CHM 4060: Use of the Chemical LiteratureAssignment 3 (50 points)
We’re going to start where – let’s face it, where everybody starts if they have to search for
information about a topic. The goal of this is to demonstrate what information you can get on
your own before we start using more specialized chemistry-based searching tools.
If you were going to start doing some kind of a report on your topic of choice, in all likelihood
the first thing you would do would be to search the topic on Wikipedia. For purposes of a
demonstration, we’re going to pretend that I did Assignment 2, and I chose the following:
Josef Loschmidt benzene structure
(which, by the way, is a pretty cool story, since you all probably learned that it was August
Kekulé who proposed the structure of benzene, claiming that the idea came to him as part of a
dream of a snake eating its tail. We even teach the Kekulé structure of benzene in CHM 2211. It
turns out that Loschmidt published his (correct) proposal of benzene’s structure 4 years before
Kekulé proposed his. There’s now ample evidence that Kekulé saw Loschmidt’s publication and
just stole the idea as his own. So the only “snake” in Kekulé’s dream was Kekulé himself!)
If I searched for my chosen topic on Wikipedia, I would get something that looks like this:
If I clicked on the top page suggested, it would take me to the following page:
Part 1 of your assignment this week is to perform a Wikipedia search of the topic you selected
for Assignment 2, go to the top page suggested by Wikipedia, and take a screen grab showing
you completed both tasks. Yes, this is perhaps the only time you will legitimately get to use
Wikipedia for an assignment!
Recognizing the extreme limitations of Wikipedia (as well as the fact that the entries can be
edited by anybody with little control – my daughter once claimed that Joe Jonas was married to
her on his Wikipedia page, which lasted for about 2 hours before somebody removed it!), you
would likely then move on to searching the topic on an internet search engine. Far and away, the
most common internet search engine is Google, enough so that the word has become a verb, and
a common insult is to tell somebody “Let me Google that for you.” So if I went to Google and
conducted the same search, it would look like this:
There are a few points to make here. The first is that Google uses an algorithm that returns
results based in part on revenue they collect from people/sites that pay in order to be among the
first results in a search. It’s not an accident, for example, that Wikipedia pages are often among
the top results obtained in just about any search! We’ll come back to that in a bit. The second
point is that Google also picks out key words from your search, which sometimes gives results
that aren’t what you’re really looking for. One way to try to avoid that is by conducting an
“exact” search, which can be done by putting your search terms in quotation marks like so:
(note that even though my exact search didn’t return a match, the first non-Wikipedia result was
For your topic, it’s not impossible that your top result will be for “Scholarly articles for your
topic of choice. Here’s an example of such a result:
Part 2 of your assignment is to conduct a Google search of the topic you selected for Assignment
2. Take a screen grab of this search (such as in my example) that includes the top non-Wikipedia
reference and is NOT included as a “scholarly article. Then conduct an “exact” search of the
topic you selected for Assignment 2 and do the same thing.
As I mentioned above, Google is the most popular search engine around the world, but its results
are biased (not to mention that the track your searches, and you may start seeing advertising
suggestions related to your topic!). You are certainly welcome to conduct each of these searches
using the “incognito” mode on your computer, which is supposed to prevent such tracking.
Although using Google doesn’t cost you anything directly, it’s far from free, since they receive
funding from sites looking to attract visitors. For that reason, it’s often useful to use a different
search engine to compare the results. The second most popular search engine in the United States
is Bing, which is owned by Microsoft. (and yes, I recognize that Microsoft is also a major
corporation driven by profits that tracks your searches – the key is that they often give a different
search result!). If I were to conduct a Bing search of my topic, it would look like this:
Notice that the result is different! You can also conduct an “exact” search using Bing:
(note that Bing doesn’t automatically suggest a result if it finds nothing).
Part 3 of your assignment is to conduct a Bing search of the topic you selected for Assignment 2.
Take a screen grab of this search (such as in my example) that includes the top non-Wikipedia
reference. Then conduct an “exact” search of the topic you selected for Assignment 2 and do the
Although Google and Bing are the most popular search engines, they are definitely not the only
ones. There are many others. Some are based in other countries (e.g. Baidu, Naver, Qwant,
Yandex). Some are domestic (e.g. Ask, DuckDuckGo, Lycos) and may offer various advantages
over the others.
Part 4 of your assignment is to conduct a search of the topic you selected for Assignment 2 using
any other internet search engine besides Google or Bing. Take a screen grab of this search that
includes the top non-Wikipedia reference.
Compile all of your screen grabs in order and separated by parts onto a single document. Save it
as either a .doc file or a .pdf file, naming the file as:
FirstnameLastnameAssignment3.doc or FirstnameLastnameAssignment3.pdf
Obviously use YOUR first name and YOUR last name and don’t submit it verbatim like the
example above. Also, it is your responsibility to ensure that the file is in working order and can
be read by myself or the TA. We’re all well aware of sites like corrupt-a-file.net or
corruptmyfile.com – corrupted files will result in you not receiving credit for any assignment.
Submit your assignment online by the due date.
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