Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Nanotech Searching Tips

This is a boiled down version of the talk I gave with Susan Fingerman and Carol Brueggemeier at the Greater Washington Nanotech Alliance Fall 2004 Symposium. Thanks go out to all those from the CHMINF-L who provided feedback for the presentation. I announced this talk in an earlier post.

Finding the Vocabulary and the Literature of Nanotechnology

Language Matters

If you try to define nanotechnology, you come up with ≤ 100nm, ≤200nm, several hundred nm, molecular, atomic, macromolecular – it means many things to many people. Although the widespread usage of the term "nanotech" is more recent, we've been heading that way since the 40's and the technology has been evolving over that time period.

Web Searching

In general, in web searching, you are searching through an immense, world-wide collection of file types and formats. There is no spell checking, vocabulary control, language convention, or barrier to publishing. Nevertheless, it can be tremendously valuable in finding research, people, supplies, and everything else nanotech!

  • Jargon is important, your word choice will determine the scientific discipline and sometimes the country the results come from. Use specific words that would be used by a researcher in this subject (maybe one with a different academic background) to describe the specific process. Think also of older, perhaps obsolete terms that might still be in use in other countries.
  • Use the most important terms first, followed by several terms that modify or narrow the search. Use more words instead of less. OR synonyms - all you can think of - to be comprehensive.
  • If the results show that your word has multiple meanings (like bank – place to put money, side of a river or stream) add a very general word that will take you to the domain ex: (bank OR riparian) ex2: bank AND –(money)
  • Look through at least the first 3 pages – the top 10 results may be commercial sites that are better at “search engine optimization” than academic sites.
  • It’s an iterative process: review the first few pages of results, then modify the search and try again.

Finding the Jargon

Other Tips

  • More on synonyms: the internet has no standardized spelling or formula conventions. Search for formulae in Hill order, empirical order, and with abbreviations (ex: Yttrium orthoferrite, YFeO3, FeO3Y; ex2: NZP, NaZr2(PO4)3, “Sodium Zirconium Phosphate”). Use all the variations of the word because there’s no truncation like epitax* (as in Inspec)
  • Nano is seen the same as NaNO by most engines!
  • Spell out processes/techniques – use “molecular beam epitaxy”, not MBE
  • Remember quotes. Quotes are almost universally recognized as signifying a “phrase search” – the words will appear together, only in the order provided. Most web search engines do not have proximity operators that allow you to find the words near each other but in any order.
  • Try dropping the term “nano” from the search for more results and adding it to narrow the search. Compare searching focused ion beam lithography with nanolithography focused ion

Specialized Web Searching

Fee-based Resources

Where do I begin?

All of the following cover nanotech: Compendex, Inspec, IEEE Xplore, CSA databases on materials, environment and aerospace, Web of Science, Chem Abstracts, BIOSIS, PubMed, SPIE DL.

You may be surprised! An article with this title, "Nanosensor for Detection of Glucose”, was found in ... SPIE DL and not in PubMed.

Biologists and chemists should try the engineering literature, engineers should try the biological and medical literature.

What terms do I use?

  • Controlled vocabulary has not kept up with current trends
  • Be careful using popular terminology. ex: Carbon nanotubes stuffed with buckeyballs i.e. “Peapods”
  • Use wildcards to search variant forms. ex: Nano?lithography will find nanolithography, nano-lithography, and nano lithography


See in particular: Virtual Journal of Nanoscale Science and Technology – a weekly compilation of the latest research on nanoscale systems.

See also:
IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology
Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering
Journal of Nanobiotechnology
Nanostructured Materials
Physical Review A-E
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
Smart Materials and Structures
(and many more)

Community of Science

  • link
  • Search database of 500,000 experts worldwide
  • Search Medline, Federal Register, FedBiz Ops/Commerce Business Daily, Agricola, funded research, and patents
  • Sign up to receive funding alerts

Research and Industry Portals

These sites were selected specifically because they point to or provide literature. Look for the “publications” link or do a site search if available. Some full text, some citations, some abstracts only. These provide many links to other organizations, conference and funding information etc.

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