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Organic Chemistry

Sources in Synthetic Chemistry

CAPLUS : Chemical Abstracts online extends back to 1907 (and now includes selected pre-1907 references as well). It is the world's most comprehensive index to the literature of the chemical sciences. Over 9,000 journals are currently scanned, in addition to millions of worldwide patents, books, reviews, conferences, technical reports, and dissertations in over 50 languages.

REGISTRY:  This database of tens of millions of compound records (the majority organic) is the source of CAS Registry Numbers. It contains names, synonyms, trade names, molecular formulas, and structures of substances registered by CAS - which are then linked to bibliographic data in the CAPLUS file. The file may be searched by name, synonym, molecular formula, or by drawing a structure.  Any completely described substance - product, reactant, or intermediate - that appears in a document indexed by CAS receives a registry number and is entered in the database. If a desired substance is not in the database, as determined by several searches, including exact structure, you can be reasonably certain that compound has not been fully described or mentioned in the literature since 1957. (Registry is not fully retrospective.) A substructure search to find similar compounds which might serve as models or starting points is the next step.

CASREACT contains information on millions of single- and multistep organic reactions, drawn primarily from Chemical Abstracts' organic sections since 1985. Information includes reactants, solvents, and catalysts. The file is searchable by structure of reactants, functional group codes, registry numbers, yields, bibliographic data, substance and subject indexing terms, and CA abstract numbers. It then links you to the source article record.

Finding a preparation method for a known compound is one of the most basic tasks an organic chemist must learn to do.  Chemistry has a wealth of go-to places to start this search, some of which have been around for decades.  Modern reaction searching systems allow great precision analysis, e.g. by yield, reagent, catalyst, etc.  If you're concerned about reproducibility and procedural clarity (sometimes lacking in primary journal papers), Organic Syntheses is an excellent starting point. 


Print Resources


Print Handbooks

Written language is inadequate for expressing the precise structure and composition of a molecule. Despite the best efforts of IUPAC and other groups to establish standard rules for naming compounds, the only unambiguous way to depict a substance is with a structural formula. Databases and reference sources such as CAS, Beilstein/Reaxys, CRC, etc. have used different nomenclature conventions over the decades, and the rules change over time.  IUPAC-style names can now be easily generated by software tools such as ChemDraw and other structure editors. Human chemists often prefer acronyms, trivial names and trade names as shorthand in articles and communications.

Review Series and Serials

Here's a selection of open-ended publications that contain authoritative reviews of interest to organic chemists.

Encyclopedic Reviews

Encyclopedic treatises offer a general, structured overview by expert authors. They are good starting points for learning about particular reactions and chemical mechanisms, and they contain numerous (older) literature references, but they are only snapshots in time and are quickly out of date.


You can save searches and set up customized email alerts in most of the major databases that index the literature: SciFinder, Web of Science, Reaxys, PubMed, etc. You can also track new issues of your favorite journals and get tables of contents sent to you by email or RSS feed.


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