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Finding a method of synthesis

Using Reaxys

Using SciFinder

Chemistry Research Guide

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Using SciFinder for the CH224 literature searching lab

Using SciFinder for the CH224 literature searching lab assignment

About SciFinder

SciFinder is an incredibly robust chemistry database that could be used to complete the entire lab assignment (or do any chemistry research, for that matter). Not that you necessarily should--its interface is complex compared to most reference soures listed in the lab manual or on the main CH224 page, and those sources will be fine. It's vital to professional chemistry researchers and any students planning further chemistry studies should learn to use it. It's very helpful for locating information on substances, articles about any chemistry topic, structures, and reactions.

Access to SciFinder

Scifinder is available through the NCSU Libraries. You must create an individual account before accessing the database.

Using SciFinder

For the literaure search assignment, you don't need to learn everything there is to know about SciFinder. There are essentially three search options, shown along the top of the screen:

  1. Explore References – Search for literature by topic
  2. Explore Substances – Get information on a specific chemical
  3. Explore Reactions – Search for reaction information

Physical Properties

Use the Explore Substances option. CAS number is the most concise search and uniquely identifies a substance. Common names often work, but may not be precise.

To examine results:

  • Click results for details (click CAS number), including a structure, synonyms, and a list of property data
    • "Get Full Text " icon links you to references (checks to see if NCSU has a subscription)
    • Link to commercial sources or reaction, can help you find cost or vendors

Hazardous Properties and Spectra

There is no specific tool to find this information in SciFinder, but searching through journal literature is always an option. Use the Explore References option and search by topic. Your search could be for something like:

  • hazardous properties of benzene
  • IR spectrum of 2-bromoethanol

This will turn up journal articles on the topic. Follow the Get Full Text link to find the article online. Ask a Librarian if you need help locating articles you find in this search.


Start with Explore Substances to search by CAS number or other identifier. Check the box next to your substance and click Get Reactions. Select Product as the reaction role and click Get Reactions. You will see reactions in which your chemical is a product - i.e., synthesis methods. You can see from the reactions how your chemical might be produced, but check the diagram or abstract (click on the citation title) to be sure it's clear:

SciFinder reaction detail

What are we looking at? SciFinder is presenting us with a list of articles that match our search: in this case, articles which contain reaction information in which our selected chemical was a product. SciFinder also diagrams the reaction of interest with any reactants, reagents, catalysts, steps, solvents, and stages.

Tip: articles are displayed in reverse chronological order. Since the lab assignment really just requires ANY synthesis method (not, say, one involving a particular reagent), it can be helpful to jump to the oldest first (at the end of the results). Older articles may be easier to use and describe the method in a more straightforward manner. Obviously the older the method, the greater chance the synthesis has been superceded by newer methods--whether this is OK depends on your research need.

Click on an article title to see details. At this point, we know that the article matches our search, but the actual methodology used might not be clear for one specific chemical. The synthesis method may only be implied, speaking for a more general class of chemicals. Depending on the nature of your research, this could be fine or you may want to look for alternatives. (SciFinder also has some historical indexing problems (see Note 1 below) that still lead to difficulty!)

Tip: not every paper you find is going to have a clear, direct method of synthesis, despite what you see in the search results. One way to better ensure relevance is to check the indexing before tracking down the full text. Click citation title to see details on the reference. You will see bibliographic information (title, authors, etc.) an abstract, and indexing terms. You want to make sure the chemical you're researching is listed in the indexing, annotated by "Role: SPN (Synthetic preparation); PREP (Preparation) (prepn. of)"--or something similar--to indicate it is synthesized.

SciFinder indexing

Look for your chemical's CAS number. If you don't see it, or it's not indexed as preparation, the article may not, in fact, directly discuss a synthesis method of your chemical. It may discuss a more general method of synthesis, or discuss a related chemical. Checking the indexing before taking the time to read the paper can save you some trouble here.

Click the Get Full Text link (may be visible after clicking article citation) to link to full article. You will be able to get to it if (1) the Libraries subscribe to the journal, and (2) full text is online. This will be true for most (but NOT ALL) chemistry research, regardless of the age of the article. If you don't find it, note as much of the citation as you can see: article title, authors, journal title, volume/year, issue, page (or save it as described on the SciFinder page) and look for it manually.

More Help


Librarian Contact Information

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