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Finding a Paper Topic

Instruction on Process and Resources for Finding a Paper Topic

A Simple Subject Search

Merlin catalog search for the subject "Race relations" sorted by most recent year of publication.The above search utilizes the subject heading, "Race relations" and then sorts with the most recent years of publication first.  It is set to the whole campus because race relations is an interdisciplinary subject.  The search could have been set for all of Merlin (the four UM campuses) or MOBIUS (which includes over 70 university and public libraries).  Use the "Search MOBIUS" button to expand your search.

Do not worry about charges incurred by eBooks.  If it is a really expensive title, librarians will be asked to approve the use, which they usually do quite quickly.

Further down the list (not view) is the popular title, White Fragility, which if you review the record (clink link) and scan the record reveals "Library of Congress" subject classification of Racism, Whites, and Race Relations.

To this we might add Library of Congress search headings such as  Civil Rights Movements, Discrimination Against People with Disabilities, Sex Discrimination, Sexual Minorities, Critical Legal Studies, and many other headings too numerous to put down here.  Consequently, a good technique is to use a keyword search to find relevant titles and then see how they are classified.

Keyword search for lgbtq rights

You can also select a particular title such as LGBT Rights (above) and look at not only its Library of Congress subject heading, but by clicking the link to its call number, see all the books that are (if just looking at UMKC Law Library) or would be (assuming all of Merlin) located near the title on the shelf.

Record for "LGBTQ rights including call no. link.

And the results for selecting the call numbers for just our law library ...

Results for selecting call number to "LGBT Rights" (see adjacent titles) at UMKC Law Library.


A Systemic View of the Merlin, MOBIUS, and WorldCat Catalogs.

The library catalogs at UMKC can viewed as a series of concentric rings, with each ring having access to more material.

Concentric rings of catalogs with Merlin (law school, campus, UM System), MOBIUS, and WorldCat

Note that even within Merlin, there are concentric rings.  You can start with the UMKC Law Library, move out to UMKC as a whole, or search all of MERLIN.  You can also search just any other library in Merlin, such as MU-Law. 

Beyond that is MOBIUS, which picks up over 70 university libraries and some public libraries.  It is important because it picks up St. Louis University and Washington University's law libraries (which are much bigger than UMKC's law library). 

Lastly, there is WorldCat (also known as OCLC). WorldCat has a free version available at, but we subscribe to a version on our databases page ( that integrates with our inter-library loan request system.  Scroll down to the bottom of the library's databases page to Worldcat FirstSearch and use your SSO to sign in.  You should note that both MOBIUS and Merlin are cheaper for the library to use and that Worldcat doesn't not have as generous lending terms (i.e., shorter lending periods).  There is no cost to you for using these systems.

Finally, if you have basic bibliographic information (title, author, year), you can use our inter-library loan form and get a librarian working on finding where the title exists in the system and retrieve it for you.

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