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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Below are a list of frequently asked questions by chemistry and biochemistry students. If you can't find the answer to your question here, please contact the chemistry librarian.

Does the Library have my course TEXTBOOK?

Thanks to a special CSU fund, the library automatically buys required course textbooks. Look for the book by checking the Course Reserves in CLUES (the library catalogue) either by Course Code (example CHEM 205) or Instructor.

Find out which books have been requested for your courses by searching the Concordia Bookstore online.

If we don't have the recommended text, or if you are looking for alternative explanations for topics covered in a course, try a KEYWORD SEARCH in CLUES for the general subject area. For example, you might search for 'physical chemistry' and limit to a year after 2000. Look for words like 'introduction' or 'advanced' for the appropriate level of material.

What are course RESERVES?

These are readings that your professors expect your class to use, such as articles, books, book chapters, and solution manuals.

Check for Course Reserves in CLUES, either by Course Code (example CHEM 205) or Instructor. The loan period for an item is shown in the record. Be sure to write down the call number to retrieve the item from the appropriate Circulation Desk.

How do CONNECT to databases and journals from home?

The best way to connect to library resources from home is by using the IITS' VPN client. Make sure to read the download and configuration instructions carefully. Once you have downloaded and configured the VPN client, you can logon to the VPN using your netname and password and then connect to library resources.

Why do I get an ERROR message when trying to connect to SciFinder?

There are two types of error messages you might get when connecting to SciFinder:

  1. Login or Password Problem:
    If you get a login error, it may be that you typed your username or password incorrectly. Try typing it again. If the problem persists, it may be that you didn't register correctly and SciFinder doesn't recognize your username and password. Only SciFinder administrators can help you with this. Please contact their help desk at

  2. Not authorized from this IP address:
    If you try to use SciFinder from home without using the VPN, you will get this error message:
    Access to SciFinder is not authorized from this IP address.
    To use SciFinder from home, you will need to download and configure the VPN client.

Where can I get data to compare with my LAB RESULTS?

Finding data to compare with your lab results can be difficult. Experimental conditions often vary. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tips for Courses: Consult the chemistry research guide. In the right hand column, webpages containing tips for specific classes have been created.
  • Databases:You can try a literature or substance search in SciFinder. There is also a list of other databases you can try for literature searches.
  • Journal of Chemical Education: This journal has articles about undergraduate lab experiments, written by instructors. All entries that are student experiments, descriptions of laboratory work, or articles related to student laboratory experiments can be searched separately in their CHEMLAB section.
  • Properties: If you are looking for properties, take a look at our guide to finding Chemical & Physical Properties or one of the other topic guides: Enzymes, Synthesis & Reactions, and Toxicity.


These are essential tools for finding data on compounds. The standard 'first-choice' reference handbooks are:

CRC Handbook of Chemistry & Physics

Latest edition is kept at the Vanier Reference Desk. Also available online. Consult earlier editions, shelved in REF QD 65 H3 at Vanier. Basic data such as density, melting and boiling points, do not change from year to year. This handbook contains many tables, including Physical Constants of Organic Compounds, and ...of Inorganic Compounds.

The Merck Index: an Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs & Biologicals

Latest edition is kept at the Reference Desk at both libraries, with earlier editions at Vanier RS 51 M4. It provides data and related references for compounds having pharmacological properties.

Other handbooks as major sources of chemical data, or for specialized topics, are listed in the Sources In Chemistry & Biochemistry and Sources In Organic Chemistry.

Does each chemical compound have a standard NAME?

The nomenclature for chemical compounds often presents problems and confusion for students. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) produces the official nomenclature rules to devise chemical/scientific names. The over 50 million unique substances now registered with Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) each have an official CAS name, based on the strict nomenclature rules of IUPAC. The problem is that chemical substances can also have many common names and tradenames and not all publishers or commercial suppliers use the IUPAC or CAS nomenclature.

Not all compounds will be found in one resource but to determine if information on a substance is included in any publication, check the accompanying indexes. Use the synonym indexes or the CAS-RN indexes (see below).

What is a CAS-RN?

Chemical Abstracts Service uses their official Registry Numbers (CAS-RNs) to identify the over 50 million unique chemical substances. A substance can be known by many different names but it will have only one RN assigned to it. This means a substance can be precisely identified.

A CAS-RN is the square-bracketed number [xxxx-xx-x] you will find associated with a substance in various print indexes, reference works, and databases.

If you have a literature reference to a substance, the RN may appear in the document. The ultimate repository that you have access to at Concordia is SciFinder. Otherwise, you can try a reference handbook or one of the following free Web tools: ChemIDplus, NIST, or Sigma-Aldrich.

How do I find SPECTRA?

For a listing, with call numbers, of major collections of spectra and spectral data in the library see the Sources In Spectra. For free online sources take a look at our guide to finding Chemical & Physical Properties.

Where can I get SOFTWARE for drawing or viewing STRUCTURES?

  • For drawing structures and reactions you can:
    • download the ACD/ChemSketch freeware on your own computer or laptop; or
    • use ACD/ChemSketch on the library's computers in room VL-122.

How do I deal with journal name ABBREVIATIONS?

Not only do literature references often use abreviated names of journals but your profs might refer to the familiar acronyms for well-known journals. CLUES cannot interpret abreviations so you will need to find the full title of a journal.

Try Periodical Title Abbreviations (PN 4832 P47+). The latest editions are at the Vanier and Webster Reference Desks. Also at the Vanier Reference Desk is CASSI (Z 5523 A24) from Chemical Abstracts Service (great for conference proceedings and obscure references).

Free online sources you can try: PubMed Journals Database, or Journal Titles and Abbreviations (University of British Columbia Library).

How do I CITE my sources?

Before citing your sources check with your professor as to what style to use. The American Chemical Society (ACS) has its own style, published as the ACS Style Guide, explaining how to cite journal articles, books, patents, web sites, etc.

Take a look at the abbreviated ACS guide created by the chemistry librarian.

For other citation guides, as well as grammar guides, visit the Libraries' Citation and Style Guides page.

For managing and organizing your references check out RefWorks.
Note: there are special instructions for importing references to RefWorks from SciFinder.

Can I find SOLUTIONS for assignments and OLD EXAMS?

These will only be available in the library if a professor has placed them on reserve for a class. Check for Course Reserves in CLUES, either by Course Code (example CHEM 205) or Instructor. Be sure to write down the call number to retrieve the item from the appropriate Circulation Desk.

page last updated on: Thursday 15 July 2010

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