Organic Chemistry Lab Literature Searching Assignment

This site compiles several sources recommended for the Organic Chemistry Lab literature searching assignment. Note that you will likely need to check several sources to find the data you need. Keep track of the sources you use as you go, so you can cite them in your literature report.

SciFinder and Reaxys are two major sources of chemistry information. Note that you can use either of these databases to complete most portions of this assignment.

Basic Information

  • CAS number
  • synonyms
  • molecular formula
  • structure
  • cost

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

Start with:

  • Sigma-Aldrich. Contains basic information on thousands of chemicals. At a minimum, you'll get the CAS number and price. You may also be able to get some synonyms, properties, and the formula and structure. There are sometimes links to spectra and an MSDS. Sigma-Aldrich is a vendor of these chemicals, so the catalog only contains substances they sell.

Physical 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. You may even find information in Wikipedia or through a general internet search. You should not CITE Wikipedia, but it can lead you to authoritative sources of 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, if you are trying to find information on a complex or rare chemical, you may 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:

Tried several sources and still can’t find a particular property? Consider whether there is a reason why your chemical would not have a particular property. For example, does it explode when you heat it? If so, that might make it difficult to establish a boiling point! For another example, 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 in a standard 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:


Start with:

  • Sigma-Aldrich
  • Spectral Database for Organic Compounds (SDBS). A very good free site for spectra of organic compounds.
  • SciFinder. Click on Substance Identifier and search for your substance, then click on Spectra. SciFinder may contain the spectrum you need, or it may only contain a reference to an article containing the spectrum you need. In the latter case, click on the citation in the Notes field to access the full text of the article and obtain the spectrum.
  • Additional sources

Preparation or Synthesis

This a very important research task for any organic chemist. See the Finding a Method of Synthesis page for information.