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Capstone guidelines and information are here.

More information about Mid-year Progress Summary (from Prof. Li's email to you)
  • The progress summary should describe what has been completed, what still needs to be done, and any significant changes to the project proposal.
  • The annotated outline is the first draft of your project report including all the sections according to the MSSI Capstone Project Requirements. Each section has a concise description of the content to include in that section, specific to the project topic and tasks.
  • The outline must include a review of 5 references in the “Literature Review and Problem Definition” section. References must follow the “Reference Style” specified in “MSSI Capstone Project Requirements."
  • Outline should be have 500-1000 words, excluding the reference list, illustrations, figures, tables, etc.

For Writing Help

Also see the library's guide to Writing.


  • “Annotated” = “with notes”
  • “Annotated outline” = Has all of the sections of the FINAL Capstone report, with notes in every section. It also must have 5 references that you will be using in your final report.
  • “Citation” and “reference” are almost the same thing. “Citation” = author, title, journal or book title, year, and the other things required by IEEE or ACM style. A “reference” is a citation that you actually USE ("cite") in your reference list (also called "bibliography")

Writing Tips

  • Spell Check is good, but you must still read through it or have a friend read through it, because there are many words that mean different things. For example:  there / their;  great / grate
  • A Capstone is a formal piece of writing, so do not use informal language
  • What about authors who disagree with you or point out limitations to your approach? You should make sure to talk a about those; for example, "Some authors point out that _______. However, our approach avoids that problem by ______."
  • Every word and every sentence must be clear. If you use words like "it" or "he" or "those," make sure that the reader will know who or what the word is referring to.


  • Every paragraph must follow logically from the one before it -- if you are going to introduce a new subject, say something like, "Related to that is the concept of X," or "Now we will discuss Y."

Thesis Statement

Make sure that your thesis statement is very clear, and include evidence to support it.

---Here is a definition from the Writing Center at U. North Carolina Chapel Hill
"A thesis statement is “usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader...
The rest of the paper…gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your [analysis].”

---"How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement" (from U. Evansville, IN).

---More information about your thesis statement (adapted from Writing Style Guide, Trident International University):

  • The most effective writing is centered around one main point. All supporting points, details, and examples are related to that one main point, which is often called "the thesis statement."

  • The goal of academic writing is to inform, explain, and persuade, so this statement must be extremely clear.

  • Having a thesis statement can also help to keep you focused as you write.

  • Avoid saying “In this paper I will discuss...” Instead, use your thesis statement do these things:
    state the specific topic that you will be writing about
    express the purpose of the paper
    reveal your perspective about the topic
    provide a “road map” for your paper

Save your time! Use these search techniques:
  • Put quotation marks around PHRASES (two or more words), so that the words are searched together
    --- Example: "chicken pox"
  • Put an asterisk at the end of words, so that you get all of the word endings
    --- Example: high* = high, highs, higher, highest
  • Think of alternate spellings or synonyms
    --- Examples: house OR home OR dwelling OR residence; "cyber security" OR cybersecurity -- it's used both ways
    -- You should also add "information security" OR "computer security" OR "network security" or cyberdefense [this does not need quotation marks because it is only one word]
  • Start by putting your search words in the TITLE. If you get nothing, you can take them out of the Title and move them to "Anywhere."

Use journal articles to get:

  • a narrow or specific part of your topic
  • up-to-date information

For specialized article databases, go the library home page --> Articles & Databases --> Databases

  • You can choose an article database by its NAME or by its SUBJECT
  • In the list of SUBJECT databases, start with the ones listed under CORE, which are the best for that subject
  • To see what the database covers, click the little round "i" button next to its name


In all databases as well as Google Scholar, always use "Advanced Search."

  • This will let you focus your search to get better results, as well as save you a lot of time









In all library databases including Google Scholar, the FIND IT@JHU link will take you to all of the ways that you can get an article.

  • On a Hopkins computer, Google Scholar automatically shows you FIND IT@JHU  links
  • But on a non-Hopkins device (like your laptop), you should
    --- go to the library home page , choose "Articles and Databases," and use the "Google Scholar" tab, OR
    --- log in through the portal (, OR
    --- configure Scholar to show the links to you: in the upper left corner, click the little icon with 3 lines; choose "Settings"; choose "Library Links"; click "Save

If you do not see "FIND IT" next to a citation, look below the citation and click on the little arrow UNDER the citation. Usually, the FIND IT link will magically appear.








In your Google Scholar list of article results, you may also see books.

  1. If you click on the title, Google Scholar will take you to Google Books
  2. However, copyright law prevents them from showing you the whole book
  3. Search the library catalog for the book you want -- if we have it, you can see 100% of it!
  4. Remember that if we do not have a book in any format, you can request it through BorrowDirect or Interlibrary Loan (on the library home page under "Borrow and Request Materials")

In addition to news, news items can also provide the names of information sources about your topics.

Plagiarism -- It is extremely important to make sure that your writing does not use someone else's work without properly acknowledging it. Even "paraphrasing" (putting someone else's writing into your own words) must be done in a very careful way.

These tutorials will help you learn the basics of avoiding plagiarism. You will always need to know this, not only during your academic career, but throughout your professional career, too.

Here are the instructions to get to these tutorials.


For your citations (also called “references”):

  • The major citation styles are listed on the library’s Citing Sources guide

  • As Prof Li said (Feb. 25, 2019), you can use any citation style that you want (for example, APA, IEEE) but they cannot be in random order.
    Your references must be IN either:
    -- alphabetical by author, with in-text references according to whatever style you choose, OR
    -- in the order that they were used in your paper, with in-text superscript numbers


Citing Things That Are NOT Journal Articles

  • It can be hard to cite things that are not regular journal articles
  • The pieces that you need are mostly the same for everything -- author/editor (individual or corporate), title, date, publication/database, URL, date accessed
  • Always remember to give MORE information than NOT ENOUGH
  • For example, here are the pieces from a Gartner item: title, author, and date. You can also add the name of the database (Gartner), the URL for this page, and the date you accessed it

If you are having trouble citing anything, please contact Sue the Librarian (

RefWorks is the citation manager that is supported by JHU. It is free for you.

Use the NEW RefWorks! Log in here.
  • Here are video tutorials about the NEW RefWorks
  • NEVER search from INSIDE RefWorks. Always search from inside the database itself, such as Compendex

Your Reference List
  1. The "style" of your references must be either IEEE or ACM
  2. To create your reference list in RefWorks, choose "Create Bibliography," then click on "Create Bibliography"
  3. Enter either  "IEEE" or "ACM"
  4. Choose the IEEE or ACM style in YELLOW :



Keeping Track of Your References, When Using Superscripts in Text

A citation inside the paper (not at the end in the bibliography) is called an "in-text citation" or an "in-line citation."
Refworks has plug-ins to keep track of these. Please look at this page of the Refworks guide, and choose Write-n-Cite or Refworks Citation Manaqer.
If you are NOT using one of these tools, here is a way to keep track of your references:

If you make last-minute changes to your writing, make sure to keep track of which references go with which sentences.

The best way to do that is to use the author/date in the text, instead of the superscripts. When you are completely finished with your paper, your very last step should be changing those in-text author/dates into superscripts, and then creating your bibliography in whatever style you are supposed to use.


For HELP, contact Refworks Technical Support at 
or 775-327-4105 or or (toll free) 800-521-0600 ext 74440, Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm Eastern).
Or, click the question mark on the top right:

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Save Your Time and Use the Best Tools

ALL databases allow you to FOCUS your search, so that you get exactly what you want.

1. Engineering, Computer and IT Topics, and More -- Start with Compendex

2. Technology and Communications Industries

Gartner Advisory Intraweb -- This database has short articles and reports about the technology and communications industries

Start with "Advanced Search":

Just like all of the other databases, use the other features to FOCUS your search. Remember to start by putting your words in the TITLE, or TITLE and SUMMARY, and put PHRASES in quotation marks:

Notes about the Gartner database:

  • You cannot search the wholeGartner website at once. Here is a site map to help you find specific parts of the database
  • "Archived" means that the item is more than 1 year old
  • Here is their "IT Glossary" -- there are a few terms on the bottom, but use the alphabetical list to search for what you want

3. Law and Policy

  • CQ Researcher (Congressional Quarterly) has topics you can browse. For example, under Defense and National Security --> Technology are fairly recent (2015-2017) reports on cybersecurity
  • For help, contact Yunshan Ye, the librarian listed on the left of this page

4. Broad Search -- Google Scholar

  • In addition to the specialized databases listed above, most of the essay topics would benefit from a carefully focused Google Scholar search -- here's an example of using the Advanced Search to get decent results in Scholar (although still too many)

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