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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 19 (2014) pp 187-193

An Inquiry Study into the Acylation Reaction Requirements for the Organic Chemistry Laboratory: Customizing the Synthesis of Aspirin

Fernanda M. Burke* and Drashti Patel

University of South Carolina Lancaster, 476 Hubbard Drive, Lancaster, SC29720,
Received April 24, 2014. Accepted May 21, 2014.

Published: 14 June 2014

Abstract. The synthesis of aspirin experiment is frequently utilized in undergraduate organic chemistry with most laboratory manuals following a deductive approach (i.e. step-by-step directions with pre-determined results). Currently, a limited number of inquiry-based aspirin experiments have been published with emphasis on the analysis and characterization of products. The aspirin experiment described here focuses on the parameters necessary for an esterification reaction and allows students to customize the synthesis by understanding the reaction requirements. Students are instructed to conduct literature research beforehand to find possible starting materials, acid catalysts, reaction temperature, reaction time and drying methods. Students carry out their customized micro-scale reactions in test tubes and measure percent yield of the products through HPLC analysis. Student surveys along with post-lab test results indicate that engagement was improved by allowing students to create their own reaction conditions and that student learning regarding the esterification reaction and the synthesis of aspirin was enhanced using this novel inquiry approach.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; organic chemistry; problem solving; liquid chromatography; inquiry-based/discovery learning; hands-on learning

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (542 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Student laboratory handouts and instructor information are available (1.3 MB).

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