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IDS 101: Chemicals and Society: Finding Chemical Info

Wikipedia as a Starting Spot

Wikipedia is a great place to begin research for chemical info. It usually has incredible background information from a variety of reliable resources.

Avoid citing Wikipedia if at all possible. Instead, look at their sources of information; use those sources and cite them. 

Always be skeptical about the info you find here; entries can be modified by anyone and may be incorrect.

Steps for Finding Chemical Information

These steps may not always work, but most of the time it will. Come see me if you have problems finding info.

1. Search for your chemical in Wikipedia. This is perfect for background info and will list their sources of information. 

2. Find the Chemical Abstract Society (CAS) Number in Wikipedia in a box (right side of the screen).

3. Open PubChem and search for the CAS Number. There should be one result. For multiple results, it will likely be the first one. 

4. Click on the title to read about it. Look under the Literature section to see how the chemical is used and has impacted our society. 

5. Search the Library's catalog to find print books and ebooks. 

Example Search: Aspirin

1. I searched for "Aspirin" in Wikipedia.

2. I find that in 1853, chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt created acetylsalicylic acid for the first time. It is estimated that 40,000 tons (50 to 120 billion pills) are consumed annually, was the 40th most prescribed medicine in the US in 2018, etc. 

3. On the right, a box contains identification info such as the CAS number (Chemical Abstracts Service), a unique identifier for that one chemical.

4. I open the linked CAS number (50-78-2) and PubChem number (2244) in new tabs. 

5. The CAS number link gives common info about aspirin. The first five alternative names are listed, but I click VIEW ALL to see all 142 names. So many, and some could belong in the Lord of the Rings (Rivo, Crystar, Darvon)! 

6. The PubChem number goes to the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) "encyclopedic page" with drug's use, manufacturing, safety, toxicity, and more. A box called NLM curated PubMed Citation includes articles about the history of the drug, economics, physiology, therapeutic use, derivatives, etc. SCORE! I've got some great info.

7. The literature section lists really technical articles. Interesting, but hard to understand. The General References section has easier to understand titles. I click on a title "What are all the things that aspirin does?" I click the PMID link, and it leads me to page with an abstract. I click the BMJ Full Text link in the top right corner and the full article opens.  

This is all good, but I feel like I need a book or two. 

1. From the Hatfield Library's page, I search for "aspirin."

2. I limit my results by "print books" (under Resource Type). A title catches my eye and it is available in our library, so I jot down the call number and get it from upstairs.

3. I also limit my results by "eBooks." I still have over 15,000 items! I click a title and then Full Text Available at Ebook Central Academic Complete to read it online.