Skip to main content

Information-Rich Engineering Design : Clarify Task/Establish the Context II: Background

Resources and strategies to promote the integration of high-quality information into the engineering design process

Types of Background Information

Local Culture

Demographics

Local Geography

Economic Conditions           

Political Environment
Legal Requirements
Project Budget

Technical Requirements

Cost Structure

Client Background

Safety

Health/Physiology
Availability of Resources
Availability of People
Learning as much as you can about the environment you are working in and the people you are working for will help you understand the problem you are trying to solve.  Since face time with clients and stakeholders is precious, learning as much as you can prior to meetings can help you make the most of the time, and get the best information from your personal interactions.  
For your project, which of these facets are most important to learn more about?  Not all will be applicable. 
Where will you find information about these topics?

Strategies for Locating Information

When looking for information on these topics, several strategies can be used to help focus a search:

  • Brainstorming keywords...including synonyms, since searching often only finds direct matches.  Consulting an subject encyclopedia or wikipedia can be a good *first* step to find preferred terms for a concept
  • Narrowing a search
    • using Boolean 'AND's to put search terms together when you are looking for specific information
    • limit by facets..most databases allow you to select results from particular authors, topics, dates of publication
  • 'Snowball approach'...if you find an item of interest in a library database, looking for combinations of subject headings and cited references can help you find 'more of the same.'

Resources

Here are a few places to get started looking for background information.