This exercise introduces students to many chemical resources found on the internet. Rather than being geared for upper-division chemistry majors, much of the material introduced is appropriate for freshmen and sophomore level students (although more advanced students will also benefit from the exercise). The “web guide” contains links to many search engines and resources with brief descriptions of each while the “web report” has a number of exercises that asks students to search for chemical information. The assignment is self-guided; students are encouraged to choose topic of interest to them. Notably, this assignment does not introduce ACS or other chemical journal sites or SciFinder, but does introduce resources (many .gov) geared for the general population.
In completing this assignment, students will become familiar with internet search engines and other web based resources for chemical information, toxicity information, drug information, etc. In addition, links to several free chemical structure drawing tools are provided.
Computers and internet access -- I typically meet in a computer lab and students often complete the assignment on their own time.
I have used this as a laboratory exercise, but may also be a homework assignment. My primary observations are that the students suffer from “information overload” after working on this assignment for an entire lab period, and that students do not always retain the knowledge to the next semester. It may be a good idea to plan additional assignments to reinforce these search engines during the semester. I also ensure that the Web-Guide is always available to the students as a resource.
Typically the assignment is assessed based on how thoroughly the report is completed. It should be noted that the results often depend on the search terms chosen, and a difficult topic should not penalize the student. When choosing a chemical to find information on, the students select a CAS registry number and (all too often) choose a number that relates to an inert ingredient or uncharacterized component, for which no chemical information is available.
Students typically do well if they spend the time. The most common omission is including the interlibrary loan material with the report (we have a small library and rely heavily on ILL)