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CHEM 184/284 (Chemical Literature) - Huber - Winter 2024: Chem 184/284: Term Project Description

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: Term Project Description

As stated in the course description, Chem 184/284 has a term project in lieu of a final exam. Since this is primarily a course in practical techniques in literature searching, I feel this is a more appropriate way to see what you have learned and to give you practice in the techniques.

The project is to select a topic in chemistry and research it, using the resources which we will discuss in class. Remember that chemistry is the central science and you can look for topics in biochemistry and molecular biology, chemical physics, materials science, chemical engineering, medicinal chemistry, forensic chemistry, environmental chemistry, geochemistry and so on. You should try to select a topic which is of interest or use to you; it may be related to your research, or to something in which your advisor is interested, or which you'd like to pursue in your future career. You might want to consider a topic which you could use to apply for the UCSB Library Award for Undergraduate Research (for undergrads, obviously!)​ Avoid trivial searches, like finding the papers of a particular author. Searches for the synthesis of a single compound are probably too trivial, but searches on a class of synthetic methods or syntheses of a class of compounds are appropriate. Also, think about and decide on the scope of your search.

  • Is there a chronological limit to your search, e.g. 1980 to present, pre-1960, or all the literature?
  • Are you interested in a comprehensive review of the literature, or just locating key references?
  • Do you only need the journal literature on your topic, or are other forms (patents, dissertations, technical reports, etc.) relevant?

The nature of your subject, or the information you have on hand may dictate the scope of your search.

By the midway point in the course, I expect you to give me a brief description of your proposed topic. (See class schedule on the home page of this guide.) This should be a no more than one or two paragraph description of what you have in mind. I will review these and make suggestions if I feel the topic is too broad, too narrow or otherwise inappropriate. If there is a problem, we'll discuss the topic and try to modify it to where it's appropriate.

Some examples of successful term projects:

  • Methods for controlling eutrophication in lakes and lagoons
  • Use of surfactants in designing zeolites
  • Structure and mechanisms of the enzyme ACC oxidase
  • Zinc and linoleic acid metabolism
  • Fuel additives to enhance performance and/or lower emissions
  • Captodative allenes in organic synthesis

It is acceptable for you to change topics later on if you find that there simply isn't enough research out there on your topic or if a new topic suggests itself to you. You should check with me before doing so, however, and, obviously, the later in the quarter you change your topic, the less time you'll have to complete your project.

You have at your disposal all the print and electronic resources of the UCSB Library. These should be sufficient for your task. If you can convince me that your particular topic needs access to some resource which is not readily available, I can provide a limited amount of searching of some commercially available databases.

Your report on the project will be in two parts: an oral report to the class, and a written report. The oral reports will be given in the last week of class (depending on the number of students in the class, and on how many hours I need to complete the lectures) during the regular class time. The oral presentation should be brief -- no more than 10 minutes in length. Be concise and to the point. You may use PowerPoint or other presentation software, but they are not required. The oral presentation gives me (and your fellow students) a chance to critique your project and make suggestions before the final write-up. The written report will be due in my office by the date and time specified in the syllabus). You may deliver a printed copy, or send me the document as a Microsoft Word file or PDF file.

In your report, I am not primarily interested in the quantity of citations you locate. After all, many searches are aimed at determining that a given area has NOT been studied. What I am interested in is how you went about your search and why. I need to know:

  • What search tools did you use, and why did you select them?
  • How did you approach the material?
  • What worked, what didn't, and why or why not?
  • How did you build on the sources you identified - working backward to earlier work, forward to more recent studies or laterally to contemporary material?
  • A sample of the "best" result you obtained, in the form of an annotated bibliography (see below.)

The bibliography should be a list of the ten (roughly) "best" references whch you discovered in your research: journal articles, preprints, patents, book chapters, etc.  It should NOT include indexing databases such as SciFinder-n. Each item should be cited according to the current ACS citation style - see the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication. In addition to the citation, you should include a brief description of WHY that particular article/patent/book was valuable for the understanding of your topic. Do not list everything your research uncovered, just the ten or so "best".

If you'd like to see examples of the write-ups from previous students, I have a few on file that you can take a look at, with my comments to the author. Again, there is not a fixed length for the write-up; it will vary with your topic as to how complex your research process was.

The ideal search is both thorough and economical (of your time and effort) -- use every resource that is appropriate, but don't waste time in those which are irrelevant or unpromising. A search for synthetic methods in Landolt-Bornstein is pointless; but one for some types of physical data that doesn't check it is missing a good bet.

In many cases, it will turn out that the best single resource for your topic will be a search of the Chemical Abstracts files via SciFinder-n. However, don't automatically assume this to be the case. Consider reference works, as well as other indexes to the literature which might be useful. Also, your SciFinder search may yield information (key papers, authors, or references) which will lead you back to other sources to complete your search.


© 2024 Charles F. Huber

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This work by Charles F. Huber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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Term Project Annotated Bibliography

As a part of your final report for the term project, I want you to create a short annotated bibliography for your topic.  Select the ten best references for your purposes which you found in your research on your topic.  These should be references to which you actually had access and were able to read (or at least skin through.)  Put the references in American Chemical Society citation style (either from the ACS Style Guide, 3rd ed. or the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication), ordering them in alphabetical order by the first author’s last name.  If you use an automated tool (e.g. EndNote) to format your bibliography, make sure that your proof read it to verify that all information is present, and that the style is correct.


Comment briefly on the relevance or significance of the article/reference book/book chapter/patent/website/whatever to your research topic. DO NOT use the databases that you used to find the articles as bibliography items.  You will discuss them in the other part of your write-up.  The annotated bibliography is due along with the written report.


A sample annotated bibliography, using ACS Style Guide, 3rd ed., is given below.


Plagiarism in Science Education and Publishing

Annotated Bibliography

  1. Brondz, I., Analytical methods in quality control of scientific publications. Am. J. Anal. Chem. 2012, 3 (6), 443-447.

Discusses the use of analytical chemistry methods to catch bad and falsified data.

  1. Cooke, J.; Jordan, A. D., The art of good grading - A training seminar for graduate students. Chem. Educ. 2005, 10 (6), 473-477.

Plagiarism in the context of grading papers/reports by graduate student TAs.

  1. Dalabayeva, N. S.; Fieldsend, J., Some key approaches that could improve learning chemistry in higher education. Chem. Bull. Kaz. Natl. Univ. 2014,  (2), 100-104.

Gives one approach for dealing with plagiarism in the classroom environment.

  1. Errami, M.; Hicks, J. M.; Fisher, W.; Trusty, D.; Wren, J. D.; Long, T. C.; Garner, H. R., Deja vu - A study of duplicate citations in Medline. Bioinformatics 2008, 24 (2), 243-249.

The authors investigate the sources of duplicate references in Medline/Pubmed, including plagiarism.

  1. Handelsman, J., The Gray Zone: Scientific Misconduct Comes in Many Shades. DNA Cell Biol. 2008, 27 (2), 63-64.

Plagiarism is mentioned as one of the various types of scientific misconduct.

  1. Kurek, K.; Geurts, P. A. T. M.; Roosendaal, H. E., The split between availability and selection. Business models for scientific information, and the scientific process? Inf. Serv. Use 2006, 26 (4), 271-282.

Plagiarism is a relatively minor piece of the authors’ overall thesis on scientific communication.

  1. Mabrouk, P. A., What Knowledge of Responsible Conduct of Research Do Undergraduates Bring to Their Undergraduate Research Experiences? J. Chem. Educ. 2016, 93 (1), 46-55.

Good article; discusses plagiarism in the overall context of student research ethics.

  1. Marino, G. “Ethics of research”, in  Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze detta dei XL: 1997; pp 247-257.

Plagiarism is discussed as part of an overview of research ethics.

  1. Marusic, A., Editors as gatekeepers of responsible science. Biochem. Med. 2010, 20 (3), 282-287.

Discusses the role of editors in, among other things, preventing plagiarism.

  1. Noyori, R.; Richmond, J. P., Ethical Conduct in Chemical Research and Publishing. Adv. Synth. Catal. 2013, 355 (1), 3-9.

Identifies all the different groups responsible for maintaining ethical standards in scientific publishing


© 2024 Charles F. Huber

Creative Commons License
This work by Charles F. Huber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at