Digital Reference Services for Engineers

Definition of an Engineer
Types of Information Sources
Accessibility / Ease of Use
Technical Quality
Stages of Information Seeking
The Reference Interview
Digital Reference
References (pdf)
Appendix (pdf)

Definition of an Engineer

To meet the reference needs of engineers it is important to understand the nature of their job. Engineers work in a variety of different work environments and can be involved in many different sub-specialties of engineering (for example aeronautical, petroleum, chemical, civil, mechanical, or electrical). Within their various work settings, an individual engineer can have many different roles such as research and development, design, consulting, and management. Each of these different roles and specialties can have different information needs (Leckie, Pettigrew, & Sylvain, 1996). Engineers often work in a corporate environment on projects with specific time deadlines. They require large quantities of information to execute their projects. Their job involves analyzing this information and then transforming it to produce a physical product (unlike scientists who often produce a written result such as a journal article). A key psychological trait of most engineers is that they are highly independent and prefer to solve problems on their own (Pinelli, 1991). This independent nature coupled with the varied, time constrained nature of the job can pose challenges for designing reference services.