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CHEM 184/284 (Chemical Literature) - Huber - Winter 2024: Chem 184/284: Introductory Notes

A two-credit course in the techniques and tools for effective searching the literature of chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering and related fields.

Chem 184/284:: Introductory Notes

Purpose and Goals of the Course

The chemical literature is both vast and complex. Exploring every aspect of it in depth would require far more time than we have this quarter. I do hope to give you the basic tools and concepts to make more efficient use of the literature, both here at UCSB and in your future careers. In particular, we will cover the use of electronic indexes to the literature, an essential tool for both current awareness and in-depth literature searching.


Class Schedule and Lecture Notes

The online version of the syllabus ( ) is the definitive version. I reserve the right to add, rearrange or delete lectures as my schedule and changes in the material to be covered require. There are links from the class schedule to my lecture notes for the course. You are expected to read and understand the material in the lecture notes BEFORE coming to that class. If any material is unclear, be prepared to ask questions about it in class. Please note: (1) Not everything I say in class is necessarily included in the lecture notes. While they are there to help you, attendance for the lectures is still highly recommended. (2) I reserve the right to update the lecture notes up to the last minute. If you print off the notes too far in advance, you may miss out on new information, or even get outdated and incorrect information.



There is no required textbook for this course. There are a number of useful reference books on the chemical literature listed on the Chemical Information References in the UCSB Library page, and suggested supplementary readings from some of them will be mentioned from time to time.


Assignments and Exams

There will be short assignments or quizzes associated with most of the lectures. They will be available along with the lecture notes, linked from the course website on GauchoSpace. These are to be completed after reading the lecture notes and attending the lecture in question and completed before the next lecture. There will also be at least two longer assignments, the "take-home mid-terms". Copies will be available on the class Web site in electronic form. The due dates are noted in the syllabus.


Computer Searching Details

You will have at your disposal the computer resources of the UCSB Library and the University of California Digital Library: electronic indexes, journals, reference books and more. This includes SciFinder-n the end-user electronic versions of the Chemical Abstracts databases, and Reaxys, the end-user electronic interface for the Beilstein and Gmelin chemical databases. All of these are accessible off-campus to current UCSB students; see the Library's off-campus access pages for more information. If you are interested in learning other ways to search the CAS files, see me, and tutorial time may be arranged.


Final Project

In lieu of a final exam, each registered student will have a literature searching project. The topic of the search should be a subject area, non-trivial in scope, but not overly large either. For example, searching a topic which has only been researched by one's own research group for the past two months is probably too narrow, while doing a comprehensive search of "analytical chemistry" is definitely biting off too big a chunk. Think of the search as if you were trying to compile a review of the literature for publication, or to get an in-depth idea of what has been published on that topic before you start on your thesis or a grant proposal.

I encourage you to pick topics which are relevant to your interests and research; the more relevant the project is, the more interesting the search will be, both for you and the rest of us. If you can use your research from this class to write a report or proposal for another class or research project, so much he better! A written proposal for the search will be due about mid-quarter (see class schedule).

Each student will give a brief presentation on their search in class the last two or three  meetings of class, and turn in a written report.

The in-class presentation may simply be done orally, or you may share PowerPoint or other presentations via Zoom. The choice is up to each student. It should last no more than 5-10 minutes.

The report should explain why you researched the topic, how you went about the search, why you chose the sources which you did or did not use, and give at least a representative cross-section of the results. Approaches that didn't work (and explanations of why) should be mentioned. If there were further avenues that you would have used given more time (or money, in the case of online searches), describe what you would have done with the opportunity. The written reports should be submitted as Microsoft Word files or PDFs; if for some reason you feel you cannot do this, please discuss it with me well in advance. The written report is normally due on the day that this class would have had a final exam, unless I have to be out of town for a conference. This year, it will be due on Tuesday, March 19, 20234-  NO LATER than 11:59 pm!!, in my office, either as a hard copy, a PDF or a Microsoft Word document. (see the syllabus). For more detail on what I'm looking for in the final projects, see the Term Project page.



The lecture assignments will count 10-15% of the final grade. The take home mid-term exams will count for 15-20% of the grade each. The final project will count for 50% of the grade. The course may be taken pass/no-pass for credit, or it may be audited for no credit.


© 2025 Charles F. Huber


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