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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ME 470

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The subsequent pages feature library databases and resources that we recommend using in your search. 

A well-crafted literature review incorporates peer-reviewed journal articles as well as other forms of prior art.

What is Prior Art?

Prior Art is defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as "those references or documents which may be used to determine novelty and/or non-obviousness of claimed subject matter in a patent application." Prior art can take different forms.

In vernacular English, prior art is documentation from the published literature (scholarly articles, standards, technical reports, industry websites) that shows existing products, processes or techniques that pre-exist your design and demonstrate how your design innovates on those existing products, processes or techniques. 

Investigating Prior Art

As discussed in the take-home activity, when writing in an academic setting, it is of the utmost importance that you cite your sources and that your sources are refutable. We went over peer review in detail, but there are other forms of information that constitute prior art. 

Generating a robust bibliography and building a complete understanding of the prior art surrounding your project will require a variety of materials:

  • Peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Conference papers
  • Patents
  • Standards
  • Handbooks
  • Technical reports (government or industry)
  • Market/industry reports

A great place to start when familiarizing yourself with these materials is to reach out to your sponsoring organization or review any information your sponsor has already given. Ask yourself:

  • Has the sponsoring organization provided cited materials required for or associated with the project?
  • If your project is ongoing, did you receive any information from the previous senior design group(s)?
  • Have you or the sponsoring organization identified specific materials that are required for instrumentation or product design?
  • Have you or the sponsoring organization identified professional societies (SAE, ASME, etc.) whose best practices or standards need to be met?
  • Have you or the sponsoring organization identified technical reports or patents related to the product you are creating (whether produced by the company with which you are working or a competitor)?

The University Library connects you to far more than journal articles. If you run into any issues or have any questions, please reach out to your library contact.