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Engineering Guide: Finding Facts, Statistics, Standards, and Reports

What's on this page

Information like facts, statistics, standards, and government reports are not scholarly sources, but they still may be credible and useful for your research.

You won't always look for these in the same way you'd look for a scholarly article or a textbook. See below for tips on searching for non-scholarly sources.

You should evaluate all of your sources for credibility, but it is particularly important for sources like this, which have not already been scrutinised by the research community. The Information Essentials modules will help you assess the credibility of your sources.

Standards & Patents


Technical standards lay out the specifications of best practice, as decided by professional bodies of experts, to ensure a certain level of quality, safety, and consistency. Read more from Standards Australia (Australia's peak non-government standards organisation).

Most of you will need to be familiar with technical standards as part of your work. Standards are also useful for research in part because they allow you to compare actual practice and products against what professional groups believe should be done.

Find standards in standards databases, academic databases, and the websites of professional associations. Some databases are below.



Patents are a way of formalising intellectual property rights so that only the owner has the legal right to make or sell the creation. According to IP Australia, the Australian Government agency responsible for administering patents, trade marks and designs, "A patent is a right granted for a device, substance, method, or process that you have invented that is new, inventive, and useful when compared with what is already known."

If you're developing a new idea, check that it has not already been patented by searching on one of the sites below.

Many standards are available only in one location, and only to subscribers. Check what sort of content is available in each database, and log in using the ECU links below to ensure you have access to everything you should. You might need to create a separate personal login as well, particularly if you are trying to access standards produced by Standards Australia.

Most patent websites do not require an ECU login.

The person who registered the patent might not use the same words you would use to describe the invention. Think of synonyms you might use for each term, including technical terms. Try to be specific and accurate to limit the number of results: is there a material or a step in a process that you can use in your search?

Are you looking for Australian patents only, or patents from other countries as well? Some of the links below have international content.

Make sure the site you choose covers the time period you would expect this invention to have been created.

Resources to help you in your search:


Statistics can be difficult to locate, and you will not find rigorously collected data for every question you might have.

To locate good statistics, usually you will need to know which agencies (including government, educational, non-profit, and for-profit institutions) might be doing research in the area in question.


How to Find Statistics

Identify where to search

Start by identifying organisations that might be collecting the types of data you are looking for.​

  • Governments - Most statistics are collected by national and subnational government agencies, e.g. the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Office for National Statistics (UK).
  • International organisations - Organisations and institutions such as the World Bank, the United Nations, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) collect and collate statistics from different countries.
  • National organisations - Many national organisations and research bodies collect statistics on particular areas of interest, e.g. the Australian Council for Educational Research, Diabetes Australia.
  • Professional associations - Some professional bodies conduct research and publish survey findings, e.g. the Australian Institute of Management.

Note of caution: 

International statistics are dependent on the collection of data by national governments and other agencies, so the types, depth and dates of data are not always consistent between countries.

Collection of data within individual countries

  • changes over time,
  • may be inconsistent across states,
  • and can be disrupted by events such as regime change and war.

Some places to look: