Salisbury University Libraries


Holloway Hall

Chemistry 403/413 - Seminar - Module 1

What's In Blackwell Library?



Function: noun
14th century

1:  the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence
2: knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction
(taken from:  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary,


In this module we'll review the two most common types of information that are out in the academic world for you to use, we'll discuss what types of information you can frequently find in libraries, the specific types of information that you can find at Blackwell Library, and how information is created, stored and used - which is to say, the various steps of the Information Cycle. 


Types of Information

There are all different types of information out there - data that you collect in the lab, population statistics that the government collects, diaries that Civil War soldiers wrote.  All types and categories of information are constantly being collected and - most importantly - made available to other people who then use that information to create new knowledge. 


Regardless of your discipline, to be an efficient researcher you must understand how information is organized, where it is located, and how best to retrieve it.  


In general the two most common kinds of information that you - as a chemistry researcher - will encounter while doing your research are primary sources and secondary sources.

Primary Sources:  Original documents, research, or physical objects.  These can include such material as: diaries, speeches, letters, research articles, or photographs.  In the case of research articles, the articles must be detailing original, hands-on research to count as a primary source. 


An example of a primary chemical article is as follows: 

Hsu, S.; Sigmund, W.M.  Artificial Hairy Surfaces with a Nearly Perfect Hydrophobic Response.  Langmuir. [Online]  2010, 26, 1504-1506.  (accessed March 2, 2010). 


Secondary Sources:  Documents or articles that relate or discuss information originally presented elsewhere (i.e. information taken from a primary source).  Secondary sources typically always involve the generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of the original (primary) information.


An example of a secondary chemical article is as follows:

Raichle, M.  The Brain's Dark Energy.  Scientific American.  2010, 302, 44-49.


For most of the research you are going to be doing for your Chemistry studies, you will need to rely on primary sources more than secondary sources.  Some faculty members will specify exactly how many primary or secondary sources you need to properly complete your assignment, so pay careful attention to what it is you are finding when searching the chemistry databases at SU!


Libraries & Information

Libraries are dedicated to organizing and retrieving information.  Librarians are formally trained in this skill (typically all faculty research librarians at academic institutions have Master's Degrees in Library & Information Sciences) and are also fluent and knowledgeable in their assigned subject areas within academic disciplines at such a level that they can help both undergraduate students and faculty researchers with their information needs. 

Librarians and libraries provide access to information through electronic sources such as databases and catalogs, as well as print materials such as indices and books.  All successful research is based around the understanding of  how to select and use the correct resource for your specific information need, no matter what form it takes.

Blackwell Library has subscribed to a large number (100+) of electronic databases that index, organize, and store articles in both abstract-only and full-text formats.  Using these academic databases when conducting your research means that you consistently get professional, peer-reviewed, properly-detailed academic articles as search results (something that Google or Google Scholar can not guarantee.) In general, your search results when using these library-provided databases are going to be much more closely related to your topic, and your searching experience will therefore be more time- and energy-efficient than if you had used a commercially available search engine like Google or an open source like Wikipedia. 

We'll cover the steps for how to search for journal articles to best utilize your time and maximize your search results next, in Module 2.

Blackwell also has a tremendous number of print resources that will be of use to you when conducting research.  We have thousands of journal titles in print format, with back issues that go back (in some cases) as far as 1855.  We also have a large book collection with titles covering every discipline taught at SU.  You can search our monograph (i.e. book) collection via an online search engine that is referred to as the "catalog usmai" - the search box which is found on the library's home page, front and center.   We'll talk more about the best way to go searching for books later on, in Module 3.


Information Types at Blackwell Library

When you search for information, if you truly understand what it is that you are looking for, you will best understand how to plan your search strategy.  For instance, if there is a chemical discovery that has just happened, there won't be any books out on this discovery - after all, it takes months (even years!) to get a book written and then published.  A recent discovery will be, however, well documented in newspapers, found in electronic journals, and thoroughly covered on relevant websites.  The table below discusses the various types of information that we have at Blackwell, what you can best use it for, and where/how you can get access to it:

Information Types Description Is Useful For.... Can Be Found
Books Books can be useful for general overviews on a topic, particularly topics that are broad and in-depth enough that an entire book can be written about them.  Books generally start with broad generalizations about a topic and then get more specific as they proceed, and as such are excellent places to start when you are introducing yourself to a new topic.  Chemistry texts come in both print and e-book format.   
  • General overviews


  • Advanced information


  • A starting point when looking for additional resources.
...via the Library's online catalog.
Journal Articles Journals are the backbone of chemical communication.  Experts in all fields of chemistry publish their research results in print and e-journals.  Print journals take several months (sometimes almost a year) to accept a manuscript, proofread and revise it, and then print it.  E-journals take far less time for this process, as they don't have to actually send their contents off to a physical printer to be typeset, printed, and then mailed out to each subscriber.  
  • Current news


  • Primary scientific research
...via keyword, author, or title searches through the Library's electronic databases.
Statistical data, research results, raw data sets, etc. While there is certainly no shortage of data to be found in both books and journal articles, there are also sources that contain only data in all of its myriad forms.  Most of these sources are electronic, but there are still some (older) print sources as well for data that either hasn't yet been digitized or is only available in print format regardless of the date.  
  • Supporting or disputing a scientific hypothesis


  • Historical information
...via the Library's databases, government websites, and independent websites. 

Print and electronic sources both are great sources of information that can be used in scientific research, help you to refine your research topic, or write a scientific article. 

For now, bear in mind that you can access most online SU library information from anywhere, anytime - all you need to have on hand is your 14-digit barcode number, which is found on the back of your GullCard.

If you are interested in taking an online tour of Blackwell Library's holdings, you can click here for an in-depth (30 minute) walk-through of our resources and layout. 




Chemistry 403/413 Professor:

1.  Because everything you need is completely on-line, there isn't a need to ever visit the library in person. 




2.  You will mostly need secondary sources when working on your research paper.




3.  What are three examples of primary source material?





4.  Examine the two journal articles linked below.   In the space provided, indicate which of these is a primary source, and tell me exactly why the article you have chosen is a primary source.

Journal Article #1

Journal Article #2


5.  Examine the two journal articles linked below.  In the space provided, indicate which of these is a secondary source, and tell me exactly why the article you have chosen is a secondary source.

Journal Article #1

Journal Article #2


6.  In the space provided, please briefly explain the difference between a database found via Blackwell Library's website - such as the American Chemical Society Journals database - and a commercially available database/search engine such as Google Scholar.