Textbook treatments of electrostatic potential maps in general and organic chemistry

Scott R. Hinze*, Vickie M. Williamson, Ghislain Deslongchamps, Mary Jane Shultz, Kenneth C. Williamson, David N. Rapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Electrostatic potential maps (EPMs) allow for representation of key molecular-level information in a relatively simple and inexpensive format. As these visualizations become more prevalent in instruction, it is important to determine how students are exposed to them and supported in their use. A systematic review of current general and organic chemistry textbooks (N = 45) determined how frequently EPMs were presented in texts, how well distributed EPMs were across chapters, whether EPMs were included in end-of-chapter problems, and the types of conceptual instructional support provided to students when first exposed to them. Analysis demonstrated great variance in the use of EPMs. Most, but not all, textbooks presented at least one image, yet the prevalence and integration across texts varied greatly, owing in part to content differences between general and organic texts. Many texts provided minimal conceptual support and did not include EPMs in end-of-chapter problem sets. Overall, little consensus emerged as to how often EPMs should be used, and the sorts of instructional supports or student practice offered to scaffold the use of EPMs. These findings suggest a need for examining the supports that foster effective comprehension and use of EPMs, and more generally, obtaining data that inform the design and implementation of emerging instructional supports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1281
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 8 2013


  • Chemical Education Research
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Multimedia-Based Learning
  • Second-Year Undergraduate
  • Textbooks/Reference Books

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Education


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