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ECE 380: Product Analysis Report Resources

Tips and Resources for finding materials to complete an Engineering Product Analysis

Theory of Operations

Theory of Operation

A description of how a device, product, component, or system should work, the science behind how and why the product/device does what it does. Developing a theory of operation is the first part of your product analysis.

Here are a few very basic examples:

Finding "Theory of Operation" Examples

Research articles and conference proceedings frequently contain Theory of Operation explanations for new products and processes.  You can find these by searching a research article database like those listed under Research Databases for Product Analysis Report in this guide.


Search Tips

  1. Select a a database  that seems most likely to have related publications, then try other databases based on what you find
  2. Try a search using "theory of operation" in quotation marks with your product or component. Examples:
    • "theory of operation" and gyroscopes
    • exhaust and measurement and "theory of operation"
    • "flash memory" and "theory of operation"
  3. Once you've done an initial search, look at the results. Can you revise your search for more targeted results?
    • Look at the words used to describe the publications you found. These terms might be called Keywords, Topics, Subjects, Index Terms, Descriptors.  Are any of them right on target?  Then try searching that heading or descriptor
    • What terminology appears in the abstracts that describe the article? Is there a better way to describe your product to broaden the scope of your search or to focus it more narrowly?
  4. Near the top of the screen, databases will typically show you what search was performed. For example in the ACM Digital Library you will see: 7 Results for: [All: "theory of operation"] AND [All: "flash memory"]. Is that what you wanted the database to search?  If not, revise your search
  5. Look at the ways that you can Refine or Limit your search such as Content Type or Document Type.


Note: Depending on the product you've chosen to analyze, you may not find a theory of operation for your specific product. You may need to look for components of the product or similar products and extrapolate.

Product Analysis Process and Example

Product Analysis is a process of

  • Gathering, defining, and analyzing data about a product to make better decisions
  • Studying a product to understand its strengths and weaknesses

Through this process, you break down the product from end to end analyzing components, functions, technology, and costs.  Your goal is to gather consistent information for comparison.  You may want to set up a spreadsheet with columns for the product you are comparing and rows for the attributes


A Sample Process:

Start by answering these questions:

  • What is the function of the product? How does it work?
  • What are the major requirements of the product?
  • What is absolutely essential to satisfy these requirements?
  • What are the physical requirements or limits of the product?
  • What are the conceptual requirements or limits of the product?

These are not physical requirements, but must be met in order for this product to meet the overall requirements. Examples: the cost or time required to manufacture

  • What are the individual components of the product?
  • What additional features of the product are important?

Once you have answered these questions and have identified every component and feature. Create a 2-column spreadsheet or chart:

  • Left column: list all of the component parts and features
  • Right column: note the purpose of each component or feature. What is its purpose?


  • Identify which functions (right column) does your product need to fulfill?
  • Which features (left column) are absolutely essential to meeting the functional needs listed on the right?  These are design requirements


Sources: information on this page was adapted from What is Product Analysis on Chisel Blog and the Engineering Design Process: How to Analyze a Product on 

Basic Product Analysis Example - a Pair of Crutches

If we assume that crutches help people who need to walk using only one foot when they are injured, then:

What are the major requirements of a pair of crutches?

Crutches help the user:

  • Walk while using only 1 foot
  • Get around

What is absolutely essential to satisfy each of these needs?

Walk While using 1 foot requires a way for the user to balance

Getting around requires that the crutches are:

  • Light weight enough to carry
  • Small enough to transport

What are the physical requirements or limits of a pair of crutches?

  • Less than 2 pounds
  • Adjustable for people from 4-feet to 6-feet tall
  • Able to hold up to 200-pounds of weight

What are the conceptual requirements/limits of the crutches?

  • Must cost less than $30 each to manufacture
  • Product must be manufactured and available in 9-months

What are the individual components of crutches? What additional features are important?

Crutches features and functions chart with essential items noted

Image Source: Engineering Design Process: How to Analyze a Physical Product. Accessed Aug 8, 2023


Source: This example was adapted from the Engineering Design Process: How to Analyze a Physical Product. Accessed Sept 5, 2023; URL:

Assignment Tips

Tips from ECE380 Students

  • Search for a specific method of analysis to compare/analyze your product
  • Think about your product starting with the most basics aspects, then refine
  • Technical discussions of a product might be easier to find without using the product name
  •  Observe the results of your research attempts - what vocabulary do the professionals use?
  • First, focus on the application of the product to narrow down the search then select specific keywords for your search strategy
  • Use specific keywords to search, not just "how does ___ work"
  • Look at the specifics about each part individual part
  • Breakdown your device into the concepts that have been covered in class (examples: current division, power conversion) to make searching easier

Librarian's tips for your Assignment:

  1. Choose a simple product or device! The more complex the product the more complex the analysis and your timeline is short!
  2. Focus on:
    • Functions: What the product does
    • Features: How the product functions
    • What it takes to manufacture the product (e.g. Cost, timeline)
  3. Think generic product first, not brand names - i.e. gyroscopes not Sumitomo Gyroscopes
  4. You need objective performance criteria based on the science for comparison and evaluation
  5. Then compare this objective information to the specific product specs
  6. This is not a Marketing Analysis; not about Consumer ratings

Sources for this page

Information and examples on this page were adapted from: