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Chemical Abstracts (Printed)



[For Librarians: To discard or not to discard?]

Chemical Abstracts was published in print from 1907 to 2009. The Mallet Chemistry Library has a complete run from 1907 through 2001. Chemical Abstracts is shelved in the center of the library, in reference ranges R1-R5. The Collective Indexes are shelved in ranges R1-R3.

Parts of Print CA

Abstracts
There were 26 weekly issues per semiannual "volume". Each Abstract issue is divided into 80 Subject Sections. An abstract appeared in just one section, based on the novelty of the process or substance being reported in the literature. Each weekly issue also contained indexes by author, subject keyword (not official headings), and patent number. The issue indexes were superseded first by a volume index published every six months, and then by the 5-year Collective Index. (The library did not retain the issue and volume indexes.)

Collective Indexes
Every five years CAS published a Collective Index (CI). The 14th CI was published in 2002 and covers the years 1997-2001. The library has all Collective Indexes up to this point. They are divided into:

Index Guides
The Index Guide (IG) for each Collective Index period provides cross-references from commonly used chemical names to official CA Index Names (with registry numbers) used in the corresponding Chemical Substance Index. It also serves as a thesaurus of all controlled-vocabulary subject headings used in the General Subject Index. The Index Guide should always be consulted before looking up a chemical name or subject term in the Collective Indexes.

Ring Systems Handbook
The RSH leads you from a ring or cage structure to the CA Index Name and Registry Number of a ring parent compound, for searching in the Chemical Substance Index. Entries are in ring analysis order and are indexed by molecular formula and Index Name.

Registry Handbook
The Registry Handbook - Number Section was a cumulative numerical listing of all registry numbers assigned to chemical substances from 1965 forward. If you have only a registry number and need the CA Index Name for that compound, look it up here first and then use the name to consult the Chemical Substance Indexes. A corresponding Names Section (available on microfiche) provided registry numbers for several hundred thousand of the most-indexed common names.

CASSI
CASSI (Chemical Abstracts Service Source Index) is the comprehensive and retrospective list of publications that have been indexed by Chemical Abstracts since it began in 1907. It includes journals, books, conferences, and other series, arranged by CA abbreviation. This is the source you use to translate journal title abbreviations into full titles for searching in the library catalog and other finding aids. CASSI is located on the Circulation Desk. It is also available in a somewhat limited form on the web.

* The tools described above are no longer published or updated in print as of 2010.

Using CA

  1. Select an appropriate Index volume based on the type of search you want to do (author, substance, or subject) and the time period desired.

    • Author: Entries are arranged by last name, then by first and second initials (not by first name). Qualifying text is the title of the document. Coauthors are cross-referenced to first author.
    • Formula: Entries contain only abstract numbers unless there is a large number of them, and no qualifying text. It's best to use the Formula Index to get the corresponding CA Index Name, then look up that name in the corresponding Chemical Substance or Subject (1907-71) index, where the entries are more detailed. Formulas are listed in Hill order.
    • Chemical Substance name: Start with the Index Guide to see if there's an entry for the name you have. If not, use the Formula Index or Ring Systems Handbook to get the name. In the CSI you must use only the specific CA Index Name for that CI period. There are no cross references to earlier or generic names. Names are arranged by "parent" (the structural skeleton) followed by substituents and modifications. Qualifying text in each entry indicates what the document is primarily about, followed by an abstract number. About 600 of the most frequently indexed compounds are called "Qualified Substances." Their document entries are grouped into seven categories: Analysis, Biological studies, Occurrence, Preparation, Properties, Reactions, Uses and miscellaneous.
    • Subject term: Always check the Index Guide first to find an appropriate term to look up in the Subject Index (1907-71) or General Subject Index (1972- ). Classes of compounds (e.g. Carcinogens), undefined compounds and mixtures (e.g. Gasoline), processes, plant/animal species, and other general topical terms are found in this index, along with cross references and scope notes.
    • Patent number: Arranged by issuing country/organization, then by patent number. CA abstracts only the first member of a patent family, and links later equivalent patents to this parent patent. Equivalents are cross-referenced to the parent. Prior to 1981 the equivalents were listed in the Patent Concordance.
  2. Note Abstract Numbers from the entries of interest. Abstract numbers prefixed "R" indicate a review; "P" indicates a patent.
  3. Go to the corresponding Abstracts volume and look up the abstract by its number.
  4. Repeat this process for earlier or later index periods. Remember that Index Names and subject headings changed over time, so consult the Index Guide for each CI period.

The CA Abstract Number Puzzle

The format of the CA Abstract Number has changed over time as CA evolved. Only 1967-forward abstract numbers are searchable as "document identifiers" in SciFinder. "CAN" numbers displayed in SciFinder for pre-1967 records do not correspond to the printed CA abstract number.

Dates Example Notes
1967-present 74:23628c Represents a single specific abstract; searchable in SciFinder. The final control character appears only in the print abstracts and should be ignored.
1947-66 45:1541e Volume:Column number/column fraction letter a-h. Abstract numbers prior to 1967 do not necessarily represent a specific abstract, but rather the position in a column or page where that abstract begins.
1934-46 28:37145 Volume:Column number/column fraction digit 1-9
1907-33 6:571 Volume:page only.

Is there still a reason to use print CA?

In most cases, no. CA's size and complexity can confuse even the experienced searcher. It's much faster and more convenient to use a database version, such as SciFinder. There are however some occasions when print CA is still useful:

Help Using CA

See the CA Tips page. A booklet called "How To Search Printed CA" is available in the library with the CA indexes.


For Librarians: To Discard or Not to Discard, That is the Question...

Should a library discard the last copy of print Chemical Abstracts? For most libraries, the increasingly rare use no longer justifies the large amount of shelf space. Ultimately, the decision must be based on local needs and situations. Here are some points to consider, gathered from collective wisdom of expert users over the years.