Good science and engineering reference books include the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms and Marks' Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers. A subscription to AccessScience lets you search both the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms and the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology. More reference materials are available at science and engineering libraries, including the New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL), which features the Premium Services research and document delivery department.
General questions about science and engineering are answered at HowStuffWorks. The WWW Virtual Library posts Web links to sites for Science and Engineering. To find other sites, use Google, Yahoo! or another good search engine.
Articles: Online sources for science and engineering articles include:
For Civil Engineering articles, you can also try The American Society of Civil Engineers' web site.
In addition to searching full text databases, you may be able to find a broader range of articles by looking at an at index, such as the Science Citation Index, the Civil Engineering Abstracts database, or the Engineering Index Compendex (the latter two are available on ProQuest Dialog). Article indexes are often held in science libraries, larger public libraries, and may be available through your public library system's web site. If you have a subscription or other access, many other science indexes are available through ProQuest Dialog, Web of Science and Scopus.
If you have a citation to a science or engineering article that is not readily available in print or online, you can order copies from a variety of document delivery services. I have received excellent service from the Linda Hall Library, Purdue's Technical Information Service, NRC-CISTI (place orders with infotrieve), and the University of Minnesota's InfoNOW (formerly ESTIS). Other sources: Wisconsin Tech Search, Reprints Desk, and Infotrieve.
Information on additional document delivery services is available from Jean Shipman's list of Document Delivery Suppliers.
Alternatively, check Full Text Sources Online to see if the issue with the article you need is available from another online source. Or look for the issue individually on Google Scholar, Ingenta, Lexis, Westlaw, ProQuest Dialog, etc.
For more possibilities, see "Periodicals."
Borrowing: Most common science and engineering books can be borrowed from the Linda Hall Library for Science, Engineering and Technology. You can check for materials through their online catalog. Their telephone number is 1-800-662-1545 (x701). If that doesn't work, call any local libraries (e.g., hospital libraries) that might lend to you and/or search WorldCat for other sources.
Conference Papers: You can search for conference papers using general search engines. For a broader scope, search the British Library Inside Conferences database on ProQuest Dialog.
Government Reports: Free U.S. government reports can be located through Science.gov. Reports distributed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) can be searched and ordered through the
NTIS Web site, the NTIS National Technical Information Service database on ProQuest Dialog and other commercial vendors. The commercial vendors generally offer better searching, and some reports are instantly available in .PDF format.