Thursday, May 23, 2013

What's your favorite journal?

Organic Letters is my favorite journal. There are a number of reasons why, and herein I will try and coerce you to take my stance.

1. Content. If you're not an organic chemist you're going to have trouble agreeing with me on this, but as the content is all organic, all the time. Full frontal organic chemistry - and I love that. Sometimes I don't want to wade through the newest innovations in quasi-liquid diffractometry of beryllium-mercury nanoclusters*; I just want syntheses, mechanisms, some interesting med. chem., etc. Even if organic chemistry is not your cup of tea, read on for more reasons you can enjoy the journal without even enjoying the content!
*On a personal note, there are many times I do enjoy reading about the other fields of chemistry/science - in fact, I do so on a regular basis. So please, take no offense if you work in either quasi-liquid diffractometry or beryllium-mercury nanoclusters, I love your research too! Just not in my Organic Letters.

2. Length. If I were to be completely honest with you, reader, article length is almost more important than content. There have been many a day where I would rather read a 2-page TPS report, than a full article (in any field). Who really has time for full articles? Not me. I would go so far as to say, all papers ever should be under 4 pages (the glorious limit for Organic Letters). And this is coming from someone who's first paper in graduate school was 18 pages! I can't believe Danny and I had the patience to write that. Oh wait, I remember how we wrote it - a diet of coffee, candy, and red wine.
Bad content in the Organic Letter you're reading - don't worry its almost over! Good content in the Organic Letter you're reading - savor every delicious morsel, its about to be over and leaving you wanting more.

 3. Tables. Length isn't everything, its about how you use it. Honing in on a methodology paper - most have at least a table or even two. This is perfect. You can now even skip reading the article! Here's the run down on how to read a methods paper in Organic Letters:
      – First, read the abstract.
      – Second, read the tables.
      – Third, if the reaction in the paper looks useful, go run it.
      – Confused? Don't worry, the paper is so short its almost over. 
While this may be a bit facetious, its gotten me a long way in graduate school, and the gist of it is true. The tabulated data quickly allows the reader to see the method in question and how it was developed - or at least how the authors want you to hear the story - which is fine too, telling a good story is important, regardless of how it actually went down in the fumehood.
How do the tables help us with longer syntheses? Well, you can quickly see what the most problematic/important step of the synthesis was. So without reading the paper, you can impress your lab buddies over coffee while you discuss the ins and outs of the optimization of the key cascade.
Finally, tables can help you with your own screening. Need to run an acid screen? Find an Organic Letter containing an acid screen - grab 5-10 sets of conditions and go at it. Same for palladium conditions, there are so many! How to choose!?! See what someone smarter than you has already done in the form of some tabulated data, its a reasonable start at least.

4. References on same page. I don't know why all journals don't put the references appearing on page X on page X. It avoids flipping to the end of the article if you've printed it out or scrolling to the end if you're living in the digital world. In addition, with reasonable frequency I somehow still manage to grab the wrong reference, 53 instead of 54 for instance. It's only after I read the next article, can't find what I'm looking for, go back to the original, realize I took the wrong reference, get angry, yell a bit, that I finally find the correct reference and move on with my life. Am I the only one that does this?

5. Mechanisms. A quick look at my saved mechanisms folder on my hard drive reveals that about half of the mechanisms I save to use as problems (in group meeting, mechanism club, or some future application) are from Organic Letters. Considering all the journals that publish organic chemistry, that's a pretty good fraction. Upon further reflection, the more relevant question is one of bias - does Organic Letters really have more interesting mechanisms, or am I just more likely to find them given that the articles are succinct and I am enamored with the journal.

6. Color scheme / design. I like the red bars. It's kind of a nice dark red. Pretty. I don't know what else I can say about that.

7. Amos B. Smith III is rad. Dude has made a lot of molecules.
Amos B. Smith III
Runner Up Journal: Nature Chemistry
I like what you guys are doing. Less is more. I get ~20 papers at a time and not too many more. I could even read them all if I wanted to. In addition:
      – Content is top-notch
      – New publications on Sunday! I like this, now I have something to do on my day off.
      – Purple. might even be better than Organic Letters' use of red.

Honorable Mention Journal: Futures
Because for some reason, this comes with the sweet, sweet Elsevier package deal. I suggest just flipping through some of the titles.

So, anyone have any other favorite journals? Try and convince me otherwise.  


  1. I was going to say Nature Chemistry. I think it is because I have been Cantrilled.

  2. The 3rd one about table remind me another problem, although it is irrelevant with Org Lett discussing here.
    The problem is some (not all of, I hope) methodologies seems would be just methodologies forever, they would not be dug out until one day someone searched a "similar" reaction in Scifinder. Some organic chemists (including me myself) are still willing to use those classical chemistry instead. The "turnover rate" between methodologies and real total syn seems not high enough.
    The "procedure" mentioned in the 3rd one is quite helpful, thank you very much.

  3. Very sympathetic to this view, and I do like Org. Lett. I especially like the format for all the reasons you say.

    The one thing that runs against this for me is that somehow, I always seem to end up reading from Angew. Chem. and Chem. Eur. J. over Org. Lett. I can't quite pin down why this is - it just depends what I find interesting.

    Would definitely like the format used by Org Lett to be more widely adopted! Contrast Org Biomol Chem; I don't know what it is about that journal but I find it very difficult to read quickly, despite often having good content.

    1. Chem. Eur. J. has great procedures, but as far as reading it regularly, I always seem overwhelmed by the number of papers they publish (or maybe I don't check it often enough). I find that one day I'll have no Chem. Eur. J. in TheOldReader, then the next day I'll have 130.

    2. Yeah, that's true - though I find I get overwhelmed anyway (especially by Science and Nature) so it doesn't stick out for me.

  4. I agree with you, OrgLett is probably the most interesting journal for us organic chemists.
    But it becomes a hell of a trap for someone very keen on literature like me. I would spend hours reading it if I weren't careful. The articles are generally excellent, and there are so many of them.

    I generally read the asaps from general journals (ACIE, JACS, CEJ, ChemSci) and review journals (ChemRev, ChemSocRev, AccChemRes) everyday but cannot find the time to read through OrgLett, JOC and EJOC unfortunately.

  5. A personal mission statement based on your vision and values becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making both major, life-directing decisions and those daily decisions that need to be made amid the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives See more teaching personal statement

  6. True indeed , I think it is good idea for a beginning PhD student or grad student to read a lot from organic letter and JOC to get a solid knowledge in organic chemistry and mechanisms, once she/he gains enough organic foundation in the literature, then focus the reading more on the more deep and mechanistic literature like JACS and Nature.