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Understanding the Material World

Researching on Chemical Information

  • Overview of scientific literature
  • Choosing your topic
  • Searching for information
  • Evaluating what you find
  • Citing the resources
  • Follow up questions
  • Overview of scientific literature

    To develop an understanding of how information in the scientific community is published and organized, review the following outline:  Flow of Scientific Information.   In chemistry, the main method in which ideas and studies are communicated is through the journal articles and conference proceedings.

    Choosing your topic

    Developing your own topic or choosing from a list of given topics is not always easy, however, it is one of the most important steps in researching and writing a paper.   Before beginning the research for your essay, you may find it useful to browse these books in the reference area of the Davis Centre Library.  The articles in these sources  will help to put the element or compound you have selected to research  in "the big picture" and to provide ideas for the rest of your project.

    Provide an overview of a topic;
    • Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology, Q 123 E497 1992 REF
    • McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Q 121 M3 1997 REF
    • Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology TP 9 E685 1991 REF
    • Encyclopedia Brittanica (available online)
    Provide quick facts and data;
    • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics QD 65 H3 REF
    • Merck Index RS 51 M4 1996
    • Handbook menu (available through Prof. Chieh's website)


    Searching for information
    Before you begin to search for books or articles, make a list of search terms and synonyms which represent your topic.  Use these terms to search the journal databases and library catalogue.

    Also, look at the references in the resources you find.  Each article or book can lead you to other useful materials through its notes and bibliography.  By reading these materials, you will get an idea of the issues and critical thoughts surrounding an author's work. The more important or significant issues will be repeatedly discussed in the articles and books.

    Journal Articles and Conference Proceedings

    Step 1. Search a journal index (a journal index contains citations to published articles) to obtain a list of articles on your topic. Useful indexes include:

    Step 2. For each article citation, locate the journal in the library catalogue, TRELLIS
    a) If the journal is held at UW, go to the library and photocopy the article. 
    b) If there is an electronic version, print directly from the computer screen. 
    c) If the journal is at UG or WLU, order through TUGDoc and pick up the photocopy at the Davis Library approx. 2-3 days later. 
    d) If the journal does not appear in TRELLIS, you may order the article through ILL. (This can take several weeks)


    Search the library catalogue, TRELLIS for books available in the TUG libraries (UW, UG, WLU)  (Help using TRELLIS)

    a) If the book is held at UW, go to the library and sign it out.
    b) If it is at UG or WLU, place a HOLD on the book and pick it up 2-3 days later at the Davis Library
    c) If it is already charged out, place a RECALL then check your email for a message when it has been returned and go to the Davis Library to pick it up.


    Internet Resources

    Search engines (enter subject keywords):
    Use " " for a phrase  ex. "alumimium sulfate"
    Use + to mark essential terms  ex.+aluminium +"natural occurance"
    Use - to exclude terms  ex. -company

    For further searching tips, most search engines have their own Search Tips guide.

    Chemistry Links:


    More specific:

    • The Copper Page  Maintained by the Copper Development Association (CDA), this page includes general info., a copper data center providing citations to technical and environmental articles, market data, standards and properties.
    • Web Elements Periodic Table provides a variety of data regarding the elements of the periodic table.
    • CCOHS MSDS Database contains approx. 120 000 MSDS which provides information including chemical and physical properties, health hazards, fire and reactivity data.


    Evaluating what you find

    Once you have found some items of interest, before you decide to use them as a source of information, it is important that you take a step back and evaluate the information provided.  A very good outline of the evaluative process is available at How to Critically Analyze Information Sources prepared by Cornell University Library.

    It is especially important to evaluate information obtained from the Internet.  Are you certain that the information you see is accurate, trustworthy and of academic quality?  Before using a web page as a source of information for your paper or assignment, apply this evaluation checklist to the document to help determine if it is a reliable source. Can you answer YES to the majority of questions? If not, reconsider using the document and try to find a more trustworthy source.

    Citing the resources

    You can follow any citation method you choose.  Outlines of the various methods can be found at the UW Library's web page, Style Manuals . The APA Style is commonly used in the sciences and a manual is available at   BF76.7 .P83 1994 (kept behind the Davis Info Desk)

    Example of a citation for a web page in the APA style:

    Environment Canada. (May 1999). A Primer on Ozone Depletion. Available:

    [21 September 2000]

    Follow up questions

    If you are having difficulties using any of the resources mentioned in this guide, you can contact:

    a) Information Desk - Davis (daily hours except Saturday):   Mon - Thurs 9-5, 6-9 ; Fri 9-5 ; Sun 1-5
    b) Jackie Stapleton, Chemistry Librarian: 

    Updated by Jackie Stapleton, Chemistry and Systems Design Librarian
    September 2000


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