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Resources by Subject Basic Guide to Research for Chemistry

A. Locating Background Information

You might browse some of our reference sources for assistance in selecting and defining your topic. These sources can also provide useful background information on your topic to give you a better understanding of the various aspects of your topic. We have numerous subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other resources available in print and online.

Check the following call number areas in the Reference Collection for background information from sources such as subject encyclopedias:

Q Science (General)
QD Chemistry
RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
RS Pharmacy and materia medica
TD Environmental technology
TP Chemical technology

For a more detailed breakdown of call number areas, see the Library of Congress classification schedule.

Some examples of chemistry reference books in McGraw-Page Library are:

This only a small selection of materials from the Reference collection. To locate additional items, browse the Reference shelves or look in MaconCat.try a broad subject search such as "Chemistry" and look for subheadings such as "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries."

Additionally, you can look at several of our periodical publications for help in developing your topic.

B. Locating Periodical Articles

  1. Determine whether you should use scholarly materials whether you need primary sources.
    - How do you tell the difference between a scholarly journal from a popular one?
    - How do you tell the difference between a primary source and a secondary source?

  2. Formulate a search strategy.
    - Identify the important concepts of your search and choose the keywords that describe these concepts.
    - Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included. - Reference sources can help with this.
    - Determine which search features may apply, i.e., truncation, Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), etc.
  3. Use indexes and databases to locate scholarly journal and popular magazine articles.

    SciFinder Scholar - available on one computer across from the reference desk as well as in the science building.

    • Available from CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service, a division of the ACS); some parts updated daily and some updated weekly. There are 6 databases: CAplus, CAS Registry, CASREACT, CHEMCATS, CHEMLIST, and Medline.
    • CAplus indexes 8000-9000 journals. There are currently over 23 million citations to journal articles, patents, dissertations, books and book chapters, conference proceedings, technical reports, etc.
    • Coverage from 1907 to present in CAplus, dates of other databases vary.

    To locate articles:

    1. Check the library catalog for the journal. We may have it in print or on microfiche/microfilm.
    2. It may be available in full-text in another database if the library doesn't have it. Check the library's Journals A-Z list. The Library does subscribe online to the ACS journals.
    3. If the Library doesn't own the journal, you can inititiate an interlibrary loan request.

    SciFinder documentation is available from CAS.

    Getting Started with SciFinder Scholar is available here. Additional help materials are also online.

    You may also search the full text of the ACS Publications collection, 37 journal titles published by the ACS.

    C. Use the World Wide Web to get government documents, reports, opinions, and other publications on your topic.

    Use the Library's Research by Subject links to be directed to quality web directories and reference sources.

    Chemistry Subject Guide

    D. Critically evaluate the materials.

    Not all information is good, valid information. Evaluation means that you need to look carefully at your information sources to determine whether the source is reliable and appropriate for your information need. You should always evaluate any information source you use. The seven key criteria for evaluating your sources are:

    Authority refers to the credentials of the author(s) and to the publisher of the information.
    Who wrote or compiled the information? Who published it and why?

    Currency refers to date of publication and the time period covered by the information.
    Is the publication current or historic? Does it matter?

    Accuracy refers to the overall reliability and correctness of the information.
    Are the facts and statistics correct and verifiable?

    Scope refers to the completeness of the coverage.
    Is the publication comprehensive or selective? What is the focus of the source? Is it relevant to your information need?

    Objectivity refers to the point of view taken in the material.
    Is there an obvious bias or does it appear to be relatively objective? Is the author simply providing factual information or expressing an opinion?

    Documentation refers to whether the material cites the sources of the information that is presented.
    Do the authors or editors include references or is the information compiled from unknown sources?

    Presentation refers to how the material is organized and supplemented.
    Are there good access points such as a table of contents or an index? Are there visual aids to enhance or explain the information?

    See the Evaluating Your Sources for additional information.

    E. Cite your resources properly

    The Library has the ACS Style Guide (2nd ed.), 1 copy kept on the Reference Desk and 1 copy on the ReferenceTable on the 2nd floor.

    As you write other papers, be aware that the four major citation styles are APA, Chicago, MLA, and Turabian. Copies of the guides for each style may be found at the Reference Desk:

    1. APA (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association - call # REF BF76.7 .P83 2001)
    2. Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style - call # REF Z253 .U69 2003)
    3. MLA (MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers - call # REF LB2369 .G53 2003)
    4. Turabian (A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations call # REF LB2369 .T8 1996)

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