The calculation of the energy release rate, G, by the virtual crack extension method has been used extensively in the literature over the last few years. A formulation and implementation of the energy release rate for use with 8 and 9-noded isoparametric thin shell elements is described in this paper. The representation used in the paper allows the calculation of G either as an integral part of a finite element analysis or separately in a postprocessing program using the stress and strain data from a finite element analysis as input. The results presented in the paper are compared with those published in the literature for several elastic as well as elastic-plastic crack problems.

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