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CHEM6611: Scientific Communication in Chemistry


4. Evaluate Your Search Results

Overview of library resources supporting graduate research

Evaluate Your Search Results

Scope of Your Topic (Quantitative Evaluation)

Make sure the number of results you use matches the purpose of your literature search. A thesis or dissertation literature review is based on a comprehensive search of multiple databases. For a short paper, a smaller list of highly targeted references is more appropriate.

  • If your searches return too many results, identify a subset of the topic as the focus of your assignment
  • If you are not finding enough literature to support your work, use a broader or less specific approach to your topic


By article

Use database citation search features to see if a paper is cited by other authors. Ideally, you can find articles which get cited in newer journal articles written by

  • A variety of authors
  • Authors from other labs and institutions
  • Experts on the broad or parent topic(s) of the article

By journal

Commonly used surrogates for journal quality:

Use quality measures properly

Only compare surrogate measures across journals covering the same discipline and sub-discipline. The 2021 JIF for Journal of the American Chemical Society (16.383) is much lower than the 2021 JIF for World Psychiatry (79.683), but JACS is clearly a much better chemistry journal! The median 2021 JIF for physical chemistry journals is higher than that for organic chemistry journals. but this does not mean physical chemistry journals are "better."

Problems with quality measures

  • Many metrics are not available if a journal is very new
  • Journal prestige can vary over time
  • "Review journals" (which publish mostly review articles) will typically have higher JIF rankings since review articles are usually heavily cited.
  • JIF values do not determine the quality of any particular article within a journal, and they do not predict whether a particular article will be heavily cited (or not)
  • Social factors affect citation counts (see Factors affecting number of citations: a comprehensive review of the literature)