1. Essential Information Skills for Productive Chemists

Getting along in the hybrid information environment of analog, electronic and digital formats and frameworks today involves some essential skills for chemists:

●Knowledge of chemical publication types and how to find data and information

●Good data and literature citation practices 

●Informed data management habits

●Understanding of chemically intelligent and machine readable structures and identifiers

●Appreciation of information expertise and services


These skills have been applicable throughout the era of modern science. Chemistry is an information intensive field, typified in the magnitude, diversity, breadth, depth and detail of its documentation. The good news is there is a lot of information to ‘mine’ for research questions, and you will be learning various methods throughout the course. The challenge is staying organized in the deluge. Meeting this challenge is known as information literacy, breaking down research problems into discrete steps of critical inquiry. 


1.1   Five Steps to Successful Critical Inquiry in Chemical Information


1.Scope and design the inquiry, and determine what information types are relevant for the need

2.Strategize where and how to look for the information

3.Evaluate validity and appropriateness of information sources

4.Summarize, analyze and apply the information to the specific problem at hand, including revisiting the information search if needed

5.Cite the sources and document the whole process and outcome sufficiently to communicate rationale and demonstrate validity of your approach


The sections in Module 1 will cover some basics of steps 1, 2, 3, and 5; the rest of this course covers step 4. There are a variety of methods and techniques available in practice for approaching each step:


Inquiry Steps

Types of Information Tools

Step 1: Scope the need

Structure of chemical information; common publication types; core resources

Step 2: Search strategies

Access to specific sources; general search methodologies; specific search tool functions

Step 3: Evaluate sources

Evaluation criteria; adequacy indicators

Step 4: Analyze and apply to problem

Organization; visualization

Step 5: Cite, document and communicate

Citation format; publication/communication practices


There are many information steps and tools involved in rigorous chemistry research! Guides to getting started, specific resources and advanced searching techniques can be very helpful.1 More are always needed, especially for local institution resources and services. In this section you will be asked to create a guide for your peers based on your own 1-5 step research process.

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Stuart Chalk's picture
Stuart Chalk | Thu, 08/27/2015 - 08:38
In the context of Step 4 above, could you describe or give an example of what you mean by 'vizualization'?