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Engineering: Technical Communications

Choosing a topic

Choosing a topic may take awhile.  It needs to be a topic of interest to you, and one with a reasonable scope (not too narrow or broad).  You also want a topic that has articles that you can understand.  Your interest may be enhanced if you pick an area you want to better understand, or one that concerns an industry, either an improvement is needed, or a problem needs to be eliminated.
  • One place to start is SUMMON (search box on Scholes Library Home page, or Advanced). Search for general information like a reference book ((e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica), magazine, or news.  
  • Search for a general topic area, then skim the articles and look at headings, subjects, and keywords for more ideas.

For more help email me.

Thesis Statement

Once you've decided on the topic, develop a thesis statement.  Will your paper be an analysis, examining and evaluating different issues on the topic?  Decide on what you want to convey with your analysis, and convey it in a strong sentence, usually at the end of your first paragraph.  

Endnote - Citation Management

EndNote will ease your approach to formatting your reference list.  It will store, manage, and format your citations into a compact listing.

The software is contracted and available only to AU students, faculty and staff.  It can be downloaded and installed from 

U:Drive -> Public -> AU Libraries -> Endnote

EndNote can easily create and export citations/references in a wide variety of styles.

Students should use the style of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in undergraduate and graduate engineering theses.


If an instructor asks you to use the "School of Engineering" style, follow the instructions below:

Place the SoE style (link below) in the EndNote styles folder after you install the program, so EndNote will format references with the correct style.   When you create your file in EndNote, "Select other style" in the Style box.  Scroll to add SoE as the style for your file. When you create your file, choose the SoE style (Select Other Style).

Finding Books and Articles for Your Topic

Once you pick your topic, you can pick a science database (next tab).  If there are few or no results, choose a broader subject area.  If you find too many results, narrow your subject area by:

  1. add more key terms (look at your results for more search terms (subjects or keywords)
  2. choose filters:
    1. type of material (book, journal article (news, scholarly, peer-reviewed)
    2. year published
    3. etc.
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Colorado State has a few guides for Engineers on writing reports, proposals, etc.

As you write your paper in Microsoft Word (or similar software), insert (copy and paste) your reference from EndNote into the proper location. It will automatically appear in cited form at the bottom of your paper.

For more help visit Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).