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This guide highlights key information and resources for chemistry research.

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Types of literature

Many types of sources make up the body of literature within chemistry. Each type plays a unique role in contributing to our shared knowledge in this field. Sources can be broken down into two main categories:

  1. Scholarly sources–which can be further broken down into primary, secondary, and tertiary
  2. Non-scholarly sources

🎓 = always peer-reviewed

🔎 = sometimes peer-reviewed, examine the source to evaluate quality!

>> Click on each type of source below to learn more about it! <<

Primary scholarly sources

In the sciences, primary sources refer to original research articles or documents that present the results of experimental or observational studies conducted by the authors themselves. These sources typically contain detailed descriptions of the methods used, the data collected, and the conclusions drawn from the research. Primary sources are considered the most reliable and authoritative sources of information in scientific disciplines because they provide firsthand accounts of scientific investigations.

A scholarly journal article is a peer-reviewed* piece of original research written by experts in a particular field. It's typically published in an academic journal and includes research findings, analysis, and references to other works in the same field.

*Peer-reviewed means that an article has been evaluated and approved by experts in the same field before it's published. This process ensures the quality and credibility of the research presented in the article.

Preprints are early versions of research papers shared publicly before they undergo formal peer review. They allow researchers to share findings quickly and gather feedback from the scientific community before final publication in a journal.

Conference proceedings are collections of papers or abstracts presented at an academic conference or symposium. They typically include summaries of research findings, discussions, and presentations given by scholars in a particular field during the event.

Dissertations and theses are in-depth academic papers written by students to fulfill the requirements for advanced degrees, such as a master's or doctoral degree. They involve original research, analysis, and often contribute new knowledge to their field of study.

Secondary scholarly sources

Secondary sources in the sciences are interpretations or analyses of primary sources. They are created by researchers or scholars who have synthesized, summarized, or evaluated information from primary sources to provide commentary, explanation, or context. Unlike primary sources, which present original research findings, secondary sources offer interpretations, critiques, or discussions of existing research.

Review articles are comprehensive, peer-reviewed summaries of existing research on a particular topic or field. They provide an overview of the current state of knowledge, synthesize findings from multiple studies, and often offer insights, critiques, and future research directions.

Review articles are often a great starting point when beginning research on a new topic as they provide a general overview of the current state of the literature.

There is a wide variety of chemistry-oriented books, ranging in subject and level of detail. Scholarly books are useful for getting background knowledge on a topic, especially since this level of background detail is typically not found in journal articles.

Tertiary scholarly sources

Tertiary sources in the sciences compile and organize information from primary and secondary sources. They are typically intended to provide users with an overview or summary of a topic, rather than in-depth analysis or original research. Tertiary sources often present information in a more accessible format, making them useful for general audiences or those seeking introductory knowledge on a subject.

Databases are indexes (or repositories) containing thousands of scholarly journals and related sources. They categorize articles using keywords and metadata, enhancing their accessibility through search functions. These databases offer robust filtering capabilities, enabling users to narrow down search results and identify relevant sources efficiently. However, it's important to note that databases usually index journal articles, meaning the complete text resides within the respective journals rather than directly in the database itself.

Encyclopedias and dictionaries are organized collections of information that are typically broad in scope and written by a large number of authors. They are a great place to look up quick facts, key concepts, and definitions of unfamiliar terms.

Chemical handbooks are comprehensive reference books that contain detailed information about various aspects of chemistry, including chemical compounds, reactions, properties, and laboratory techniques. They often include tables of data, diagrams, and explanations to aid researchers, students, and professionals in understanding and working with chemicals.

Non-scholarly sources

Non-scholarly sources in the sciences refer to materials that are not produced within the academic or scientific community and do not undergo peer review or rigorous academic scrutiny. While non-scholarly sources can sometimes provide useful insights or perspectives on scientific topics, they may also lack accuracy, reliability, or depth of analysis compared to scholarly sources.

It's important to critically evaluate non-scholarly sources for their credibility, relevance, and potential biases before using them         as evidence or information in scientific discussions or research.

A patent awards intellectual property rights to the inventor of an invention. To secure a patent, scientists are required to publicly disclose technical details about their new creation. Patents primarily serve as legal documents, focusing on protecting intellectual property rather than information-sharing to the academic community.

A technical standard is a recognized guideline, procedure, or specification set by experts in the field. These standards are widely adopted in industries to promote consistency, quality, and safety in processes and products.

Trade articles are typically authored by and targeted at professionals within a specific industry, such as materials scientists, chemical engineers, or pharmaceutical scientists. These publications primarily cover industry news and developments, frequently incorporating specialized terminology relevant to the field.

Government documents are publications issued by government agencies or departments. These include reports, studies, regulations, and other official materials produced by governmental bodies. In academic chemistry research, government documents can be used to access valuable data, statistics, regulations, and research findings related to various aspects of chemistry, such as environmental regulations, safety standards, funding opportunities, and scientific research conducted or sponsored by government agencies.

Newspaper articles and popular science magazines are usually written by journalists and intended for a wide audience, using simple language that's easy for anyone to understand. These articles don't often include a list of sources but are usually fact-checked by the publication's editorial team.

Scholarly journals often feature editorials, opinions, and letters shared by scientists. These pieces may highlight urgent issues, reflect on previous research, or speculate about the future of the field. While they typically aren't subjected to peer review, they provide valuable insights into their fields.

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