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CH224: Organic Chemistry Lab - Literature Search Assignment

See your lab notebook for more information on the literature searching assignment and the Library resources you will use. Please read this section before beginning this lab assignment.

This site compiles several sources recommended for the CH224 literature searching lab assignment. Every chemical compound is different, and relevant information may be found in any number of sources. You will likely need to check several sources to find the data you require. Keep track of sources you use as you go, so you can cite all the information you find.

See the SciFinder or Reaxys pages to see how to use those advanced chemistry tools for this assignment.

Basic Information

  • CAS number
  • synonyms
  • cost

This information should be readily available in multiple sources and easily found online. Get the CAS number first, gather synonyms as you encounter them throughout your research. Use CAS number to search, instead of name, whenever possible.

Start with:

  • Sigma-Aldrich catalog. Available freely online. Sigma-Aldrich is a chemical retailer and should provide some basics, including cost. Sigma and Aldrich are companies with a history of printing useful reference books, and most of this information has been synthesized into their site. Like Amazon for books, they are trying to sell something and will provide as much helpful information as they can to potential customers. Look for physical properties, safety information, and spectra while you’re there.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Physical property information, such as molecular formula, boiling point, etc., might be available in hundreds of places if the chemical is simple, common, or useful. This is one area of information for which you can even try Wikipedia or a general internet search. You should not CITE Wikipedia, but it can lead you to other information. You should try to verify anything you find in Wikipedia or an unfamiliar source by checking multiple sources. You’ll find that a lot of physical property information is copied and pasted throughout hundreds of websites.

It’s important to understand that the availability of information will be different for every compound. Your colleague researching benzene might find every required physical property in the first source he checks. Meanwhile, you are trying to find a complex or rare chemical, and will have to look through four sources to find five different pieces of data, and you still won’t find everything you want. You can’t count on the goodness of Wikipedia users to compile information like this for you. This is where professional reference sources come in handy. They are quick to search and contain a wealth of data.

Start with:

  • CHEMnetBASE. This is an online compendium (via library subscription) of notable chemistry reference books. Broad and reliable.
    • You'll have a choice of several online reference books, click a title to search it. The Combined Chemical Dictionary (CCD) searches many of them at once, it's a good place to search. The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics is another standard.
    • More information

For properties not found in either Sigma-Aldrich or CHEMnetBASE, try the following sources:

  1. Merck Index. Online via NCSU Libraries subscription. Also available in library print reference.
  2. PubChem. Available online through the NIH and NLM.
  3. ChemSpider. Available online.

Other useful databases for chemical property information are available through the NCSU Libraries Chemistry subject page or the physical properties guide in the PAMS wiki. Knovel, NIST Webbook, and DIPPR are some first places to look among the many choices.

You can find an endless number of property information sites online as well. Wikipedia can even present a good compilation of information for compounds in widespread use. These sites are usually harvesting information from the larger, more established free sources in an effort to either present chemical information in a more useful way, or just to attract web traffic.

Tried several sources and still can’t find a particular property? Consider if there may be a logical reason why your chemical might not have information on a property. Like, does it explode when you heat it? That might make it difficult to establish a boiling point! Are the crystals too small to allow chemists to find a refractive index?

Hazardous Properties

Hazard and safety information is usually easy to find. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make this information widely available, and standardize its format for easy reading.

Look for:

Other sources of hazardous property information are below. Some have MSDSs, others have compiled safety information in different formats:

  1. TOXNET. Online through the NLM. Searches across databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases. Search results list other NLM databases with safety information. Look for anything listed under "Chemical, Toxicological, and Environmental Health Data." Click on any of them to see a health and safety report.
  2. Sax's Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials. Online via NCSU Libraries subscription. (Also in print reference.) Click "Search in this book" to find your compound, or "Articles by Title" to browse. Entries contain some basic information and a safety profile.
  3. Merck Index. Online via NCSU Libraries subscription. Also available in library print reference.
  4. Sigma-Aldrich Library of Chemical Safety Data - abbreviated Safety in Sigma-Aldrich Catalog. Available in print reference.
  5. Sigma-Aldrich Library of Regulatory & Safety Data - abbreviated R & S in Sigma-Aldrich Catalog. Available in print reference.

Other possible sources of hazardous property information are listed on the hazardous properties guide in the PAMS wiki.


Like physical properties, information for any particular chemical compound could be in a number of sources—you might find it the first place you look or the fourth. Unlike physical property information, you might struggle find this specialized information with a simple Google search. Use a good source of compiled spectra rather than a broad internet search and save time.


Other possible sources:

  1. Aldrich Library of 13C and 1H FT NMR Spectra - abbreviated FT-NMR in Aldrich Catalog. Available in print reference.

  2. Aldrich Library of FT-IR Spectra - abbreviated FT-IR in Aldrich Catalog. Available in print reference.

  3. NIST Chemistry Webbook

  4. NMRShiftDB - an open source web database for organic structures and their nuclear magnetic resonance (nmr) spectra.

Other possible sources of hazardous property information are listed on the spectra guide in the PAMS wiki.

Preparation or Synthesis

This a very important but challenging research task for any organic chemist. See the Synthesis page for information.

See also: using SciFinder to find synthesis

See also: using Reaxys to find synthesis

Librarian Contact Information

  • Karen Ciccone, Director Natural Resources Library & Research Librarian for Science Informatics
  • 515-3513