Finding and Citing Information for the Laboratory


For almost every experiment you perform in the organic chemistry laboratory, you will need to find information concerning the physical properties and/or safe handling of chemicals that are to be used. The use of physical property information is described in the Chemical Property Table section of "Keeping a Laboratory Notebook" in the lab manual. Additionally, every physical property of a compound that you record in your notebook or experimental report must be properly cited from an approved source. Examples of physical properties are molecular weight, boiling point, and refractive index. From time to time, you will also need to access authentic IR and NMR spectra for organic compounds and the source of these must be cited.

Finding Information

There are many places to find chemical information, but the paramount consideration should be reliability. You cannot simply use the first piece of information you find from a Google search, nor should you consult a textbook. You are not expected to search the primary literature (e.g., journals and patents), but the information should come from a secondary literature source such as chemical dictionaries or handbooks. The approved sources for this course are listed in the table below. The sources are either print-based or electronic, and sometimes both. Your instructor might add to this list. The approved sources will give a unique identifying number to a compound, and this identifier must be included in your citation. Often, an electronic database will specify how it should be cited. In those cases, the citation format appears in the examples below.

There are other chemical databases, such as ChemSpider, ChemExper, ChemBlink, ChemicalBook, but do not use these for your citations or calculations. Errors have been found in these databases.

Fenwick Library (F), Johnson Center stacks (JC), Prince William (PW).

Reference Print Source Electronic Source
CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics F, JC, PW Reference and Stacks: QD65.H3
PW Campus Reference: Ask for CD

Merck Index F, JC, PW Reference and F Stacks: RS51 .M4 2006

Dictionary of Organic Compounds (DOC) F Reference and JC Stacks: QD246 .D5

Spectral Database for Organic Compounds (SDBS) For spectroscopy citations, not physical properties. On-line only

** For off-campus access to the proprietary databases, go to the University Libraries page ( Scroll to the desired database. You can also use the link for on-campus access.


Citing Information

In your notebook, the citations should appear below the Chemical Property Table; in your final report, the citations are placed at the bottom of the page in the Citation section of the Report Form. Each unique citation must be numbered and there must be a corresponding number next to the property being cited. Numbers should be superscripted and circled so they are not confused with numerical values. If the identical citation is used for different properties of a single compound on a report, assign the same number to it; no citation should have two numbers next to it nor should a specific citation be repeated.

Examples of various forms of citations are shown below. The first three examples are for the approved online databases and each example includes the unique identifying code for a specific compound that is being cited. The fourth example is for the print version of one of the online databases. Notice that the unique compound identifier is given within the citation (the compound used in the examples is methanol). Electronic literature sources such as CD-ROMs or web sites will often provide an example of their preferred citation style and the examples conform to their preferences. The next two examples are for databases that provide specialized information on thermochemistry and spectroscopy, respectively. The last two examples are for a textbook and a scholarly journal, respectively.


  • The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, Fourteenth Edition, Maryadele J. O’Neil, Patricia E. Heckelman, Cherie B. Koch, Kristin J. Roman, Eds. (Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA, 2006) Monograph #1565. [Note: This is the preferred citation style for the Merck electronic database.]

  • Dictionary of Organic Compounds Online, CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, FL, CRC Number: DCJ73-J

  • W. M. Haynes, ed., CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 92nd Edition (Internet Version 2012), CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, FL, p. 3-346, No. 6750. [Note: This is the preferred citation style for the CRC electronic database.]

  • CRC, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 75th Ed., 1994/95, editor D. Lide, Cleveland, OH: CRC Press, p. C-965, entry #6007. [Print version.]

  • S. E. Stein IR and Mass Spectra in NIST Chemistry WebBook, NIST Standard Reference Database Number 69, Eds. P. J. Linstrom and W. G. Mallard, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg MD, 20899. (retrieved Jan. 4, 2012). [Note: This is preferred citation style for the NIST electronic database.]

  • SDBSWeb: (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, accessed July 23, 2012) SDBS No.: 3302 [Note: This is preferred citation style for the SDBS electronic database.]

  • T. W. G. Solomons, "Organic Chemistry", 1996, 6th Edition, New York: John Wiley and Sons, pp. 55-65.

  • K. B. Wiberg, C. M. Hadad, S. Sieber and P.v.R Schleyer, J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 1992, 114, 5820.


The use of "ibid." in a list of references:

Ibid. is short for ibidem, Latin for "in the same place." It is used when the same source is cited repeatedly and consecutively. So instead of writing CRC, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 1994/95, 75th edition, ed. D. Lide, Cleveland, OH: CRC Press, every time you refer to the handbook, you simply write "ibid." for each reference after the first one (as long as the references are consecutive), then cite the page number and entry number to which you're referring.


  1. D. L. Pavia, G. M. Lampman, G. S. Kriz and R. G. Engel Introduction to Organic Laboratory Techniques: A Small Scale Approach, 2nd Edition, 2005, Belmont, Calif.: Thompson Brooks/Cole, p. 592.

  2. The Merck Index, 10th Ed., 1983, editor M. Windholz, Rathway, N.J.: Merck&Co., Inc., p. 933, entry #6357.

  3. ibid., p. 131, #912.

  4. ibid., p. 1257, #8644.

  5. T. W. G. Solomons and C. B. Fryle, Organic Chemistry, 8th Edition, 2004, New York: John Wiley and Sons, p.142.

Since you will be using some basic references repeatedly, you might want to have them in a word-processing file ready to copy and paste into your written reports. For your Report Form, you can print the citations and affix them in the "Citation" area, rather than hand-writing the citations.