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Chemistry: Reference works

Key reference works for inorganic chemisty

Comprehensive Organometallic Chemistry III (COMC-III) is an essential reference for all aspects of organometallic chemistry and covers key developments between 1993 and 2005, supported by extensive cross-references. COMC-III is available electronically via ScienceDirect, and supplements COMC-II (1983-1993) and COMC (up to 1982) which are held in print format.

Dictionary of Inorganic Compounds is a multi-volume work which provides property data for inorganic compounds. Compounds are listed in order of empirical formula according to the Hill Convention. Where no carbon is present, the elements including H are ordered alphabetically. Various index volumes aid identification of relevant entries.

Inorganic Syntheses provides a compilation of techniques and ideas in inorganic synthetic chemistry.

Key reference works for organic chemistry

Comprehensive Heterocyclic Chemistry describes the fundamentals of the subject, with an emphasis on basic principles, and shows unifying correlations in the properties, chemistry, and synthesis of heterocyclic systems and analogous carbocyclic structures. Published in 1984, and edited by A.R. Katritzky.

Comprehensive Medicinal Chemistry II (CMC-II) reflects significant changes and developments between 1995 and 2005, including genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput screening and pharmacology. Available electronically via ScienceDirect. This complements Comprehensive Medicinal Chemistry that was published in 1990.

Dictionary of Organic Compounds provides descriptive and numerical data on the chemical, physical and biological properties of compounds; systematic and common names of compounds; literature references; structure diagrams and connection tables. The database includes all compounds contained in the Dictionary of Organic Compounds and the Dictionary of Organophosphorus Compounds.

Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis is a standard reference source for reagents used in organic synthesis. Entries highlight the uses and characteristics of each reagent, and includes information on physical data, solubility, the form it is supplied in, purification, and where relevant, preparative methods. Published in 1995, and edited by L.A. Paquette.

Fieser and Fieser's Reagents for Organic Synthesis is a multivolume series that covers the reagent literature. Published from 1967 to present, and edited by M. Fieser.

Houben-Weyl Methods of Organic Chemistry is an extensive publication on preparative methods in organic chemistry, in which all methods are organized according to the class of compound or functional group to be synthesized. See also Science of Synthesis.

Organic Reactions is an annual series that contains critical discussions of widely used organic reactions or particular phases of a reaction, and is written from a preparative point of view. Published from 1942 to present, and edited by L.A. Paquette.

Organic Syntheses (you may experience difficluties accessing this using Firefox) provides procedures for the synthesis of organic compounds. Some procedures describe practical methods for the preparation of specific compounds of interest, while other procedures illustrate important synthetic methods with general utility. In 1998, in keeping with its charter, the Board of Directors decided to place the past and future volumes of Organic Syntheses on the Internet, with free access to all.

Rodd's Chemistry of Carbon Compounds provides a general introduction to organic chemistry and gives a theoretical interpretation of properties and reactivity, structural formula, methods of preparation, and properties.  Each volume has an index and includes references to the original literature. Published in 1964 and subsequent years.

Synthetic Methods of Organic Chemistry provides an extensive collection of chemical reactions. Published from 1946 to present, and edited by A. Finch and W. Theilheimer.

Other reference works

Chemical Abstracts Service Source Index (CASSI) is a static database for the period 1907-1997, and provides bibliographic details and library holdings information for current serials, serials with changed titles, discontinued serials, publications from scientific and technical meetings, edited monographic collections, and cross references. Also available in print format.

Oxford Reference Online provides access to over 100 reference works in all subject areas, including science and medicine. Content includes subject reference works (e.g. A Dictionary of Chemistry, Oxford University Press, 2004., An A-Z of Medicinal Drugs, Oxford University Press, 2003.), english language reference works (e.g. dictionaries and thesauruses), and bilingual dictionaries.

Treatise on Geochemistry provides a comprehensive, integrated summary of the present state of geochemistry. All major topics in the field of geochemistry are covered, ranging from the chemistry of the solar system to environmental geochemistry.

Key reference works for chemisty

Beilstein CrossFire (Reaxys) is a powerful chemical information system that provides extensive information on millions of chemical substances and reactions, and associated facts and literature references drawn from over 200 years of the primary literature. CrossFire includes the following databases and software.

  • Beilstein database covers organic chemistry and is based on the print publication Beilstein's Handbuch der organischen Chemie
  • Gmelin database covers inorganic and organometallic chemistry and is based on the print publication Gmelin Handbuch der anorganischen Chemie
  • EcoPharm database focuses on pharmacology, toxicology and ecological chemistry
  • AutoNom software is a naming tool for organic substances. Users draw an organic compound using a structure editor, and AutoNom can provide the correct IUPAC name

CrossFire indexes three primary data domains: substances, reactions, and literature. The substance domain stores structural information with all associated facts and literature references, including chemical, physical, and bioactivity data. The reaction domain details the preparation of substances, enabling scientists to investigate specific reaction pathways with reaction search queries. The literature domain includes citations, titles, and abstracts, which are hyperlinked to the substance and reaction domain entries.

Knovel Engineering and Scientific Online References provides reference data and information for scientists and engineers, and is a valuable source of physical and chemical property data. Content is drawn from the full text of over 700 publications, including reference works (mostly handbooks, plus encyclopaedias and dictionaries) as well as monographs, conference proceedings and databases.

Knovel enables cross-searching of the aggregated content for numeric data (via the Advanced Search option) and keywords. Interactive tables, graphs and equations allow users to retrieve, capture and manipulate data, and to export that data to standard applications (including Excel).

Individual publications may also be browsed through over 15 subject areas, which include: Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, Biology & Biotechnology; Environment & Environmental Engineering; Metals & Metallurgy; Pharmaceutical, Cosmetics & Toiletries; Plastics & Rubber; Health, Safety & Hygiene. To illustrate, content includes core reference works such as:

  • Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook
  • Chemical Properties Handbook
  • Dictionary of Substances and Their Effects
  • Patty's Toxicology
  • Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens
  • Encyclopedia of Chemical Physics and Physical Chemistry

Landolt-Börnstein Numerical Data and Functional Relationships in Science and Technology is an extensive printed source of critically assessed data. Data are presented (often in graphical form) along with the experimental conditions, methods of measurement, evaluations, and bibliographic references to the original data sources. Data is presented in over 270 sub-volumes covering: elementary particles, nuclei and atoms; molecules and radicals; condensed matter; physical chemistry; geophysics; astronomy and astrophysics; biophysics; advanced materials and technologies. Index volumes assist location of specific data. This handbook's data coverage starts with the scientific data described before 1883 (the year of the first handbook publication) up to the present day.

CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics is a valuable source of chemical and physical data, and is available in print format in the Library at Quick Ref 540.2C64 . Sixteen main sections cover: 1. Basic constants, units, and conversion factors; 2. Symbols, terminology, and nomenclature; 3. Physical constants of organic compounds; 4. Properties of the elements and inorganic compounds; 5. Thermochemistry, electrochemistry, and kinetics; 6. Fluid properties; 7. Biochemistry; 8. Analytical chemistry; 9. Molecular structure and spectroscopy; 10. Atomic, molecular, and optical physics; 11. Nuclear and particle physics; 12. Properties of solids; 13. Polymer properties; 14. Geophysics, astronomy, and acoustics; 15. Practical laboratory data; 16. Health and safety information. An appendix provides mathematical tables.


Encyclopaedias provide authoritative overviews of subjects in a readily accessible form, and can therefore provide a useful starting point when you are beginning work in a new or unfamiliar field. The articles they contain often give references for further reading. Where available, always use an encyclopaedia's index, because relevant information may occur under an unexpected heading. Examples include:

Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry is a major, multi-volume publication that provides extensive coverage of chemical engineering, industrial safety, and analytical methods. The text is fully searchable by keyword, author, table, figure, and CAS Registry Number. Also available in print format.

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry provides an aid to chemists (organic, polymer, inorganic, biochemists, molecular biologists, analytical chemists), physicists and engineers, to find essential information required to analyze an analyte in a matrix for whatever purpose or application, interpret the results, and gain a thorough knowledge of the theory and instrumentation utilized. Published in 2000 and edited by R.A. Meyers.

Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences covers all aspects of atmospheric sciences, including both theory and applications.

Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry provides more than 500 different entries encompassing all aspects of biochemistry, as well as the extensions of this subject into the related fields of molecular biology, cell biology, genetics and biophysics.

The Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences provides comprehensive coverage of the core theories, methods, techniques, and applications employed by forensic scientists.

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry provides an extensive treatment of the subject. Published in 1994 and edited by A.B. King. 

Encyclopedia of Life Sciences includes over 3,000 specially commissioned, peer-reviewed and continually updated articles. All areas of life sciences are covered, including (but not limited to) biochemistry, bioinformatics, biotechnology, cancer research, cell biology, clinical medicine, environmental science, genetics, molecular biology, pharmacology, techniques and instrumentation, and toxicology.

Encyclopedia of Materials: Science and Technology provides extensive coverage of materials science and technology and related disciplines (especially physics, chemistry, engineering and biomedical science).

Encyclopedia of Pharmaceutical Technology covers topics relevant to the discovery, development, regulation, manufacture, and commercialization of drugs and dosage forms.

Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Engineering is relevant for chemists and engineers interested in polymer chemistry and technology. This nineteen volume work includes an index volume to aid identification of relevant entries. Edited by J.I. Kroschwitz. Joule Library 547.84ENC is a comprehensive resource on the theory, techniques, and applications of separation science.

Encyclopedia of Spectroscopy and Spectrometry provides authoritative and comprehensive coverage of the whole topic of spectroscopy, from theory to applications.

Encyclopedia of Surface and Colloid Science contains over 400 entries covering all aspects of surface and colloid science. It draws together the interface-related aspects of the fields of chemistry, materials sciences, engineering, biology, physics, computer science and applied mathematics.

Polymeric Materials Encyclopedia is an important resource for polymer chemists and engineers. This twelve volume work focuses on the chemistry and synthesis of polymeric materials, and also provides information about properties and applications. An index volume aids identification of relevant entries. Published in 1996 and edited by J.C. Salamone. This is also available as a CD-ROM from the Joule Library High Demand Collection at 620.192SAL

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