17 Nov 2007

How to Read an Inorganic Paper for Synthesis Information

Literature Discussion

Submitted by Hilary Eppley, DePauw University
Course Level: 

This assignment takes students through the process of learning how to find and read a paper from the primary literature, specifically to get experimental details (synthesis, characterization).  It also focuses on how to use a variety of chemical information resources.  It could be combined with the questions from Chemical Information Assignment to create a longer assignment.  

Microsoft Office document icon Howtoread.doc27.5 KB
Learning Goals: 

A student will analyze an inorganic paper to determine the goal of the research and analyze the experimental and discussion section of a paper to extract the following information:

  • Chemical reactions (with appropriate stoichiometric ratios)
  • Special conditions for reactions (such as air sensitivity, hydrothermal conditions)
  • Experimental techniques used to identify and characterize compounds
  • Special equipment needed

The discussion resulting from the assignment will allow the instructor to address terms that students did not understand and perhaps relate the discussion to future topics that will be covered in the class.  When  combined with the Chemical Information Assignment, it could also be used as an introduction to both finding structures, what else the author has written, and other chemical information.     

Time Required: 
about 1 1/2 hours for the students, 50 min in class
Evaluation Methods: 

I typically have this assignment worth about 25 points. I typically use the class when this is turned in as a discussion (could even have them bring two copies of answers to class) to get at some of the topics covered in this assignment. I always like to talk about some definitions, where to find certain information in the paper, sample answers to other questions (funding, productivity of author, types of characterization, etc.). Students turn in a copy of the paper with their assignment so that the instructor can check answers. Alternatively, you could assign one or two papers to the entire class. I just like talking about the differences in the discussion.

Evaluation Results: 

Most students do quite well on this assignment, generally earning 20-25 out of 25 on the assignment.   Things sometimes missed include not knowing what to do with solvents in writing the reactions, not identifying all of the characterization methods, or missing special conditions because they are described in the General Experimental Methods section at the beginning of the Experimental Section.   

Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence


I decided to try this with my sophomore-level class but wanted everyone to read the same short communication on a new tetrahedral tellurate.  Since this paper was very short, I adapted the questions to be shorter and more specific to the communication format.  See the link above or look in the Main Group Chemistry section.

I may try this in my advanced course, but find a challenging article from Inorganic Chemistry or Organometallics for everyone to read.

Sibrina Collins, PhD College of Wooster

I will try this in my advanced inorganic class and will find an article that covers several aspect of synthesis and charcterization. Thanks.

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