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CHY 393: Undergraduate Seminar in Chemistry Course Guide

Scientific Communication

Reminder: see material covered in CHY 298.
Style manuals and citation management

There is no universally accepted style manual for chemistry (nor, in many cases, for related disciplines). Journals usually post "instructions to authors" (or similarly labeled information) on their Web sites. The URSUS catalog lists library holdings for scientific (and other) style guides.

If you plan to conduct extensive library research, consider investing in bibliographic management software. RefWorks is supported by the library. EndNote Basic, with fewer features, is available free to UMaine students and employees. You can create an EndNote Basic account while connected to the Web of Knowledge database.

Library Basics: Reminders and Updates

Reminder: see material covered in CHY 298.
General library research sequence
  • Document your research process in detail, preferably in a laboratory or project notebook.
  • Keep in mind that different libraries will have different sets of resources--consult with a local librarian.
  1. Define your question and parameters.
  2. Design a search strategy: Where will you look? What keywords will you use?  Do the resources have a thesaurus or other controlled vocabulary? (You'll probably modify your list of keywords and subject terms as the search progresses.)
  3. Use encyclopedias and handbooks for a general overview of an unfamiliar topic.
  4. Use URSUS and other library catalogs (like MaineCat, WorldCat, or to find books, bibliographies, and other more specific materials
  5. Use databases to find journal articles, patents, dissertations, and other highly specific materials. (For an overview of a topic, start this phase with a search for review articles and dissertations.)
  6. For an ongoing project, use database or publisher current awareness services to keep up with the literature.
Finding/obtaining library materials

See Finding Items at Fogler Library. For more tips on locating books, dissertations, theses, and government documents, see the Finding Books section of "Introduction to Library Research".

Patents are best located by issuing agency:

For items not available within Fogler Library or from the library Web page, see Getting Items from Other Libraries. Most items are free, but sometimes other libraries charge delivery and copying fees for journal articles. On the article request form, indicate the maximum cost you are willing to pay in case there is a charge. Usually article copies are delivered as PDF files, but some libraries send paper copies only. Paper-based interlibrary loan ("ILL") items are sent to the Fogler Library Reserve Desk, usually within 2 weeks.

Citation Searching

Underlying assumption: items cited in a publication are likely to address the same topic as the citing publication. Citation searching permits "forward" as well as "backward" searching on a topic.

Web of Science is an interdisciplinary citation searching tool. (See Web of Science database guide.) Citation search functions have been added to some specialized databases, including SciFinder, covering journals (and other items) not indexed by Web of Science.


Reminder: see material covered in CHY 298.
  • Content
  • Quirks:
    • Requires personal account linked to UMaine e-mail address
    • "Black box"
    • Favors retrieval over precision
    • Abide by the License Agreement
Indexing (underlying structure) from Chemical Abstracts
  • Each reference initially assigned to 1 of 80 sections of Chemical Abstracts
  • Assigned during subsequent indexing: subject index terms, chemical substance names, substance class headings (example: "alkenes") when appropriate and CAS Registry Numbers (for substance classes and/or individual substances)
  • CAS Registry Numbers assigned as precisely as possible--e.g., K, K1+, and various K isotopes all have different numbers
  • Also assigned to flesh out indexing: roles (PDF file: see last page), text-modifying phrases, "natural language" supplementary terms
  • Often only novelty, major topics, and key reactions are indexed
  • For reactions with multiple steps, each step may be indexed as a reaction
  • CAS indexing strategies vary over time, requiring modifications in search strategies
General notes on searching
  • Search in steps, starting with the approach that should provide the most comprehensive (but targeted) result
  • Examine results critically--be prepared to modify initial search
  • Try multiple approaches (remember to document the process!)
  • Save your sets (20,000 reference limit)
  • Use the search analysis and refinement tools
  • Use a separate MEDLINE or PubMed interface to most effectively search those databases
  • Save your reading for offline time
  • Use the SciFinder logout to end a session, instead of just closing your browser
Search options
Selected SciFinder search options
Option Notes
REFERENCES > Research Topic [default search]
  • Internal, imperfect synonym lists: freeze dried or fang will not retrieve all of the references brought up by freeze drying or tooth
  • Searches British as well as American spellings
  • Automatic (but imperfect) truncation
  • "Closely associated" terms appear in title, in same sentence, or in same index term.
  • Use "or" within search queries: friendly or safe or green or use parentheses for the same effect: friendly (safe, green)
  • Use a preposition ("of," "with," etc.) to achieve a Boolean "AND" within search queries: bleaching with green. You can also Save answer sets, and then Combine them using the Intersect tool. You can also try Refine by Research Topic: bleaching refined by green.
REFERENCES > Author Name
  • Some alternative spellings provided
  • Only the first author's address is indexed
REFERENCES > Company Name
  • "Company" includes:
    • Universities
    • Government agencies
    • Nonprofit organizations
  • Useful in researching potential employers
  • Be flexible (same issues as author searching)
  • No tracking of mergers and acquisitions
SUBSTANCES > Substance Identifier
  • Can search by:
    • Chemical name
    • Common name
    • Trade name
    • CAS Registry Number ("CAS RN")
    • Consider using names as well as Registry Number searches
  • Individual substance results may include:
    • calculated and/or experimental property data
    • commercial suppliers
    • regulatory information
    • spectra
SUBSTANCES > Chemical Structure
  • Use pre-drawn files whenever possible:
    • hover over a SciFinder structure, click >>Explore by Structure > Chemical Structure or >>Explore by Structure > Reactions
    • Import structures (.cxf format) into the Reaction Editor or Structure Editor
  • "Exact search" for chemical structure includes:
    • isotopes
    • stereoisomers
    • tautomers (including keto-enol),
    • polymers, mixtures, and salts
    • charged compounds
    • radicals or radical ions
    • coordination compounds
Other search options under SUBSTANCES

View details in How to Create a Substance Answer Set (PDF file)

Additional search options

You can trace "related" information from sets of search results. Options include:

  • Cited and/or citing references
  • Chemical substances indexed
  • Reactions indexed
Recommended Resources


Nancy Curtis, 581-1679
Science & Engineering Center, 581-1691
Reference Desk, 581-1673
Ask A Librarian

Created by: Nancy Curtis | Revised: 02/19/2014
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