Standards have been used for thousands of years as a means of ensuring uniformity and fairness in human communication, commerce, construction, and other endeavors. For example, what material is considered to represent value in trade in our society? Who is allowed to produce it? What should it be made of? Even the use of a common language is a standard of types - we both agree on what the words mean in order to interact with one another and share our thoughts and experiences.
Standards are particularly important in the field of engineering in order to protect people and ensure quality product development and production. Standards exist about a wide variety of topics - everything from the composition and properties of materials to the requirements for health care services. As shown in the figure below, standards can (and should) be used in every part of the design process.
Image from Solomon, D. (2023). Determining Standards Information Literacy Needs. In Leachman, C.; Rowley, E. M.; Phillips, M.; & Solomon, D. (Eds.), Teaching and Collecting Technical Standards: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators (pp. 43-52). Purdue University Press. https://www.press.purdue.edu/9781612498607/
When you are in the research stages at the beginning of a design project, you're at the perfect point to begin searching for standards relevant to your project. What kinds of materials will you use? What are the dimensions of your product? How can you test your product? Are there any concerns about compliance to safety codes for electricity, fire, etc? These are just a few of the questions that standards can help you answer!
There are a wealth of resources out there to help you learn more about what standards are, how they're developed, and how they can be used. Here are a few recommended items to check out:
The UAB Libraries do have copies of some specific ISO standards. The best way to find out whether we have access or not is to use OneSearch to find the specific ISO standard you're interested in. If we don't have the standard that you need, whether it is from ISO, ANSI, or produced by another organization, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL) or request that we purchase it and add it to the UAB Libraries collection.
You may also find our guide on Safety Data Sheets useful for your work.
While not technically UAB-subscribed databases, here are some other locations where standards can be searched for and viewed for free.
Note: Not all content from these sources are free, and some resources may require you to create an account with the webpage for access.
The following list of standards developing organizations (SDOs) that produce standards for many different engineering communities is not exhaustive. Many of these organizations are specifically for engineers working in the United States of America, but other organizations exist and maintain their own standards in other parts of the world.
The design of this page was partly adapted from Research: By Course, Subject, or Topic, by University of Arizona Libraries, © 2020 The Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of The University of Arizona, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.