Beginning Organic Chemistry (BOC)
2. Hints for Learning Organic Chemistry.
d. Aids for Learning Organic Chemistry.

Return to BOC Index.

Start Right! (A repeat for emphasis!)

Organic chemistry may well be one of the most difficult courses that you ever have to take. It is very important, therefore, that you start right. Following are some tips which you can use to organize your learning.

Techniques of Organizing and Learning Organic Chemistry.

There are at least three major ways in which organic reactions can be characterized, understood and learned:

By reactant type (functional group)
By product type (synthesis of the product)
By reaction mechanism.

I strongly suggest that you initiate a method of indexing organic reactions using all three of these approaches. You may choose to do this on 3 by 5 cards or on 3-hole paper or by some other method. Whatever you choose to use please keep it up to date and review from it often. I suggest that without these indexes you will have a very tough time learning the material in this course.

Of all the tools that you can use this one will provide you with the greatest return. Even making up the indexes has the benefit of writing the processes, helping you catagorize and learn them.

1. Suggestions for making an organic reactant (or functional group) index.

  1. Place the functional group reacting at the centre of the page and radiate the reactions out from it.
  2. Be very specific in the reagents used, the conditions used, the product and its stereochemistry.
  3. As reactions are discovered during your study, add them to this sheet.
  4. The product type will cross-link this index with the synthesis index, but you should add cross references to the reactants index for quick review.
  5. Additionally, add any general comments or observations that you think may be helpful in remembering the reactions at the bottom.

The following is an incomplete index for primary alcohols and is only to illustrate the idea of a functional group reactant index.

2. Suggestions for making an organic synthesis index.

  1. Place the functional group being synthesized at the centre of the page and radiate the reactions towards it.
  2. Be very specific in the reagents used, the conditions used, the reactant and its stereochemistry.
  3. As reactions are discovered during your study, add them to this sheet.
  4. The reactant type will cross-link this index with the reactions index, but you should add cross references to the reactants index for quick review.
  5. Additionally, add any general comments or observations that you think may be helpful in remembering the reactions at the bottom.

The following is an incomplete index for primary alcohols and is only to illustrate the idea of a synthesis index.

3. Suggestions for making an organic reaction mechanism index.

Have a separate sheet for each reaction mechanism. Indicate all steps in the mechanism using curved (curly) arrows to indicate electron movement. Keep each step simple so as not to confuse yourself at a later date when it comes to reviewing the mechanism. Make sure that all steric, stereochemical and electronic requirements are indicated in the reactants and products of each step, use the "General Observations" to avoid making the mechanism diagram too complicated or cluttered.

The following is an incomplete mechanism sheet for the SN2 reaction of primary haloalkanes and is only to illustrate the idea of a mechanism index.

In conclusion:

I cannot emphasize the importance of using these tools throughout your organic chemistry course.

  • Keep your indexes up to date.
  • Do not photocopy your indexes: the thought process that goes into making them is key to your understanding and learning organic chemistry.
  • Refer back to your indexes regularly.
  • Discuss and compare your indexes with those of other students.

Date created: 2005 06 10.