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Learning to Read Spectra: Teaching Decomposition with Excel in a Scientific Writing Course


Journal of Chemical Education Volume 95, Number 3, ISSN 0021-9584


Literacy requires reading comprehension, and fostering reading skills is an essential prerequisite to and a synergistic enabler of the development of writing skills. Reading comprehension in the chemical sciences not only consists of the understanding of text but also includes the reading and processing of data tables, schemes, and graphs. Thus, education in scientific writing in chemistry cannot focus on writing alone, but such efforts must aim both at the development of higher level skills in reading and writing; moreover, the reading instruction ought to occur concurrently with or precede the writing exercise. In this context, a computer laboratory experiment is described which develops students' ability to read spectra. The computer laboratory experiment cultivates students' Excel skills with the specific objective of teaching them how individual transitions overlap in spectra. Qualitative decomposition and an automated Solver extension method are discussed. Qualitative decomposition is best suited to develop students' understanding of overlapping transitions and spectra and to advance their conceptual knowledge. Learning to use "Solver" is a valuable "additional skill," but the automated process is no substitute for the learning experience provided by the qualitative decomposition.


Muelleman, A.W. & Glaser, R.E. (2018). Learning to Read Spectra: Teaching Decomposition with Excel in a Scientific Writing Course. Journal of Chemical Education, 95(3), 476-481. Retrieved September 27, 2022 from .

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