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CHEM6611: Scientific Communication in Chemistry


2. Literature Search Overview

Overview of library resources supporting graduate research

Literature searching is part of your research process. Record the date, the database(s) you searched, and the search strategy or strategies you used.

Best Practices for Literature Searching

  • Start early and give yourself enough time to do a thorough literature search
  • Plan your search strategy, and plan on revising it
  • Search more than one database

Tip: Start by reading background information on a new topic.

Use the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology to find background information on one of these topics:

  • amines
  • photocatalysis

Use database Help or Support resources.

Use citation tools to organize search results.

Set up database alerts to keep up with current literature.

Three Literature Search Methods

All of these approaches are useful in literature searches. Often you will use all three approaches for the same search topic.

Successive Fractions

Use this strategy in preliminary searches, or when you're less familiar with a topic. With this strategy you can look at different facets or aspects of your topic.

  1. Search for a topic, being as specific as you can
  2. Narrow the results by adding a sequence of concepts and/or filters (publication type, language, etc.)

Building Blocks

Use this strategy for well-defined (clear and focused) search questions. Plan on repeating your search with modifications so you can find more literature.

  1. Identify distinct concepts in your search
  2. Search for each concept, using multiple terms
  3. Combine the concepts

Citation Searching

Use citation searching to trace the history of research on a topic, or to find ongoing discussion of a previously published paper.

  1. Select an article that is highly relevant to your topic. Use a "classic" article, or a "good article" from previous search results.
  2. Find newer items that cite the article: they address the same topic or closely related ones, and they may critique the original article you selected.