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Researching a Position on a Contemporary Issue: Home

English 1000



Searching the MERLIN catalog

  1. Go to the MERLIN library catalog, which is a link from our library home page.
  2. Choose University of Missouri-Columbia Libraries.
  3. To search for books on a topic, choose KeyWord.  This will search for words in the title, subject headings and sometimes even the table of contents.
  4. Construct powerful keyword searches using (), AND, OR, and *. Examples:
    • (SAT test* or standardized test*) and (bias* or problem* or issue* or controvers*)
    • stem cell and (soci* or debate* or benef* or moral* or ethic*)
    • To see if MU subscribes to a journal, magazine or newspaper, use the Journal, Magazine and Newspaper Titles search.
    • Finding the actual book 

      1. Examine the boxes with the library location, call number, and availability.  To find out the physical location of a call number in Ellis library, use the paper location guides (yellow slips), signs by elevators, or the the link from the word "Ellis" in the location box.
      2. Current issues of journals, magazines and newspapers in Ellis are shelved in the Current Periodicals Reading Room.  Older issues are generally shelved by call number among the books.
      3. If a book is marked "not checked out" but you can't find it on the shelf, check on the reshelving shelves, both on the floor the book should be on, and on the fourth floor of Ellis (carts and reshelving room).  In the case of a journal volume, check the shelves outside of Copy Services on the first floor of Ellis.

      Expanding a search

      1. Check the subject headings in the MERLIN records.  They may link you to additional books on your topic
      2. Click on the MOBIUS button to find books available in the statewide MOBIUS library system if you don't find enough available books on campus.


      1) Go to Ellis Library's Databases by Name List.

      2) We recommend the following databases for this assignment:

      • CQ Electronic Library - contains the online version of CQ Researcher, which gathers important arguments on both sides of controversial issues.  You may be asked for the special password.  
      • Lexis-Nexis Academic - an international news database.  You can exclude editorials by using the advanced search, putting your search term in the first blank, switching the AND to AND NOT, and putting the words opinion or editorial or op-ed in the second box. Or you can pull up editorials, specifically, by doing the same thing but leaving the AND box alone.  Remember that news outlets in other countries do not always draw firm distinctions between news and opinion stories. Truncation: !
      • Academic Search Premier - a general database with some magazine articles and some articles from scholarly journals.  You may limit searches to articles in scholarly journals, and/or to full-text articles. Truncation: *
      • PAIS - a database especially for finding articles on public policy.  Articles here are generally not full text, but they are likely to be in academic journals that will add new dimension to your paper.  Truncation: *

      3) Some databases send the full-text articles to your screen, where you can print, email or save them. Other databases provide just the citation.  If your database provides the article citation only, then you will need to check the Electronic Journals link from the library home page to see if another database carries the journal in full text for the issue/date you want.  Search by the name of the journal.  If you do not find an online version, then search MERLIN to see if our library owns the paper version of the journal you need.  You may make a copy of the article at the Copy Services.

      Citation guides

      MLA Documentation: Be sure to use correct in-text citations (a sample essay with such citations begins on page 602 in our text) and a properly-formatted Works Cited page (review the MLA system starting on page 561 in our text).

      MLA style manuals are also available on Index Table #11 in Ellis' Reference area in 1 South . 

      If you use articles you obtained in full-text version directly from a library database, the citation protocol will be different than if you had found the article in paper copy in the library.  Guidelines for citing articles reproduced in databases using MLA format are found at this Ohio State University website.  Guidelines for citing the online version of CQ Researcher are given within the CQ Electronic Library site.  Look for the How to Cite link.

Subject Librarian


Dan Gerth