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English 2010: Food Production Issues: Start Here

Reference Sources

Browsing reference sources and general databases allows you to explore a topic, get familiar with vocabulary used in talking about it (and good for searching), find out who the experts are, see where information on this topic tends to be published, and generally make a mental map of your area of interest.

  • Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL)
    An online collection of encyclopedias.
  • CQ Researcher
    A weekly policy brief from Congressional Quarterly, this publication gives good overviews and points you toward additional sources.
  • Summon
    This interface gathers results from a broad array of library resources. It's a good way to get a general idea of the wide range of information available.

MERLIN Catalog

MERLIN CATALOG: Use the MERLIN Catalog to find books on various topics.

Do a Keyword or a Subject Search to search for information.

Keyword Search: Type keywords that describe your topic into the search box. Use quotation marks to search for phrases.
This searches for words wherever they appear: author, title, description, etc.

Subject Search: Use the Subject Search to make your search more organized. This is like searching for a file name. Each database entry is tagged with consistent subject headings (aka descriptors) to help organize things by topic.

Google Books

Why use Google Books?

Google Books searches the full-text of books.  It is great for narrow topics because it lets you search within the text of books--you can see the table of contents, index or a portion of the contents of the book.  You can then locate the book in a nearby library.

Google Book Search


Databases are like stores at a mall. Each caters to a different clientelle and labels and arranges information in a way that suits the needs of that group. The mechanics of database searching are pretty much the same across all databases, but the content and tagging/descriptors/subject headings vary from one to another. Academic Search Complete is a general database (like a Walmart), but others focus on a specific discipline or topic. You may want to "shop" several databases in order to consider your topic from different perspectives: agriculture, nutrition/health, sociology, economics, business, etc. Here is a complete list of databases by subject, but a selection is given here:

Subject Librarian

Anne Barker's picture
Anne Barker
164 Ellis Library

Get Help!

Don't spin your wheels!
If you feel stuck, we're here to help.
Subject librarians have expert knowledge in specific fields of research, but all of us are trained to help you articulate research questions, plan a research strategy, search efficiently, and organize your results.

Don't be shy! Contact us!