All of the databases offer some form of online help. The tutorials available with SciFinder are excellent as are the videos on YouTube. But your best source of help is your chemistry professor or, for general searching questions, the reference desk. Call 610-921-7211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
BACKGROUND: SciFinder is a database of chemical and biomedical literature. It includes CAplus (chemical literature from 1907 with some earlier material), Medline (biomedical literature from the National Library of Medicine, mostly from 1950 on), CAS Registry (chemical substances and their assigned registry number), and several other databases. To use SciFinder for the first time, you must register. Even after registering, to use SciFinder off campus you must login through the campus network as a remote user.
Extensive training is available on the SciFinder web pages in Substance searching, reaction searching, reference searching and general search tips and techniques.
DUPLICATES: Since SciFinder searches CAplus and Medline, results are returned for both and there may be duplicates. You may set preferences to automatically remove the duplicates or do so after looking at the results. Set preferences also allows you to specifiy which search screen is chosen upon login. If nothing is selected, the default is Explore references.
SEARCH LOGIC: There is more than one way to search for answers to a problem. Explore references (research topic) allows you to ask your question in sentence form. Add these words, "I am interested in" when you formulate your question. Use prepositions such as after, among, at, between, from, in, into, on, upon, within rather than AND, use OR sparingly but NOT is OK. You must use prepositions to break up your concepts. For example: I am interested in the pK of 2-naphthol in the excited state. In the search box, I would type: pK of 2-naphthol in the excited state. [Note: when searching a chemical substance in Explore references, it is important to also include a search on the registry number for the most complete information.] The results screen gives various options, whether closely related or present. Check off all of interest.
SciFinder's Explore references is unique in that the database automatically truncates certain words, looks for abbreviations and common misspellings, and looks for the plural or singular form (including complex plurals). Be careful that you distribute your modifiers: not thyroid or adrenal cancer but thyroid cancer or adrenal cancer. For hints on formulating your searches, see strategies for searching the database.
Another unique feature is the ability to search under a new term and get all references under the old term. For example, DNA is now the accepted term for the concept of deoxyribonucleic acid. The former term is used in the indexing of older materials but SciFinder will find all references to both terms. Be careful! If you search under deoxyribonucleic acid, you will not retrieve the all the articles indexed under the term DNA. So look at the indexing for several articles of interest. And to be sure all articles are retrieved, you may formulate a synonym search: DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of pacific salmon.
After you choose the answer set of interest, you can analyze the results and see, for example, what index terms were used or the publication year of the articles retrieved. You may also categorize, based on the indexing CA uses or you may further refine the search. Also you may retrieve articles that have cited your results (get citing) or the citing done in the articles retrieved (get cited).
Explore author name allows you to find an author by entering what is known. It is always best to allow the database to look for alternate spellings. The results list will also include initials and full name and selections can be made from the list.
Explore company name must be used carefully. Usually the affiliation of the first author is the only company name that is indexed.
Explore substances searches the Registry database and can be accessed through drawing the structure, or searching either by molecular formula or substance identifier (common name or registry number). The results are given in reverse registry number order. When searching H2O, 47 references are retrieved as of mid-2010, with the substance of interest being last (the lowest registry number).
When you get a list of substances and choose the one of interest, there may be a chemical structure as well as regulatory information and properties of the substance along with references that index the substance and reactions using the substance. (Click on substance detail.) You can further analyze or refine your results.
If I wanted to do my topic above, pK of 2-naphthol in the excited state, I could start with the substance (which includes the registry number), get references (limiting before that step) and refine the results.
Use the breadcrumbs to navigate. It is an easy way to go back and change your strategy.
To practice, a question sheet is available which uses the concepts outlined above.