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Chemistry: Finding articles

What are they talking about?

Libraries pay for and provide resources that are electronically accessible but that cannot be found with a Web browser or "on the Internet." Knowing these terms will help as you look for articles in your subject

Abstract   Short summary of an article's methods and findings, written to help researchers decide quickly if the article is relevant to their interest

Article   Single piece of writing by one or more authors, shorter than a monograph (book), published in a periodical

Citation   Publication data for a published item which allows a reader to identify the source; sometimes accompanied by an abstract

Database   An electronic collection of publications that allows users to browse individual titles or to search many all at once. Subject databases are often very expensive and not avialable beyond campus, but they are the best way to see what has been done in a field. A database may be either an index or full-text, and might have both kinds of entries

Full-text   Includes an electronic copy of the actual article. Depending on the database, the article may be available in HTML format, PDF format (displays the article as it originally appeared in the periodical with, layout and graphics), or both.

Index   Lists of article citations which may provide an abstract of an article, but does not provide complete text. Use an index to identify material the library may not own but which you may find in another database or request through ILLiad

Journal   A periodical produced for specialists in a particular field, often produced by a scholarly society or academic school; almost always peer reviewed

Limiter   Any of several database functions that narrow a results list, often by using controlled terms, dates, or sources

Magazine   Commercial periodical publication for interested non-specialists or casual professional reading; rarely peer reviewed, but often a good measure of what matters concern a profession, discipline, or interest group

Newsletter   Special-interest periodical of notices and brief summaries of current information, often directed at members of an organization 

Peer review   An editorial process before an article or book becomes accessible (published), in which writing is judged to be good enough for publication by other people who work in the field; it typically represents a higher standard of ability, accuracy, and professionalism (and therefore reliability and quality) than journalistic or non-peer-reviewed work

Periodical   The catch-all term for publications issued on a regular basis, including journals, magazines, newspapers, and newsletters, whether in print or in electronic form

Journal articles

Articles provide the cutting edge of research and scholarship in a professional field, but not all articles are available at the same time or from a single source

Article databases (full text)

Full-text resources typically give access to only a slice of the field's literaturePublishers may impose an "embargo" on digital access to complete texts through a database. Use an index for real research in professional publications

Articles (citations and abstracts)

A citation index is the only way to look at what is happening across a field all at once, but it provides references only (sometimes supplemented by abstracts)--you have to get the text of articles themselves from another source, like a database, print volume, or ILLiad

Articles (Print sources)

Terms to Know

How to identify a chemical for information retrieval by…

  • Name (problem because there are multiple names for one chemical)
  • Formula (problem because there is one formula for multiple chemicals)
  • Structure (sometimes search tools will not allow you to deal with stereochemistry)
  • Mass (problem because there is one mass for multiple chemicals)
  • Physical Properties (problem because there are similar physical properties for multiple chemicals)
  • Spectra (difficult to search using any source but is like a Photo ID for a chemical)
  • Unique Identifier (i.e. an equivalent of a Social Security Number for a chemical)

Unique Identifiers:

(1) CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) Registry Number uniquely identifies a chemical compound. The number is easily recognized by its characteristic three-part form--a two to six digit number on the left, separated by a dash from a two digit number to its right, which, in turn, is separated by a second dash from a one digit number to its right (examples are: 75-77-4, 936-49-2, 21742-00-7). (

(2) IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) Identifier