Engineers must think critically and engage in research constantly. As you are probably aware, sound technical design decisions must be supported by data on what’s out there, what has worked in the past, and how it works. Critical thinking and research for composition are no different. The research that you incorporate into your documents and other communications is necessary as a record and proof that the research has been done (and done well). Some considerations for how to engage in research that supports your design process are:

  1. Do research at the beginning. Don’t just assume that your idea is sound and that it is the best way to do things. Take advantage of the resources available to you by researching, in databases like IEEE Explore and the university library search to find out what methods have been proven best and how and also what other possible options might be.  Tutorials and information about how to conduct searches on sites like the OSU Library Website-Engineering Resources page could be very helpful for streamlining your process.
  2. Do research in the middle. When unanticipated questions arise, don’t rely on guesswork. Go back to research in order to deepen your understanding on topics that arise during the course of your project. Research at later project stages may also be relevant when you have a pre-existing opinion (based on your experiences, perhaps) about a method or argument that you think you support, but you need objective evidence to justify your claims. Providing support for your claims in the form of relevant data and findings from credible sources will not only strengthen your professional argument, it will also demonstrate your respect for the work of your colleagues.
  3. Analyze, interpret, apply, and integrate. Once you have found relevant research on a topic that you are writing or communicating about, your next task will be to find an appropriate way to incorporate that research into your document or communication. Analyze the information comprehensively, and be sure to include enough information about the ideas from the source into your composition so that the audience can understand what the source was, how the information was created, and why you are applying it to your treatment of the topic. Interpret the meaning of the ideas from the source with relationship to your own project and, specifically, the section in which you are including it in your document. Finally, integrate the information using a citation and appropriate transitions at the sentence-level to ensure the information flows well. Don’t forget to include the source in your reference list, prepared according to your course-appropriate IEEE formatting guide.

Here are a couple of examples of engineering documents that integrate research well:

Additional Resources  

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