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A guide to resources in UVic Libraries for the study of chemistry

What is information literacy?1

  • A measure of the ability to understand, find, evaluate, and use information.  
  • These activities may be accomplished through a combination of technological fluency, application of sound investigative methods, and most importantly, critical thinking and reasoning

What does it mean for chemists to be information literate?2

  • Able to analyze and critically evaluate a range of resources
  • Able to identify information needs and retrieve needed resources using the appropriate tool(s)
  • Able to conduct online searches using keywords, authors, abstracts, citations, patents, and structures/substructures
  • Able to communicate ethically and properly cite the chemical literature

Why should I care? The information environment… is digital

  • Web search engines, library catalogues, databases, websites, journals, books, reports, patents, newspapers, social media, etc. are all accessed through the same medium - a web browser.

  • Prior to the online shift, information was published in specific formats (e.g. books, magazines, newspapers), generally by established publishers. The type of format depended on audience and need, and you often only had access to what an expert selected (e.g. publisher or editor, educator, librarian).

  • In a digital world, information of all types is presented in similar ways. Material can be published online by anyone, and the information is easily accessed with no prescreening by an expert. It can therefore be hard to distinguish between truthful and misleading resources, complete and incomplete information, or current and outdated materials. This means that more effort must be spent assessing and evaluating the quality of digital resources.

  • These skills are transferable to future courses and employment… as well as everyday life! (eg. spotting fake news!).

1 Currano, J.N. Chemical Information Literacy: A Brief History and Current Practices. In Flener Lovitt et al.; Integrating Information Literacy into the Chemistry Curriculum ACS Symposium Series [Online]. American Chemical Society: Washington, D.C., 2016. (accessed Aug 08, 2019).

2 American Chemical Society Committee on Professional Training. Undergraduate Professional Education in Chemistry: ACS Guidelines and Evaluation Procedures for Bachelor’s Degree Programs [Online]. American Chemical Society: Washington, D.C., 2015. (accessed Aug 08, 2019).

How can I assess and evaluate information resources? (aka The CRAP test)


  • Is information presented up to date?
    • Check date of publication for the resource. An older resource may be both relevant and accurate for a topic, but for a chemistry novice who may not have the subject knowledge to evaluate the information, recently published sources are a safer choice.
    • Check the dates of the sources cited. Are recently published sources included? If not, think about whether this gap is important for the material (e.g. the effect is different for resources about technology vs resources about theory).


  • Are references cited?
    • If there are references, check for an appropriate and balanced selection of sources. Does the resource accurately report information from the references cited?
    • If there are no references, ask yourself where the information presented could have come from. Are the statements made able to be verified using other sources?
  • How does the information presented relate to other sources?
    • Compare information presented in the resource to the wider literature. Are findings and conclusions in agreement or disagreement?


  • Is the author and/or publishing organization credible?
    • Confirm the author's credentials and institution (e.g. the author’s educational or professional background and certifications).  
    • Check if the resource is peer-reviewed. (Has the resource been subjected to evaluation by qualified members of the same field of research prior to publication?)
    • Investigate the reputation of the author and/or publisher

Purpose / Point of View

  • Could there be any obvious or hidden biases and agendas?
    • Check for any author affiliations, parent-organizations, and investors.  How might these influence the information presented?  

This guide was prepared by Geneviève Boice and Shahira Khair. It can be modified and reused freely under a CC-BY license.


Creative Commons License
This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.