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English 4300: Early American Literature in Special Collections: Research Strategies

How to Search Special Collections in MERLIN

Did you know the MERLIN library catalog will let you limit your search to Special Collections?  Here's how to do it.

Get set up to search

Starting from the main MERLIN screen, click on the Advanced tab.

Advanced search tab

On the Advanced Search page, enter your keywords at the top.  You can use the dropdown menu to search within Author, Title, or Subject (Table of Contents and Notes are not advised for Special Collections materials).  Or you can leave it open to search all available fields.

Keyword search

Limit your results

Scroll down to Add Limits.  Under Specific Library Location, choose MU Ellis Special Coll.

Limit to Special Collections

You can use additional limits such as language or year of publication.  Because Special Collections holdings include lots of microfilms, it's useful to limit by Material Type

Limit by material type

Hold down the CTRL key to make multiple selections.  Some useful limits include:

  • Looking for books, pamphlets, journals, etc.?  Limit to Books and Journals/Newspapers.
  • Posters - limit to Images
  • Maps - limit to Maps
  • Microfilm, microfiche, etc - limit to Microforms

A Note about Search Terms

When searching materials in Special Collections, it sometimes helps to use terms that we consider out of date.  For instance, you may find early works on mental illness by searching keywords like lunatic and lunacy.  Or if you're looking for works by or about women, it may be helpful to search for lady or ladies.  

Use wild cards and Boolean operators to search for several forms of a word at once.  More search tips.

You can easily refine an existing search.  Click on the Modify Search button at the top of the results screen.

Modify search

Put your additional search terms into the second box (and possibly the third, if you have more than one).

Refine search

Finding Primary Sources in the MERLIN Catalog

Key source for 17th-C British history.  Photo by pobrecito33There are certain words that appear in the subject headings of items in MERLIN that constitute primary sources.  The most important of them is sources, but there are others.

In the simple keyword search box, you can put such words after SU: in order to specify the SUBJECT field.

ex.: crusades and SU:sources

In the advanced keyword search, you can put your search term(s) in the top box, and in the second box, put the word(s) you're using to locate primary sources in the next box, and change the drop-down menu to Subject:

Keywords that will help you find primary sources:

  • sources
  • correspondence
  • sermons
  • diaries
  • personal narratives
  • interviews
  • quotations
  • collections
  • speeches
  • manuscripts
  • archives

Depending on the period being studied, it can also be helpful to limit your search by publication date.

More keywords identifying primary sources in Library of Congress Subject Headings

To find the papers of a historically prominent individual, use the Advanced MERLIN Search.  Use the first line to specify the author (surname first, e.g., Jefferson, Thomas) and the second line to specify papers in the title.  You can also use the Advanced search to combine any of the above primary source oriented keywords with a particular author.