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CHEM6611: Scientific Communication in Chemistry


3b. Building Blocks

Overview of library resources supporting graduate research

Break Down Your Search

Example: amine functionalization by photoredox catalysis

A good "building blocks" search requires planning, modification, and repetition. Use a whiteboard, notebook, worksheet (.xlsx file), etc. as you design your search strategy.

  1. Start by identifying the individual concepts  or "building blocks" in your search. Think of the concepts as answers to questions like "What?" "How?" "Where and/or when?"

amine functionalization [in some databases this could be 2 concepts: amine AND functionalization]
photoredox catalysis [in some databases this could be 2 concepts: photoredox AND catalysis, photocatalysis AND redox]

  1. For each concept, think of synonyms and variations in spelling or grammar. Consider both more specific and more general terms.
amine → amination OR amine OR amino
functionalization → functionalisation OR functionalization
photoredox → "photo redox" OR photochemical OR photoredox OR photoreduction OR ("visible light" AND reduc*), etc.
catalysis → catalyst* OR catalytic


Check database Help screens for advice on advanced search techniques like

  • phrase searching (example: "visible light")
  • truncation or using wildcards (example: cataly*)

Build and Combine Your Blocks

  1. Use OR to combine terms within each concept
("photo redox" OR photoredox OR photoreduction)
  1. Combine the concepts using AND
("photo redox" OR photoredox OR photoreduction) AND (functionalisation OR functionalization)

Revise and Repeat

Find additional terms for concepts in your search. Look at…

  • Titles, abstracts, and indexing of references you think are useful
  • Terminology used in review articles about your topic
  • Terminology used in encyclopedia articles about your topic

Think about different perspectives on your topic:

  • Methodology used
  • Type of reaction/class of reaction
  • Compound or compound class
  • Product

Add the new terms to the concepts in your search and run your search again.