Bridge Failure; American Airlines 191; Estonia Ferry Disaster).  Often, the first few sites that show up will have a lot of good background information.  Wikipedia in particular is a good place to get basic background information.

Once you've done this, start to look for accident investigation reports on the Web.  The National Transportation Safety Board official aircraft accident reports are often posted on the web (see link below). Find the report and read this with a fine toothed comb, pulling out all available information, particularly any design failures, material failures, stress/strain etc. In particular, look for anything related to engineering concepts that you know about. Read all this material and make a list of relevant keywords.  For example:

structural separation

Step two - Brainstorm other useful keywords to use in searches - not just related to this specific crash but to accidents/failures of the type you are dealing with (aircraft crashes, bridge failures, etc.). You will need these to do your online searches.  Examples of keywords relevant to this paper are:
aircraft safety
accident investigation

For help with Brainstorming keywords, see the video link below.

Step three: Search for relevant books in our catalog using the link below.

Search "Books and Media" using Library Search on the WMU Library Homepage.
Try searching on keywords that you've come up with for books on this or related topics.

Step four - Figure out what databases to use to find journal or conference articles on this topic.

You can see most of the engineering databases listed here:
I would start with the Engineering Village database.
One additional suggestion: after you've searched the databases above, you should try searching Google Scholar (if you have not already) for other articles or technical reports that did not show up in the official databases.  You can change the preferences in Google Scholar to include the "Find it @ WMU" link that tells you whether we have access to particular articles in Waldo Library.  Go to "Scholar preferences" next to the search button.  Under preferences, scroll down to "Library Links" and type in Western Michigan University and click "Find Library."  Select every option that shows up and then click "Save Preferences" at the bottom of the page.  Now when you search Google Scholar, most articles with have a "Find it @WMU" link next to them, which you can click to see if we have full text access to the article.
Step five - Conduct your searches, looking for relevant articles
Use the keywords you collected in step 2.
Step six - Try to access the full text of the articles.
To do this, click on the "Find it @ WMU" link to see whether we have the article online.  After clicking on that link, you will see options for full text online or within the library.  If we do, there will be a link  under the heading "View Online"  We may also have print (hard copies) of some journals in the library.  If so this will be listed under the heading "Get in Print."
Articles that we do not have in full text online or within the library you can request through interlibrary loan - we will order copies from another library.  To see how to use this service, go here:  You will need to sign up first to use this service if you never have before.
Step seven - If having trouble, contact the engineering librarian Ed Eckel ( and you can set a time to meet. 

I hope this helps get you started.  There is a lot of material out there, but you'll have to dig for it.


Ed Eckel
Engineering Librarian
Phone: 269-387-5140

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