Navigating the scientific literature can be cumbersome and time-consuming. In a world of hyperlinks, the style of citation in journal articles can seem anachronistic and cumbersome. Fortunately, the process of navigating the scientific literature can be greatly facilitated by a few pieces of software and a couple of websites.
Often, the most convenient method of resolving a reference is to use the Document Identifier (DOI) for the document in question. Every journal article is assigned a unique Document Identifier, which refers unambiguously to that article and that article alone. If you know the DOI for an article, you can navigate to a copy of the article by simply typing the following URL into your web browser:
For example, the article "Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid" by Watson and Crick has the DOI 10.1038/171737a0. As such, the document can be fetched at the following URL:
Chemistry Reference ResolverEdit
Unfortunately, DOI citations are not common in most fields, and journals typically don't allow them in articles. Instead, references cite the authors, journal, year, volume, and page number. Typically, in order to unambiguously resolve a citation, you only need to know the journal; the page number; and either the year, or the volume number -- not both. So, while there are a number of different formatting styles for citations, the simplest and most effective is typically:
Journal, Volume, StartingPage
For chemistry journal articles, this information works just as well as a DOI, as citations of this style can be resolved with the beautiful Chemistry Reference Resolver by Oleksandr Zhurakovskyi. A number of browser plugins are available to make this service more convenient to use. In addition, an Automator script is available for OSX which takes the highlighted citation (starting with the journal, and ending with the page number) and opens the cited article in a browser window. This script can be assigned to a hotkey in Settings->Keyboard->Shortcuts.