The chemical literature
17.1 Structure of the chemical literature
Consulting the literature is an essential element of chemical research.
Whether you want to conrm the identity of your latest product or check
the feasibility of an exciting new idea, it would be both unscientic and
counterproductive not to conduct a thorough literature search. Moreover,
it is vital to the success of your work to keep abreast of developments in
organic chemistry in general and in your area in particular. The problem
is that nding chemical information and keeping in touch with current
developments are difcult and time-consuming tasks.
We are the beneciaries of almost one and a half centuries of research
in organic chemistry. The accumulated output of that effort is an enor-
mous body of data collected in a vast literature. It is estimated that well
over half a million articles (papers, patents, books, etc.) are published
each year and the volume of publications will probably continue to rise.
Searching such a huge body of work is a formidable problem, but it must
be emphasized that the time spent reading the literature is often more
than repaid by the experimental time saved as a result.
This chapter is intended as a practical guide to efcient searching of
the chemical literature; the main part is devoted to a description of the
most important access routes to the primary literature and a discussion of
methods of tackling some common types of literature search. The chapter
concludes with a section on methods of keeping in touch with the cur-
rent literature. The reader is referred to a number of other texts for more
Almost all chemical information is originally published in research
journals, in patents, and in theses. These sources are called the primary
literature, and the goal of most literature searches is to nd the original
reports containing the required information. There are thousands of jour-
nals that publish papers on chemistry, but in practice, the great majority
of papers that are of interest to the organic research chemist appear in just
a hundred or so of these. This is still a dauntingly large body of informa-
tion, but there are several routes by which it can be searched and specic
items of information located.
An important route, and one that is rapid and easy, is to tap the
chemical knowledge of your colleagues and supervisors. Many of the