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Science of Synthesis

What is Science of Synthesis?

science of synthesis logoScience of Synthesis is the 5th edition of the Houben-Weyl Methods in Organic Chemistry series. It is a highly organized and authoritative collection of authored reviews on organic synthetic methods. Chapters contain experimental procedures, background information, and extensive yet selective bibliographies. Its purpose is to provide a direct path into the mass of primary literature on a wide range of organic reactions and products. The base set (48 volumes, 2000-2010) contains information on over 265,000 reactions and 29,000 experimental procedures.


Each volume covers a specific class of compound, based on the target molecule to be synthesized. Volumes are organized into Categories, which are in turn broken down into narrower specialty volumes.

After 2010 SOS was continued by quarterly Knowledge Updates which contain updates of specific chapters from the original set. There are also occasional Reference Library topical monographs.  The Library has these series through 2015 but no longer receives new volumes, due to cost.



Science of Synthesis and Houben-Weyl 4th edition are currently located on the second level of the PMA Library, pending disposition of the Chemistry Collection. 

A free discovery tool launched in 2018, SynOne provides a way to search and browse the hierarchical chemical classification scheme and compound content of selected Thieme publications, including the entire Science of Synthesis series (and the journals Synlett and Synthesis from 2005 forward).

Full Text: There are links to full text articles, but since UT Austin no longer subscribes to SoS online they will only lead to a reference and first paragraph display. Persons affiliated with UT Austin can use the reference to place a Get a Scan request for a chapter or section from our print holdings (Note: this service is limited to 50 page-scans or less). (Links to articles in Synlett and Synthesis will work, since we subscribe to those journals.)


Each volume has keyword and author indexes, but there are no printed compound or formula indexes. Cumulative keyword and author index volumes were published for some Categories, but UT has only the index for Category 2 (vols. 9-17, Hetarenes). Since SOS is arranged hierarchically by product class, you can browse for compounds by class/volume, and use the hierarchical tables of contents to identify a volume of interest, then consult the keyword index of that volume.

SciFinder indexed most SOS chapters as general reviews, but not at the individual substance level. Knowledge Update chapters were only indexed in 2010-11.

The 4th Edition was titled Methoden der organischen Chemie and was published from 1952 to 2003.  Volumes were in German until 1990. The base set was supplemented by an extensive "E-series" that began in 1982. With 160 volumes and over 160,000 pages, the 4th edition was much larger than its successor and can still be consulted for information that was not updated in SOS. A brief printed User's Guide offers a handy list of volumes with the compound types covered in each. Volumes E23, parts O-P, are a synopsis of the HW structure and detailed tables of contents in English for all volumes.


Vol. 16 of the 4th edition base set comprises indexes by experimental procedure and substance class for the 4th edition and selected supplementary volumes (E1-E5 and E11, i.e. through about 1986). Volume E23 is a multi-part structural formula index of reaction products by compound class, but its arcane arrangement makes it essentially impossible to use. As with SOS, the best approach is to use its hierarchical organization to identify a volume and then look in that volume directly.

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