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Chemistry 111: Lab Research Guide

Tips for finding reliable chemical properties data and other information for lab reports.

Evaluating Information

Some tips for deciding whether an information source is trustworthy and usable:

Currency: It's generally best to aim for newer information sources, but keep in mind that a lot of basic chemical properties were established a long time ago!

Relevance: Is it the exact property you're looking for? Are the units right, or do you need to convert? 

Authority: It's a good sign if the info is coming from an expert in the field, a major research institution or government agency, or a chemical industry provider. 
Major reason why Wikipedia isn't the most reliable source - it's difficult to determine authorship.

Accuracy: Is a source cited? Can you find any other sources corroborating this one? 

Purpose: Who is the info for? Is this data for working chemists, or part of a high school lab manual?


Sources for Properties Data

Important note re. the CRC Handbook: It appears that the auto-login for the Handbook is not working for users on off-campus WiFi networks or Apogee. :-(

Until we get this problem resolved, you will need to use the "UMW" on-campus WiFi network to access the data tables. If you switch from Apogee to UMW, close your browser window before trying to get to the handbook again.

If all else fails, the campus computer labs (Jepson, HCC, Simpson, etc) have access to the CRC with no login problems.

Web Search Tips

Google doesn't index every page on the Internet. If you're looking for a specific piece of numeric data, you might not find the answer by Googling it individually. A better strategy is going straight to a reliable data source and searching by the compound name (for ChemSpider) or the type of data you're looking for (CRC Handbook).

You can use Google to guide your thinking about methods. Try various combinations of these phrases:

  • qualitative analysis or quantitative analysis 
  • identification or determination
  • unknown mixture (or solution, metal, solid, etc)
  • specific substance name or category [zinc, inorganic salts, anion, cation]