Information Competencies for Chemistry Undergraduates/Big Picture: The Library And Scientific Literature

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Section 1. Big Picture: The Library and Scientific Literature[edit | edit source]

Chemistry undergraduates should understand the nature and purpose of scientific literature and be able to use library tools and services to obtain needed information. This section outlines in broad terms, what students should know about the library and scientific literature.


Undergraduate chemistry students should be able to understand and perform the tasks listed below.

  1. Understand the organization of the library and know how to use library tools (catalogs, databases, library web pages, subject guides, etc.) and library services (reserves, reference, interlibrary loan, etc.) to obtain desired information and references.
  2. Understand the purpose and characteristics of different information-finding tools, e.g. catalogs, indexing and abstracting databases, subject guides, and web search engines, and choose appropriate tools for a particular information need.
  3. Request help from librarians, faculty, and teaching assistants when needed and consult online training materials when available.


Chemistry undergraduates should be able to understand the scope and nature of scientific literature, interpret and evaluate scientific literature, and follow a logical path of inquiry.

  1. Understand the flow of scientific information, and how information is communicated among scientists, both formally and informally.
    Recommended resources:
    Library Research in the Sciences
    Flow of Scientific Information
  2. Understand the nature and purpose of different types of scientific literature, including journals (communications, research articles, and review articles), magazines, patents, proceedings, dissertations, monographs, handbooks, encyclopedias and dictionaries, grey literature, and technical reports.
  3. Be able to read and interpret citations for the different types of scientific literature.
    Recommended resource:
    The ACS Style Guide. Chapter 14: References, by Janet S. Dodd, Leah Solla, and Paula M. Bérardon. 3rd ed. 2006 Print edition $$; info
  4. Understand and apply criteria for evaluating the authority and appropriateness of a document or information source.
  5. Demonstrate critical thinking by evaluating information, drawing conclusions from the literature, and following a logical path of inquiry.
  6. Understand the general nature of the peer review process.
    Recommended resource:
    The ACS Style Guide. Chapter 6: Peer Review, by Barbara Booth, p.71-76. 3rd ed. 2006 Print edition $$; info online access may require ACS ChemWorx registration
    Peer Review Education Resource
  7. Understand scientific ethics and accountability and have an awareness of intellectual property issues and developments in scholarly communications including those affecting author’s rights, the use of copyrighted materials in research and instruction, and open-access initiatives related to the scientific literature.
    Recommended resources:
    ACS Ethical Guidelines
    ACS Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research
    The ACS Style Guide. Chapter 1: Ethics in Scientific Publication, by Gordon G. Hammes, p.3-10. 3rd ed. 2006 Print edition $$; info
    The ACS Style Guide. Chapter 7: Copyright Basics, by Karen S. Buehler, C. Arleen Courtney, and Eric S. Slater, p.77-86. 3rd ed. 2006 Print edition $$; info online access may require ACS ChemWorx registration
    Learning Module: What Chemists Need to Know about Copyright. American Chemical Society Joint Board/Council Committee on Publications. Subcommittee on Copyright.