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Exploring the Chemical Literature

Tutorial for students in advanced Analytical Chemistry courses for majors, but useful to anyone interested in using the literature of chemistry.

Getting Articles

Interpreting a Reference

Literature references can be a bit cryptic.  Say you're confronted with this one:

Brown, A.S.; Milton, M.J.T.; Cowper, C.J. J. Chromatogr. A. 2004, 1040, 215-225.

What does it mean? First separate the reference into its component parts:

AUTHORS:  Brown, A.S.; Milton, M.J.T.; Cowper, C.J.

SOURCE (usually a journal, typically abbreviated):  Journal of Chromatrography A.

YEAR:  2004


PAGES:  215-225.

Note that in chemistry bibliographies the article title is usually not given. This is basically the minimum amount of information you'll need to actually FIND the article.

Getting the Article

Next, you have to determine if YOU (as a student at UT-Austin) have access to this article from this journal or not, and if so, whether it's available electronically or just in print. There are several ways to do this, and it's not always straightforward.

  1. Search for the reference in Google Scholar.   Enter words from the reference, such as author surnames, journal title, volume number, a word from the title, etc. With luck it will pop right up and you can link to the full text from there. Example: "brown milton journal chromatography 2004 215" If you're on campus you can click on the title to go to the publisher version of record. If you're not on campus, use the FindIt@UT link.

google scholar snap

2.  User the Journal search form in SciFinder.  Enter pieces of the reference that you know, such as author surname, year, volume number, a word from the journal title, etc. It should pull it right up. Then use the "Other Sources" button to go to full text, if available.

scifinder journal search form

3.  Search in our Library Catalog or Journals database by the title of the journal in question (no abbreviations).  This will tell you if we have the journal in print, or online, and what years/volumes we have.

library catalog journal search box

If you hit a paywall...

stop signJust because you can find the article on the web doesn't mean you'll have access to it. Most of the published scientific literature lies behind paywalls and is open only to those at institutions that subscribe to the journal in question, or who are willing to pay a fee to see it. If you hit a paywall, keep that credit card in your wallet.  Check first in our Library Catalog to see if we have a hardcopy of the journal in our collection (mostly for volumes before 2000). If we do, you can request a free scan. If we don't, you can still request a free scan via Interlibrary Service, and we'll get it for you from another source, usually within a day or two.

Another reason you might hit a paywall is if you're not physically on campus.  Access to our licensed subscriptions is managed by IP address, and you need a UT Austin campus IP address to be recognized as an authorized user.  If you start out on our web pages or in our catalog, you'll be asked to authenticate with your UT EID and Duo when you click a link to a licensed resource.  This will establish a proxy session in your browser and you'll be temporarily assigned a UT IP address.  More info:

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