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CHEM 3695 (Chemistry Seminar 1)

Guide to accompany assignments and topics for Chemistry 3695

Scholarly vs Popular Sources

Researching an Assignment Topic

The scope of the literature search and type of information required will depend on the requirements of the assignment.

Books provide a useful starting point for an introduction to the subject. Books generally also provide an in-depth coverage of a topic.

Journal Articles: for current research or information on a very specific topic, journal articles may be the most useful, as they are published on a regular basis. It is normally expected that you will use some journal articles in your assignment.

Free Web Publications: useful information can also be found in free web publications from government or research organizations. Any web publications should be carefully evaluated. You are also required to view the whole publication, not just the abstract, if using the information in your assignment.

Research Tips

Break up sentences or long phrases into separate search terms. Write down initial search term ideas. Add to this list as you search and encounter other potential search terms.
ANDs, ORs, and Nots
Combine your search terms with these connecting terms (called "Boolean operators"). Use AND to narrow a search and OR to broaden a search. Use NOT to exclude a term from your search.
Do preliminary research
Don't assume there will be a lot of information on your topic. You may end up needing to narrow or broaden your search quite a bit to find anything related to your topic. Or, if you have the option, you may want to revise your topic.
Focus on scholarly sources 
Use primarily scholarly and peer-reviewed sources. These sources are typically not freely available on the Web and cannot be found by searching Internet search engines like Google or Yahoo.
Books vs. Articles
Books may be helpful for background information and for familiarizing yourself with a topic. Articles can provide more current information and typically address a very narrow piece of a topic. The scope of your assignment will determine what types of sources are best.
Keep a log of your search
Keep track of what sources and search terms "work" and which ones do not.
Cite as you go
Even if you're not sure whether you will use a source, it's much easier to note the citation information up front than to decide you need it later!
Subject headings in databases and indices
Subject headings are words or phrases used to describe, by subject, the items in a database. Knowing the terms a database uses to describe information relevant to your topic can save you time because using the correct terms enables you to retrieve more quickly more relevant search results.

Empirical Research

Empirical Research is research that is based on experimentation or observation, i.e. Evidence.  Such research is often conducted to answer a specific question or to test a hypothesis (educated guess).


Research articles that consist of empirical research are written in a specific manner.   They are always divided into the following sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references.  Each of these sections may be further divided into subsections.  One quick way to determine if you are looking at an article that consists of empirical research is to see if it has these sections.

Title – offers a brief description of the research and includes the author(s).

Abstract – is a brief but comprehensive summary of the research, usually a paragraph long. 

Introduction – this section gives background information about the research problem.  It often includes information on similar studies, explains the reason(s) for conducting the research and offers any additional information that might be needed to understand the research problem or research that is being described in the paper.  Sometimes the Introduction section isn’t titled, but it is always present.

Methods – gives a detailed description of how the research was conducted.  Some methods that could be used include surveying, experimentation and observation.  This is occasionally titled Methodology instead.

Results – the ‘answer’ to the research question.  The Results section shows, describes and analyzes the data found by the research.

Discussion – discusses the implications of the results found.  The Discussion section may also compare, contrast and discuss the data obtained to other research articles on similar topics.  It is sometimes called the Conclusion or divided into a ‘Discussion’ section and a ‘Conclusion’ section.

References – is a list of citations for other books, journal articles, reports or studies mentioned in the article. Sometimes called Works Cited or Bibliography.

Identifying empirical research

 Various phrases or keywords can identify articles that use empirical or qualitative research.  These include:

  •  Analysis
  •  Subjects
  •  Sample size
  •  Measure or measurement(s)
  •  Outcomes
  •  Qualitative Research
  •  Usage
  •  Findings
  •  Statistics
  •  Results
  •  Survey
  •  Methodology
  •  Data
  •  Original study
  • Experiment 
  •  Research study

Reading and Analyzing Information Sources

Atkins resources