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Book Review
Published online in Wiley Online Library: 12 August 2011
(wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI 10.1002/aoc.1815
Book Review
J. DEREK WOOLLINS (Editor)
Inorganic Experiments, 3rd Revised Edition
Wiley, December 2009
482 Pages�.00/�.0 (Hardcover)
ISBN 978-3-527-32472-9
Appl. Organometal. Chem. 2011, 25, 721?722
c 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Copyright 721
For those unfamiliar with the text,
??Inorganic Experiments?? was first
published in 1994 as a collection
of 65 experiments of varying difficulty with an inorganic chemistry
focus. The stated intention was to
provide chemical educators with a
ready source of laboratory experiments that had been tested and
successfully used in established
courses. As such, the work is not
really suited as a ??text book?? for
a laboratory course, but is rather
best thought of as a desk reference for the course instructor. The
text was revised and enlarged with the release of the second
edition in 2003, the list of experiments having grown to 87. The
third edition has been further revised, with an experiment count
that now sits at 96. The collection offers a wide range of choice
for possible experiments for undergraduate or graduate-level laboratory courses in inorganic chemistry, and is certainly a worthy
reference for any educator who organises or teaches such a program. A definite strength of the work is the international nature
of the contributors, with the bulk of the included experiments
originating in Europe and the UK.
As with earlier versions, the classification of experiments as ??introductory??, ??intermediate?? or ??advanced?? is an editorial decision,
and is therefore somewhat arbitrary. An alternate arrangement
such as main group, coordination chemistry, organometallics,
solid state/materials might arguably be of greater use. For the
third edition, Woolins notes that he has ??taken the opportunity to
reorganise the order of the experiments into coherent groupings??
but the true nature of this organisation was not always transparent to this reader. One unfortunate negative consequence of
the reorganisation is that existing experiments from the previous
editions have been renumbered, which makes identifying the new
experiments more difficult than it could have been. This is perhaps
not an insignificant criticism, as I suspect many owners of the
second edition will ??upgrade?? to the new volume and will be most
interested in what is new content.
Speaking of new content, the section ??General Spectroscopic
Techniques and Report Writing?? is a good addition to the
book, but it does begin in a somewhat an abrupt manner
without much preamble or introduction. Specifically, it would
have been useful to expressly state that the section presumes
a thorough theoretical understanding of the techniques, and
that only the practical aspects of the various methods would be
discussed. Given the title, it is curious that conductivity, magnetic
susceptibility, cyclic voltammetry and polarimetry are included
in this section; perhaps ??General Characterization Techniques??
would have been a better choice. I found the sub-section on
magnetic susceptibility to be quite good, and suggest that
the others could benefit from a similar brief description of the
technique itself and its utility in characterization before diving
into the practical details. The section on writing lab reports is
concise (as it is correctly suggested the reports themselves should
be), and useful, with good suggestions and pointers for how to
present data in a format that is commonly used in academic
publications.
What is perhaps most interesting about the third edition is
what is not included. First, there is no apparent revision to
the general format of the included experiments, and those
that have been carried over from the second edition appear
to be unchanged. By design, Woolins notes in his introduction
that he has ??made no effort to impose any house style, there
is much to be learnt from the differences (between different
institutions)??. This statement is arguably valid, yet it can serve
as an impediment to actually implementing the experiments. For
example, the inclusion of supporting material for instructors is
still sporadic and can vary greatly in the nature and depth of
information provided; I would argue that this content should
be mandatory and be presented in greater detail generally. As
someone whose vocation it is to design, organise and deliver
inorganic chemistry laboratory courses, I would be interested
in knowing the level of the course the lab had been offered
at the originating institution, the length of the lab period the
experiment was designed for, and the ranges of results (not
just yield) that could be expected for an average class. Having
adapted several experiments from the first and second edition
of ??Inorganic Experiments?? to my own lab offerings, I found that
contacting the original author was the only way to answer these
types of questions. While this actually proved to be quite useful
and constructive from a networking perspective, it does highlight
the additional information that should be standardized if there is
a fourth edition in the future.
By my count, eleven experiments from the second edition were
not carried over to the third, including the entire ??Discovery
Oriented/Group Learning Exercises?? section that had served as a
form of ??introduction?? to the second edition. Interestingly, there
is no discussion of the reasons for the deletions. In the case of the
discovery oriented/group learning exercises, it would have seemed
prudent to make at least some mention of the rationale as it leaves
the reader wondering as to the cause ? are there problems with
the experiments themselves or is this a comment on the overall
effectiveness of this approach to laboratory learning? Equally, a
brief comment on the individual deleted experiments would have
been helpful, particularly to those of us who might have been
contemplating one for future inclusion in our laboratory courses.
Taking the deletions into account, there are thus eighteen
??new?? experiments that are more or less evenly distributed across
Book Review
the three levels of difficulty and across the various traditional
inorganic disciplines. Individual comment on each is not possible
in this review, but I believe the new material is sufficiently varied
and interesting for owners of the second edition to strongly
consider adding the new third edition to their personal library. For
those of us hoping for a general overhaul of the approach taken
towards presenting the existing experiments, we will have to hope
that this will be addressed if there is a fourth edition of this very
worthwhile compilation.
Jason Cooke,
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Canada
722
wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/aoc
c 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Copyright Appl. Organometal. Chem. 2011, 25, 721?722
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