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CHEM 1201 Assignment Introduction & Overview

Watch the video below for details of your assignment and an overview of this guide.  You can use the tab boxes on the left-side of the sections below to navigate through all of the resources you need to help you complete your assignment.

NOTE: If you have questions about requirements, due dates, submission, or the science you encounter in this assignment contact your Lab Instructor!


The Assignment

Click on one of the scenarios below to open a worksheet for your chemical. Use the sheet to guide you through your research and to record the answers to the questions. You can type your answers right onto the worksheet and save it as a Google Doc. There are two separate parts to this assignment that you will need to complete (one is a scenario where you are working in a lab and the other is about communicating scientific information to a non-scientific audience). More details on Part 1 and Part 2 can be found in the tabs on the left.

Question 1: Asks you to think about the information you might be looking for, it should be a quick answer but be specific.  If you were thinking about a WHMIS what specific details would you be interested in? This is meant to help you to focus on what you need when you encounter a large quantity of information on a topic and should help you quickly sort out what is relevant or not.

Question 2: This is the major portion of the assignment for Part 1. For question 2.b. you should expect to include about 1-2 pages of bullet points of actual details about your chemical. You are not limited to the information you identified in question 1 or the two resources you identified in 2.a., you will want to capture all the information you would bring back to your lab team. The Databases and E-Encyclopedia tabs, in the Recommended Sources of Information section below, contain all the Librarian recommended resources you will need to answer this question. You do not need to cite in Part 1, but you may want to record where you retrieved your information from in case you decide to use that information in Part 2

Question 3: This question has two parts and is a bit more complex than it appears initially. Use the Evaluating Sources and Websites tabs below to help you out.

You have been tasked to write a fact-based story. This is not a lab report! You have creative license here to develop a scenario and role for yourself; are you working for a chemical manufacturer, a concerned citizen who knows science, work in transportation, or for the city/municipality/government? You will need to think about your audience (hint, they are everyday people, not scientists) and adjust your terminology. There are some examples of this type of writing in the Real World Examples tab at the bottom of this page.

You will need to paraphrase to ensure you understand the science, show your instructor you understand the science, and to avoid plagiarism; some paraphrasing help is available in the Paraphrasing Help and Paraphrasing Exercises tabs at the bottom of this page.

You will need to cite this part of the assignment (both in-text and with a reference list at the end).  There are some citation resources linked in the ACS Citation tab at the bottom of this page.  

Recommended sources of information

These resources will get you started. If you need more information, try some of the other recommended chemistry sources listed on the Background Sources tab.

PubChem.  An open chemistry database at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PubChem mostly contains small molecules, but also larger molecules such as nucleotides, carbohydrates, lipids, peptides, and chemically-modified macromolecules. This database includes information on chemical structures, identifiers, chemical and physical properties, biological activities, patents, health, safety, toxicity data, and many others.

Tips for searching: Once you are in a record, use the table of contents on the right-hand side of the page to navigate to relevant sections. Watch the PubChem video below for a demonstration on how to use this resource for your assignment.


Chemical Safety's Free SDS Search.  "The Chemical Safety Free SDS/ MSDS Database is a comprehensive resource for Safety Data Sheets (SDS) with over 1 million records. This database is constantly updated on a daily basis to ensure the accuracy and relevance of the information it contains. The database is accessible for free and is widely used by students, researchers, and professors as an essential tool to further their learning and research objectives." Note: this database may contain SDS that have been discontinued or have an outdated version.  It is up to the user to double-check directly with the manufacturer to make sure they are acquiring the latest SDS per product. 

Tips for Searching: "product name" would be the name of your chemical and once you have your results list, remember to consider the date the information was last updated (hint: you will want to use the most recent data sheets)​


Watch the Ullmann's Encyclopedia video below for a demonstration on how to use electronic encyclopedias for this assignment.


Your answer to question 3 in Part I requires a rationale for your choice of website and is a bit more complex than it initially might seem.  There is some assistance in the next tab: Websites to help you actually find sites, but first it is worth thinking about how you are going to evaluate the websites in your results lists.  Use the criteria below to assist you in finding websites and writing your rationale paragraph:


What: Consider the author (and his or her credentials), the institution or agency responsible for the content.

How: Look for an "About us" link that may help you find out who supports the website and what standards the content may be subject to.


What: Consider the purpose of the information. Is it to inform? persuade? state an opinion? entertain? parody?  

How: Navigate around the website or check the "About us" page for additional clues


What: What is the purpose of the website? Why did the author create this article?

How: Look for inflammatory language, misleading or deceptive arguments, stereotypes, commercial or organisational interests, advertisements or any other clues that the information may be biased. 


What: Does the information agree with what you have read elsewhere? Are the authors knowledgeable in the topic?

How: Consider author credential or place of employment and what group takes responsibility for website. Look for references to the origin of the information. Even better, is there a reference list?


What: How current is the information and when was it last updated? The importance of currency varies depending on the topic and the type of information.

How: Many dead links in a website may mean the content has not been recently reviewed. 

There is a lot of good information on chemicals available on the internet and there is also a lot more not-so-good information out there.  Now that you are equipped with your evaluation criteria from the previous tab, you can start assessing what you are finding in Google searches. 

Following are a couple of ways to reduce the less relevant information:

1.  Google works like other databases, if you have more than one word in your terminology, hold it together as a phrase using quotation marks e.g. "percholoric acid" 

2. Limit to more reputable or authoritative websites such as government or university sites by entering the term site with a full colon after it and the part of the URL that matches those institutions.  Some examples of places to start are listed below:

site:gov                 Limits to US government websites
              Limits to Canadian government websites
site:edu                 Limits to US university websites              Limits to UK university websites

3.  To remove items from your search (i.e. pubchem) you can use a minus sign - before the terms you would like to limit out of your search.

--> So your search would look like "perchloric acid" site:gov -pubchem


Here is a Google search box for you to start your search: 


Watch the Google search video below for a demonstration on how to use Google more effectively to complete your assignment.

Citation and Paraphrasing

The MRU ACS Citation Guide can be a good resource for citation for your assignment.  The Reference List Examples section includes some of the resources you'll need for this assignment e.g. MSDS and e-encyclopedias.

Watch the video below for more information on how to use the MRU Library ACS Citation Guide page.

If you require more help with ACS try the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication website 

To avoid plagiarism when paraphrasing / summarising remember these five important points:

1) Your paraphrased text should be significantly different from the original (i.e. don't just change a few words here and there)

2) You must change the structure of the sentence or paragraph you are paraphrasing, not just the words.

3) If you use anyone else's words verbatim (word for word) you need to put quotation marks around it.Warning: Quotations are rarely used in the sciences

4) Use proper citation methods (in this case use ACS) to give credit for the idea's, opinions or theories you are presenting.

5) Check that you have preserved the original meaning of the text in your paraphrased version

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