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With the availability of journal articles and online technology, how can I suggest an alternative use or a modification to the method reported on a webpage or journal article? The obvious route is emailing the correspondent, but would my email ever be looked at? Being a stranger to the webpage owner or corresponding author, shall I stack my credentials to impress the email receiver? I am sending the email as a public person, so I am afraid that my email message is going to be overlooked.

In terms of contents, they are about syntheses of chemicals and engineering.

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  • As you noted, if it's a journal article, you can always email the corresponding author. I've always received replies when I've sent such emails, though I'm sending from my chemistry dept. email address, which probably helps. I would recommend putting something like "Comment on [insert article title]", or "Comment on your article in [insert journal title] about [insert brief summary of subject]". Either should get their attention. If you're emailing the author in English, I'd strongly recommend having a friend who is fluent in English edit your email prior to sending. I'm afraid that something
    – theorist
    Jul 6 at 3:10
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    sent in broken English, like what you used in your post, is less likely to be taken seriously. And if you aren't an expert in the field, it would be beneficial if it could be reviewed by a local expert prior to sending, to ensure that what you think is an improvement really is one. If you have credentials, there's nothing wrong w/ starting with a brief intro., e.g., "I'm a chemical engineer with a speciality in W. I currently oversee process control for X at company Y in location Z"
    – theorist
    Jul 6 at 3:16
  • Finally, I'd recommend keeping the body of the email relatively short —no one wants to read a book from a stranger. If you want to give details, you can include them in an attachment (a well-organized attachment, with a summary at the beginning).
    – theorist
    Jul 6 at 3:16
  • Did you also mean the following: if I am emailing as a person in the public -- without briefing my credentials but showing my understanding of the contents, my email is less likely to be taken seriously because I did not state my industry accepted status?
    – Kav
    Jul 6 at 3:33
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    @theorist, I suggest you rewrite your comments as an answer.
    – Buffy
    Jul 6 at 19:19
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Yes, you can email the corresponding author. They may or may not receive or read your email, but there isn't much you can do about it.

No, you do not need to stack credentials. Even mentioning them at all, especially in the beginning of your email, probably makes it more likely it will be thrown away than read. You will sound like a crazy person if you mention all sorts of credentials. It's fine to have a brief signature at the end of your email; my professional signature has my name, degree, and work contact information.

They probably won't take your advice, and you shouldn't wait for or expect a response. Papers are published so that everyone else can use the contents. The person publishing a paper doesn't own or have responsibility for all the subsequent steps that might be taken. Someone else (including yourself) is free to make that modification and publish their own paper or use it for their own devices.

To have the best chance of having some positive impact, write directly and concisely. Spend far more time revising your message than writing it initially: make it as short and simple as you can. A brief greeting of praise is fine: "I was enjoying reading your paper (title)..." is enough. A paragraph of how much you admire their work is far, far too much.

Write from a serious email source; .edu is probably ideal, but if you aren't affiliated with a university you probably don't have an .edu address. Hopefully you have a professional email you'd use for resumes and such, rather than "spudbuster69@sketchydomain.co". Use an informative but brief title.

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