Now that you have found an article on an engineering topic of interest to you, your assignment is almost complete. Now you must determine if the author of your article is credible and to do that you must find some information on the author; that is, his or her credentials- Information such as degrees earned, or place of employment, or organizations that the author belongs to professionally, or awards that the author has received, or any other piece of information tha you think qualifies this author to write the article you selected.
Where do I start?
First, go back to the journal where you found your article and make sure it is in fact a JOURNAL rather than a magazine.
Journals contain articles written by experts in the field; engineers if it is an engineering journal. Magazine articles are written by reporters. Reporters may be quite knowledgeable on a topic but they are not professional engineers. They are professional writers. Journal articles are also refereed by a group of peers, fellow experts, before they are chosen for publication. Magazine articles are not; they are selected by editors. And magazines typically contain advertising while journals, in general, do not.
(There are, of course, exceptions to these guidelines. For example, Scientific American certainly contains ads but the articles are written by experts not reporters.)
A very useful feature!
One feature that you will often find in a journal is very helpful. Many journals contain a brief biographical paragraph about each author with an article in that journal, i.e., information such as degrees, employment, research interests, and so on. This is precisely the information you need to determine the author's credentials. Again, not every journal will supply this and in some it can be quite brief. (e.g. The CIRP Annals will only tell you if the author is a member of the CIRP organization but this is in itself very significant.*)
Some journals, however, give no more than the author's name and affiliation or place of employment. And obviously this will make your search for author information a bit more tedious. But there are still places to look!
The first case is if the author is located at a college or a university or a research center. In this case simply search the web for the university home page using a search engine such as Google. Each university site is different but each should have a department or division section where you will find a list of faculty along with enough biographical information to determine an author's qualifications.
The second case is an author affiliated with a corporation or some other industrial center; or even some governmental center. While it is still possible to use a web search here, the results are not as helpful as in the first case. Corporate web sites tend to promote the corporation and its activities rather than its employees. But even here you should at least see a telephone number or an e-mail address and you can use this information to contact the author yourself and ask him or her to provide you with the information that you need to complete your assignment.
Here are some other sources and strategies you may try to find some author information:
-Try an author search in an engineering index (e.g. Compendex) to find more articles by the same author; multiple publications is evidence of research and expertise.
-Use a citation index (e.g. Science Citation Index) and see if the author has been cited by other experts in the field; more evidence of expertise.
-Try an author search in a patent database; yet more evidence.
-Use a newspaper index (e.g. Lexis/Nexis to see if the author has been in the news recently. (A popular magazine index, Readers Guide for example, may also work here.) The news report may supply some author information.
-Try Who's Who in Engineering REF TA139.E37 1995; a particularly noteworthy author might turn up here.
The final resort is addressed in case #2 above. If you can find NOTHING about an author, you are encouraged to contact the author in question directly and ask for an interview. Good luck in your quest!
* See International Directory of Engineering Societies and Related Organizations. (16th Edition.) AAES: Washington D.C. 1999.