The role of scientific articles in OChem laboratories: Part I

Organic chemistry lab seems to be an appropriate place to read scientific articles to plan an experiment or to relate an experiment to a formal scientific research project. Almost all labs performed in organic chemistry have their roots in a formal scientific article. However, the seminal article may be quite old! For example, Fischer esterification was first published by Emil Fischer and Arthur Speier in 1895. Some experiments have a much more recent past such as the green organic chemistry experiment that proposes the synthesis and Recrystallization of Adipic Acid.” The seminal article for this experiment was published by Sato, Aoki, and Noyori in a 1998 issue of Science. The research article was followed by a JCE article by Reed and Hutchison in 2000, and made its way into the “Green Organic Chemistry” laboratory manual in 2004. The seminal article can be used as a companion to the experiment. In other words the article can be used as background information to gain insight into the experiment. A scientific article can also be used as a source of procedure. However, it is not always so straightforward for a student to take an article straight from the recent chemical literature and use it as a basis to design a laboratory experiment. Unless, of course, the recent chemical literature is the Journal of Chemical Education. Journal of Chemical Education “In the Laboratory” articles are an excellent source of experiment procedures but represent a gray area as far as their classification as original literature. Most chemists would not consider this “original literature” in a pure sense. A JCE article is somewhere in between an original research article and a laboratory manual.

This article was written as a result of a recent discussion at MACTLAC 2010 at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa

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