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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.

Searching SciFinder and AA


SciFinder is by far the best database to search for chemical literature, but it's a really complex tool, and you have to invest some time learning its quirks before you can get useful results.  Unlike Google/Scholar, it's not just about entering a string of words and pressing go.  (Also, you need to sign up for a user account first.)

You can look up the name you have in the Substances search tab.  Here's the Substance record for our compound.  Note that the official name will probably not be the same as what you searched (remember the earlier page about names).  The References button shows the approximate number of bibliographic records in the database that are associated with this compound - 952. 

registry record snap

The most straightforward way to search for references in a single step is to use the References search page.  The main box uses Boolean operators, nesting, and wildcards to construct the search query:

determin* AND 64285-06-9 AND chromatogr* AND water

This gets all four of our concepts, and uses the Registry Number in place of the substance name.  SciFinder automatically stems many common words, but to be sure you can add an asterisk to allow for different forms of a word.  Be sure to connect your concepts with the AND operator to make sure they're all present in the results.


snap of references search box and query

When you get the results list, you can apply more filters using the left-side menu, such as Document Type (choose Journal and Review); Language; dates, etc.

Analytical Abstracts

AA is a closed database (no longer updated) from the Royal Society of Chemistry. It's a little quirky and only covered a few dozen core journals, but it's handy for analyte/matrix searches when you're not concerned with comprehensiveness or currency.

Use the Advanced Search form. You can select Analyte and Matrix terms from programmed lists and combine them. For techniques, it's better to enter words in the free text box unless you are looking for a very specific technique from the Technique list.

Full records contain abstracts and a DOI link to full text. You can save a search as an alert.

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