On-Line Library Searching Strategies:

A Tutorial

Biology 480, 481; 490, 491 &

Environmental Science 491, 492

For this exercise, you will complete a series of tasks by working through the material below. When you have completed it, you will have a good idea of how to use a variety of on-line resources to research a topic. It is designed as a tutorial, that is, you learn by doing it. It is also designed to be done in a lab setting with the instructor handy to answer questions, but you could do it on your own. When you are done, you will have mastered the basic skills to gathering information using the internet.

Part 1 - Using M.C. CAT

You can often follow links from the web to search the "card catalog" of a library. In some cases, you need to use a special utility called TELNET. This makes a link between computers. TELNET is more primitive than the web in that you CANNOT USE THE MOUSE. Usually, you will make choices by typing in a number or letter corresponding to a menu choice.  In order to use TELNET, you must first have your web browser (Netscape) configured to call a telnet program on your computer. On our network, this usually means WinQVT, which is often located in the J:/Winapps/qvtnet directory.  Netscape is good about asking for a TELNET application if one isn't installed. You simply find qvtnet16.exe in the file menu Netscape provides. Hopefully, the computer you are working on will have a TELNET utility already configured, and when you click on the link below, you will see the familiar M.C. CAT menu.

For this topic, I want you to log onto M.C. CAT and search for several things:

  1. Search the subject of  cytology or toxicology and report on:
    1. the number of items you get.
    2. the title, author,  year, and call number of one of them.
  2. Search for the author Ehrlich, Paul R.
    1. find a book he wrote about nuclear war.
    2. find the two books on either side of it on the shelves.
    3. Export all three of these books to a text file.
  3. What years of the journal Cell or Ecology are in our library?

TELNET mclib.marietta.edu

Now that you've mastered TELNET, here is a link to most of the college (and other) libraries' on-line catalogs:


Part 2 - Using OhioLink via Dawes Library

M.C. CAT tells you what is in our library. Ideally, you want to search many libraries at once. Fortunately, most of the state universities in Ohio are linked into one common database - OhioLink, and you can access it via the Dawes Library home page.

  1. Go to the ALICE Catalog and connect to OhioLink.
  2. Do an author search for McShaffrey
  3. Find out what libraries hold the journal Hydrobiologia.


Part 3 - Using an on-line bibliography

Many societies of professional scientists assemble bibliographies of papers which concern their subject area. One such society is the North American Benthological Society (NABS), which has an extensive bibliography on freshwater biology. What it lacks in terms of a quick, easy, search interface, it makes up in terms of comprehensiveness.


Temporarily Off Line

Part 4 - Using Hypertext Links to Gather Information

There are a number of sources on the web that may have pertinent information. This ranges from the full text of refereed journal articles to propaganda by special interest groups. Many individuals and groups provide pages of links to information concerning a particular topic. Remember, however, that as of yet, it is not appropriate to cite information that only exists on the web in your presentation.

  1.  Use the link below to lead you to a page of links. Investigate two of them which interest you.

Link to McShaffrey's bookmarks

The Argus Clearinghouse is a more formal set of links. Volunteers comb the web and select links of particular use. This eliminates some of the "chaff" that comes from using other on-line searches which may turn up thousands of irrelevant titles.

  2. Use the Argus Clearinghouse to find a topic of  relevance to your project.

Argus Clearinghouse

Finally, Netscape has a button on its tool bar that allows you to search using a variety of services. These  services vary widely in their coverage, and no single one is best. At some future time, you might want to try Google, Alta Vista, Magellan, or Lycos.

Part 5 - Using Medline to search for articles.

Medline is a database of medical and cellular biology articles that can be searched on the web. The entire on-line version costs money to search, but a "Medline-lite" version called Entrez is available for free, and can be very useful.

  1. Go to the Medline page.
  2. Click on the line to "Search the molecular biology subset of MEDLINE".
  3. Enter "virus" as the search term and submit the form.
  4. Modify the search by adding "west" as a second term.
  5. Modify the search again by adding "nile" as a third term.
  6. Modify the search again by adding "mosquitoes" as a fourth term.
  7. Display the ABSTRACTS of the first 5 articles you recover.


Modified 9/12/96