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Chem 115a: Advanced General Chemistry (Fall 2015): USC Libraries Information

Resource Types

You will be exposed to several different resource types while studying chemistry here at USC. The USC Libraries serves the role of providing access and instruction on these various resources.

Library Catalog: a library catalog is a search interface for finding materials owned by the library. These can be physical books, e-books, journals, dictionaries, etc. At USC, we use the HOMER catalog.

Databases: this is a generic term for an electronic or online resource that indexes and will search for a certain type of information. For example, we have databases that are solely devoted to find newspapers, magazines, or articles. In addition, there are large, umbrella databases that cover multiple topics and disciplines. In chemistry, you will hear the database names SciFinder, Reaxys, and CHEMnetBASE often.

Chemical Dictionaries: in chemistry, finding authoritative and reliable information is extremely important. If a boiling point is off by several degrees, this can cause real problems within the lab setting.  Chemical dictionaries exist to provide authoritative and reliable chemical information. These resources provide basic information like boiling point, melting point, molecular formula, molecular weight, etc. But these dictionaries also provide chemical characteristics like color, odor, etc. and safety information like first aid.

Journals: a journal is usually a scientific "magazine" that focuses in a particular discipline or topic. Journals are the primary mode of scientific communication between researchers. There are thousands of journals in every topic, discipline, field, etc. Note: Journal titles are indexed in library catalogs and journal articles are indexed in databases.

Articles: an article is the individual research publication from a researcher or group of researchers. An article is extremely narrow and particular topic that is only a subfield of the journal the article is published in. You can search for articles in databases, not the library catalog. Often you will be given an article citation. A citation provides the author, article title, journal title, volume, issue, year of publication, and page numbers. Citations can be formatted in one of a hundred different ways, but in chemistry you will mostly see ACS (American Chemical Society) Style.

Chemical Information Resource Types

Use of the different resource types
General /Background information Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Reviews  
  Books, textbooks, reference books  
Physical information/data Handbooks, SDS(safety data sheets)

CRC Handbook of Physics and Chemistry

Merck Index


Physical property data, spectra, reactions 

Original research

Journal articles, patents, dissertations and theses


Primary, secondary, or tertiary
Primary  Journal articles - original research 
Secondary Reviews - describes the current state of knowledge on a subject
Tertiary Encyclopedias, textbooks, handbooks - overview of subject


Which would you use to research a notable chemist?
Primary: 4 votes (5%)
Secondary: 3 votes (3.75%)
Tertiary: 73 votes (91.25%)
Total Votes: 80

Wikipedia Activity

During the session you will begin work on your Wikipedia Information Literacy Assignment. 

Open the worksheet here and keep it open throughout the session. 

Evaluate Your Search Results

Depending upon your search topic, you may retrieve a long list of results. 

Note the types of results retrieved: Are they books, encyclopedia entries, journal articles? You may be able to limit what you see to a specific type of information using the refine features on the resource you used. 


Evaluate the Resources

You may hear of different methods for evaluating the resources you locate. One method is the CRAAP method. 

Currency - how recent is the information?

Relevance - does the resource address your information need?

Authority - who is the author and are they expert in the field?

Accuracy - is the information reliable?

Purpose - what is the information used for? Why did the authors study this area?