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Research Guides

Chemistry: Get Started

Why Use Reference Sources?

Reference sources include encyclopedias, handbooks, and dictionaries.  They are a great place to begin your research, since they can help with the following:

  • Provide information on the properties of substances
  • Offer ideas for possible research topics
  • Give you background information on your topic
  • Define unfamiliar terms
  • Suggest keywords to use when searching for books and articles
  • Point you to books and articles on your topic, via "works cited" lists

Starting Points

These two sciences databases are great places to browse topic ideas and background information:

Browse our full list of online encyclopedias for chemistry:

Browse our new books and videos for chemistry:

Start Your Search

Limit to: audio

Picking a Topic

Use these tips to help you choose a research topic:

  • To brainstorm ideas to research, try browsing:
    • News in your subject area. (Google chemistry news to find websites to browse.)
    • The table of contents of a book or encyclopedia in your subject area.
  • Do some initial searching on one or more topic ideas, using our main library search box or Google.
  • Refine your topic based on what you find:
    • Maybe you found a slight variation or different direction you want to go in.
    • Tons of results? Consider narrowing your topic to focus on a smaller aspect of it.
    • Hardly any results? You may need to broaden your topic and make it less specific.
  • In the end, choose something you're interested in.

If you want to discuss topic ideas, stop by the Reference Desk to chat with a librarian.

General Search Tips

These search tips work in our library databases and Library Catalog:

  • Combine keywords using AND and OR.
    • Use AND for searching different ideas within your topic. E.g. PFOA AND drinking water
    • Use OR for searching with synonyms of your keywords. E.g. (PFAs OR PFOs OR PFOA) AND drinking water
  • Abbreviate words with multiple endings using an asterisk (*). E.g. PFO* to search both PFOA and PFOs
  • Search specific phrases using quotation marks. E.g. "PFOA Stewardship Program"
  • Change your search terms around to get different results.

Online & Print Reference Sources

Here is a selected list of chemistry reference materials where you can start finding background information, such as about chemicals and their properties:

Ask a Librarian!

Contact the Reference Desk

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Science Daily Chemistry News

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