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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 Web of Science

Now you have formulated your question and chosen your database. The next step is to do the search. For this example we'll use Web of Science. [The WOS interface has changed lately, but it still works pretty much the same as shown here.]

WOS search form

  1. Under "More Settings," deselect all databases except for "Science Citation Index Expanded". This is optional, but helps eliminate irrelevant hits from the non-science segments of Web of Science.
  2. Click "Add another field" to create three search boxes. Enter the concepts in the separate boxes. The field designation for all the boxes should be "Topic".  ("Topic" means all the fields that contain keywords related to the article's subject, namely the title, abstract and category headings, but not author, source, etc.)
  3. Web of Science does not contain CAS Registry Numbers, so we have to use the common name(s) of our desired analyte: bisphenol-a OR bpa. (The search terms are not case-sensitive.)
  4. Use an asterisk (*) as a wildcard character to retrieve different forms of a keyword: chromatograph* will retrieve chromatography, chromatographic, etc.
  5. Click Search.
  6. Results are listed by default in reverse chronological order, i.e. the newest articles on top. You can switch to Relevance ranking if you prefer. Your search terms are highlighted in the display.

web of science results

You can refine the results using the filtering options on the left side. For example, you can limit to English language articles with a subject designation "CHEMISTRY ANALYTICAL" by selecting those boxes and clicking "Refine".

Scan the article titles and select one that appears to match your topic well. The terms you searched are highlighted.

WOS article record

  1. Read the abstract. Abstracts are brief summaries of the paper that will help you determine quickly whether the article is worth locating and reading. They save you lots of time.
  2. If you want to get the article, open the Full Text Options menu at the top, and click the find it at u t button. This initiates a search in our local catalog for an electronic version of the journal.
  3. You can go back to Search Results to continue browsing your the list. You can mark and save as many records as you like to review later, or download them into a reference management tool.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.