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Brief Review: Information Sources in Engineering - 4th Ed, Edited by Roderick A MacLeod and Jim Corlett

:: The fourth edition of Information Sources in Engineering1, published in 2005 by Saur, and edited by Roddy MacLeod and Jim Corlett, has finally arrived on my desk. It is a massive work at 683 pages, and is part of the series, Guides to Information Sources.

The third edition of this title, edited by KW Mildren and PJ Hicks, appeared in 1996, and was divided into three sections, totalling 36 chapters: primary information sources (reports, standards, patents and patent information, journals, conferences and theses, and product information), secondary information sources (abstracts, indexes, bibliographies and reviews, electronic sources, and standard reference sources), and 27 chapters on specialized subject fields such as stress analysis, robotics and automated manufacturing, and thermodynamics and thermal systems. The fourth edition of Information Sources in Engineering expands somewhat on the primary and secondary information sources, while condensing the specialized subject fields of engineering to the more traditional disciplines such as chemical, civil, environmental, materials, mechanical, and so on.

The book opens with a chapter on engineers and their information needs. Martin Ward provides a useful introduction to engineers, covering their role in society, themes and aspects common to engineerings, and comparisons with scientists. He addresses theory and practice, and gives extensive coverage to the engineering knowledge base, examining its contents and the engineers' use of knowledge resources. I was surprised to find no references to the Tenopir and King book, Communication Patterns of Engineers2, published in December 2003, or to Thomas Pinelli's article, "Distinguishing Engineers from Scientists - The Case for an Engineering Knowledge Community"3, which appeared in the Vol. 21, No 3/4 2001 issue of Science and Technology Libraries. Perhaps neither was available before the chapter was completed. Regardless, no mention of either article does not detract from Ward's excellent introduction.

The twelve chapters that follow discuss in detail different categories of primary and secondary engineering information sources, including: journals and e-journals, reports, theses and research in progress, conferences, patents, standards, product information, electronic full-text sources, abstracts and indexes, bibliographies and reviews, internet resources, reference sources, and professional societies. Such an approach exposes the reader to the wide variety of categories and formats covering primary and secondary engineering literature.

The final fourteen chapters cover the main subject areas of engineering: aerospace and defence, bioengineering/biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical/electronic/computer, engineering design, environmental, manufacturing, materials, mechanical, mining and mineral process, nanotechnology, occupational safety and health, and petroleum and offshore engineering. The most extensive subject coverage is provided in the chapters on aerospace and defence (43 pages), civil (39 pages), materials (45 pages), and mechanical (54 pages long.) These and most other chapters include information on specific resources such as handbooks and manuals, indexes and abstracts, standards, directories, monographs, important journal and serial publications, statistical information, etc.

The length, style and content of each category and subject chapter varies. This should not surprise the reader, as the following is stated in the preface:

As with previous editions, contributions have not been subjected to restrictive editing, and the individual style of contributors have thereby been retained.
As a result, chapters do not comform to a editorial template or standard layout, which some readers may find a wee bit frustrating at times. For example, some chapters are primarily lists of resources, others mix discussion and commentary together with resource lists, and others feature mostly commentary.

One chapter warranting further mention is the one on materials engineering. The first 17 pages of this chapter cover in great detail the processes used by engineers to find material data. The authors, both engineers, explain that material data needs evolve in two ways. At the start of a project, the engineer needs "low-precision data for all materials and processes", whereas near the end, the need shifts to accurate, precise data for one or a small number of materials, where a richness of detail is needed. The authors discuss material data needs for design, screening and ranking for data structure and sources, supporting information for data structure and sources, and ways of checking and estimating data. The data sources for materials and processes are listed in the appendix, an extensive 26-page bibliography, listing titles in hard-copy, database, and Internet formats. Subject coverage includes pure metals, ferrous and non-ferrous, ceramics and glasses, composite materials, woods and wood-based composites, and natural fibres and other materials.

Information Sources in Engineering, 4th edition, is a worthwhile edition to the reference shelves of any library whose collections and services focus on one or more engineering disciplines.

(NOTE: I must mention that I am a contributor to the forthcoming title, Using the Engineering Literature (edited by Bonnie Osif), having written the chapter on petroleum engineering and refining. No comparisons were drawn between the two titles, which would have been impossible anyway, as I have not seen the other chapters of the book, which is to be published in the near future by Dekker.)

  1. MacLeod, Roderick A, and Jim Corlett, eds. 2005. Information Sources in Engineering. 4th ed. M√ľnchen: KG Saur.
  2. Tenopir, Carol, and Donald W King. 2004. Communication Patterns of Engineers. New York: IEEE Press, Wiley Interscience.
  3. Pinelli, Thomas. 2001. Distinguishing engineers from scientists: the case for an engineering knowledge community. Science and Technology Libraries: 21 (3/4), pp.131-163.
- Randy Reichardt


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