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ME 263: Background & Technical Research

Locating Background and Technical Information

Explore the context of the problem you are trying to solve. Some questions to guide you:

  • What information is out there generally related to the topic of your problem? 
  • How have others already solved or approached this problem, or similar problems?
  • What research has been conducted about this problem, or similar problems?
  • Are there other factors (e.g., local, global, environmental, social, political, cultural) that should be considered when thinking about this problem? 

Selected Databases for Getting Started with Your Research:

Try More Databases:

What is a Patent? (from: Purdue Libraries Patent Guide)

"A patent is a property right granted by a government agency (in the United States, it's the US Patent & Trademark Office) for a novel, useful, and non-obvious invention.  Patent protection lasts twenty years from the filing date and allows the inventor or their assignee to exclude other people from making, using, selling, or importing an invention."

Patent literature is a rich source of information for engineering design.  Patents searches are often conducted for one of three reasons: 

  1. to locate detailed technical information not available elsewhere;
  2. for patentability purposes, to start to determine if an invention is "novel" by assessing whether it is covered by an existing patent;
  3. to determine the "state of the art" in a given area of technology -- get design inspiration!

Purdue Libraries Database:

Free Patent Search Tools:

More resources available:

Patents Classification Search Tutorial (5 min) - Effective patent searching involves more than using keywords. Save time and maximize your success by completing this short module.

Additionally, the Library of Engineering and Science at Purdue University (located in the WALC) is designated a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) by the USPTO.  

PTRC staff are information experts trained to use search tools to access patent and trademark information.  Additionally, on-site, the library has access to PubWest and PubEast, patent examiner-based search systems.

According to ASME: A standard is "a set of technical definitions and guidelines, “how to” instructions for designers, manufacturers, and users. Standards promote safety, reliability, productivity, and efficiency in almost every industry that relies on engineering components or equipment." 

Compliance with standards in the design process is voluntary for companies, however, it may become mandatory if written into contractual business obligations and/or adopted by federal, state, or local regulations. Also, market conditions encourage many companies to comply with standards, even in cases where they are not mandatory.

It is important to have a general idea of the published standards that may impact your project early in the design process, when requirements are being established. You may dive deeper into standards during the detailed design phase.

Select Standards Databases @ Purdue:

More Standards Resources: