Literature Research Process for Chemistry

(Last Update: 10/28/16)


  • Go to our browsing periodicals section (or, our retrospective periodicals section) and look for the journals Science, or Nature.
  • Look at the Table of Contents.  In Nature, look for research article listings (in the Table of Contents) that have the note SEE N&V P__(N&V stands for “news and views” and P stands for page numbers).  That note is referring to a brief news story on that research in the same issue.  Go to the appropriate page numbers for both articles.  Voila!  You get your tertiary/primary articles in one swoop!
  • In Science,  go to the Table of Contents.  Look for a research article (in the Table of Contents section RESEARCH) and look for a REPORT that has the note
    PERSPECTIVE P ___ (“PERSPECTIVE” indicates a news/opinion piece on the same subject, and again, P stands for page numbers).   Go to the appropriate page numbers for both the REPORT and PERSPECTIVE articles.  Again, you get your tertiary/primary articles in one issue.
  • NOTE: you may need to look at several issues of either journal, since not every issue will have a chemistry-related research article and corresponding N&V or “PERSPECTIVE” item.


  • First, find the secondary or tertiary article–most good secondary/tertiary articles have direct citations right in them–then use our databases to locate the related primary article.
  • If you can get to the library, an easy, low tech way to find a secondary/tertiary article/report is to go to the periodical shelves on the main floor of the library and browse our current and past issues of Discover , Science News, or  other popular science magazines.  Find a secondary/tertiary article on a scientific topic in  magazine.  Look for secondary/tertiary articles that refer to a research study or experiment–that’s your primary source!
  • Click on the Articles and More icon–this leads you to a list of our databases.
  • Look for the following databases:
    • Bio-One (offers full text primary source and secondary source articles in the bio sciences)
    • Academic Search Premier (offers full text primary source and secondary source articles in most academic topics.)
    • Medline (offers primary source and secondary source   articles in medicine.  Some of these are full text).
  • Other possible databases for chemistry topics are listed at:
  • When you are looking for PRIMARY sources, you will want to search by author.
    • That’s important, because if your secondary/tertiary article refers a particular scientist, author or researcher, you can use the author search to look for their primary research.
    • Choose a database and look for the author search choice (you may have to click on advanced search or use a pull down menu for this.) Type in your author/scientist name (usually last name, then first name).Yikes!  What if there’s no full text link?

Here’s what you do:  Many of our databases let you order an article right there off the results list.   Just look for the order link and fill out the form.  We’ll send you  an e-mail with a link to the article–often as soon as a couple days.

Or…go to Google Scholar.  If you have a known author and article title (that you located using a database!)  you can often locate the full text of that article on Google Scholar.

Never purchase a full text article!  Use our interlibrary loan service ( instead.

(note: the following definitions are from the Dartmouth Biomedical Library Website)

  • Primary literature: contains original data and ideas and are generally the first published record of an investigation. Examples include research articles, research monographs, preprints, patents, dissertations, and conference proceedings.  These are usually hard to find on the web using standard search engines.
  • Secondary sources: contain information about primary sources, usually a compilation or synthesis of various ideas and data. Secondary sources may rearrange or modify data and include such sources as indexes to the primary literature, reference works derived from primary research, and reviews. Examples include encyclopedias (inlcuding Wikipedia), review articles (these usually have 50-300 references and are very long, many are government reports), handbooks, bibliographies, and abstracts/indexes.
  • Tertiary sources/reports: discuss science rather than contribute, or they are indirect sources. Examples include textbooks, directories, and literature guides, popular science journals and newspaper articles and reports on sciencein your research assignment this is also discussed as a “report”.


Free Patents
NBCI (link for Biochem)
National Renewable Energy Lab (click on PUBS at bottom for free references)
PNAS (for finding the citation of the article that you want and also for browsing my topic)






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