PsycINFO Search Guide
This guide will help you search for Psychology journal articles and other materials using the PsycINFO database.
- What is PsycINFO?
- Accessing PsycINFO
- Advanced Searches in PsycINFO
- Using subject headings from one good article to find more good articles
- Using formal subject headings from the Thesaurus for a precise search
- Using the Search History to combine results of searches
- Other useful features: limiting; printing and emailing records; adding items to your folder
- Finding the article or book in the SFU Library
- A very simple search of PsycINFO
- Searching for records for books or articles by recommended authors
- Citation searches
PsycINFO is the main research database in the field of Psychology. You can imagine it as a list of hundreds of thousands of articles, book chapters, and dissertations on Psychology topics. If you are looking for journal articles and other materials in Psychology, it's the best place to start.
A few things you should note:
- You do not get the full article here, just a short summary. Sometimes articles are fulltext, which means that you can bring the article up on the computer screen and read it right here. But usually you have to go to the shelves of the Library to find the article.
- Title: is the title of the article. The journal title is found in the Source: field. In this case the journal is Brain and Cognition. You will need the journal title to find your article on the shelves. Make sure you can interpret the numbers which come after the journal title. In this case, it is volume 38, issue 1, pages 87-101. You will need all this information to find the article.
- Publication Type: tells you that this is a journal article. Sometimes you will encounter Dissertations in PsycINFO. Usually it is best to forget about these, because SFU Library is unlikely to have them.
- The Subjects: (also called descriptors) tell you the main topics of the article. They are very useful because you can use them to search. For example, if you are doing research on the topic of being left-handed , and you know that PsycINFO has the descriptor Handedness, you can instantly find everything there is on your topic. This will be discussed further below.
- The Where can I get this? button will tell you if SFU has the journal. This will be discussed further below.
Direct link to the PsycINFO database.
The Advanced Search option has very useful Search History and Refine Search functions not available in the Basic Search. Search History allows you to combine results of two separate searches. Refine Search allows you to focus your search results. Except for very simple searches, we suggest that you use the Advanced Search option.
One of the most useful features in PsycINFO is the formal subject headings or descriptors (see the example above) which are assigned to each record. Using the formal subject headings or descriptors can make it very simple to find articles on a particular topic.
One of the easiest ways to find the formal subject headings or descriptors is to start with a search for a key word in your topic. In the Advanced Search option, later in your search you can use the Search History and the Refine Search. After you find one good hit, check to see the subject headings or descriptors. For example, imagine that after you do a search for the term "left-hand*" you decide that this record is a good hit.
"Left-handed" is not one of the subject headings or descriptors, but Handedness is. If you click on Handedness, you will see that there are more than 2800 articles with the same subject heading -- i.e. over 2800 articles in which left- and/or right-handedness is an important topic.
Now you can narrow in this search by adding another keyword to your search in the search box. The search DE "Handedness" will automatically be in the Find box, where you can add the concept of intelligence. The search will look like this:
Using the asterisk in your search for intelligen* will ensure that that search picks up all the records with words beginning with intelligen; for example, "intelligent" or "intelligence".
You can also find a good subject headings or descriptors to match your concept of "intelligence" by looking again at the subject headings or descriptors assigned to good articles. This is a little trickier, because there are several good descriptors you could use: Intelligence and Intelligence Quotient are probably the best ones.
Once you have found the subject headings or descriptors which match your concepts, you have to do a search combining them. One way to do this is to type the subject headings into the search box. Click on the drop down arrow beside "Default Fields" and choose to search for these words as Subjects. Then click on the button:
In the Advanced Search mode you can also use the Thesaurus to find the best subject heading. Do a search for each subject concept or descriptor separately, and then combine your searches.
You can find formal or official subject terms related to your research topic through the Thesaurus. Click on the Thesaurus button in the green bar near the top of the screen.
Then type a term or phrase in the Browse for: box and click on the Browse button to reach the list of formal subjects or descriptors. Notice that you can ask for the list in alphabetical order or in order of relevancy to the topic.
Click on the best hotlinked subject heading or descriptor to see a scope note or definition of that subject heading as it is used in PsycINFO. You may also see several related terms.
Check all the subjects that you want to search and click on the Add button to move those terms into the Search box. Notice that you can choose to join the terms with OR for a broad search or join them with AND for a focused search.
Tip: To search for records with any subject term as the major concept, click on the box beside the term in the Major Concept column.
Tip: To search for all records with this subject term and also for all records with narrower related subject terms, click on the box beside the term in the Explode column.
Then click on the Search button to perform the search.
The Advanced Search mode allows you to combine the results of separate searches performed by using the Thesaurus. For example, you can use the Thesaurus to do a search for records related to intelligence and then do a second separate search for records related to handedness. Then click on the Search History tab to see a table that looks like this:
Now click in the boxes beside any search results that you want to combine. Notice that you can combine the search results with "and" to focus the search, or you can combine them with "or" to broaden the search. Click on the button to move these search results into the Search box. Notice that the program doesn't move all the subject terms into the Search box. The searches are referred to only by numbers, S1 and S2, standing for Set 1 and Set 2.
Click on the Search button to begin the search.
Tip: Make sure that the Find box is empty before you click on the Add button to move the set numbers into the Find box. If you need to delete some terms that appear there, click on the button.
Tip: Make sure that there is no check mark in the box beside "Suggest subject headings".
Limiting is a useful to cut down your results if you have a large number of hits. Click the Refine Search tab below the Find: box. You can limit your hits to only full text online articles though this is not advisable since many good articles are not full text or online. You can also limit your hits to a particular journal.
To limit in one of these ways, click on the term describing how to limit the search. For example, in the Population Group section click on the term Human to retrieve only records related to humans.
Most of these different ways to limit are self-explanatory, but there are a few which are helpful to know:
Limiting results to journal articles. For many psychology assignments, you will want to find journal articles only. Look for the Publication Type section in the list of ways to Limit your results. Use the scroll bar to find Journal articles in the list of specific publication types, and choose this option by clicking on Journal articles.
Limiting results to literature reviews: Often it is helpful to find a literature review or a meta-analysis which will summarize the results of many experiments. Look for the Form/Content Type limit in the list of ways to Limit your search results. Use the scroll bar to find Literature Reviews and Meta-Analyses in the list of specific Form/Content types. Notice that the options under Form/Content Type are not in alphabetical order so this requires looking at the whole list.
Tip: To choose two limit options within one box, hold down the control key when you click on each option.
If you find an article on your topic, you need to record the journal title, date, volume, page, etc. to go and look for it in the Library. You can write this information down by hand, or you can print out individual records or email individual records to yourself. Scroll up to the top of the screen to find Print and E-mail buttons.
Another method is to add the record you want to save to a folder by clicking the Add to folder button or link. After you have completed several searches and added many items to your folder, you can display the records in your folder and print or email them all at once.
The last step in the search process is to determine whether or not SFU Library has the journal (or book) which contains the article (or chapter) you have found in PsycINFO. PsycINFO includes articles and chapters from thousands of journals and books, and SFU Library does not have them all. However, if SFU does not have a particular journal, and another library in western Canada does have the journal, you will be able to order a free photocopy of the article.
Tip: If you are in a first year psychology course, you will be able to find all the articles for your work through the SFU Library. If the SFU Library does not have it in print or paper form it will likely be too specialized for your work.
First, a few of the hits in your list of results may have a "Linked Full Text" button. Clicking this button leads to a second page where you can click on the PDF or HTML link to see the full text of the article on your computer screen.
If you don't see a "Linked Full Text" button, click on the article title and scroll down the screen until you see a link reading Where can I get this? (see the sample record above). After about twenty seconds, a new window will open, and when you scroll down you will see something like this:
The second row says "SFU Burnaby", which tells you that SFU Library received the journal. "v. 46 (1970)-" means that we have a complete collection since volume 3 in 1984. As long as the article you want was published after 1984 and before 2003, you can go up to the sixth floor of Bennett Library at SFU Burnaby and find the article. Make sure that you have written down the information about year, volume, issue, and page.
SFU Library may also have access to an online version of the article as well. If you see " Fulltext from ...", there is a good chance that you will be able to bring the article up on the screen in front of you. When you click the button to the left, a new window will open which will take you to another database or website where the journal is contained. However, just because you see "Fulltext from ..."does not guarantee you can get the article online. It may be that the Library does not have online access to the year which you need.
If SFU does not receive the journal, and it is not available in fulltext, then you can order a free photocopy of the article from another library. Choose the first library on the list. In the example above, if SFU did not have the journal, you could order the article from the University of Victoria . Click the button to the left, and then fill in the bar code from your library card. The next screen will allow you to request the article be delivered to the Check-out Counter in Bennett Library, or to the Belzberg Library or to SFU Surrey.
If you are in a Distance Education course or if you are a student or instructor in the Faculty of Education; you may use the button to choose to have the article sent to Telebook. Library staff in the Telebook office will mail the article to you.
Tip: Use this Basic Search only for very simple searches, e.g. searches when you remember two key words from a title. The Advanced Search offers many more important and useful functions so the Basic Search is seldom the best choice.
Imagine that you would like to find a journal article with the words left-handed and intelligence in the title. Type the keywords into the Find: box with the word AND between the terms. Then click the button.
Tip: Using the *asterisk at the end of your search term instructs the computer to find every word that begins with the letters before the asterisk, e.g. intelligent, intelligence. This is useful when you are not sure whether the title included the word intelligent or intelligence.
Next you will see a list of hits. Each one of these hits will contain your search term(s) somewhere in the title, abstract, descriptors, etc. Browse the list of hits looking for the item. Click on the hotlinked title of the item to see the full record. For instructions on finding the items in the SFU Library, see above.
Sometimes you may want to find records for books or articles by a particular author recommended by your professor. Click on the Authors button near the top of the page. Type as much as you know of the author's name in the Browse box, using this format: McFarland, C*. Then click on the Browse button. Check all the author names in the list that you want to search and click on the Search button to see the records related to that name.
Finding citations to a known journal article
- To find the known article, type a few keywords from the title in the first box, and the author's name in the second box.
- Click on the button.
- Click on the Times Cited link to produce a list of all the articles which cited the known article.
The Related Records feature is useful for tracking down further material on a topic. This option finds articles that share citations with an article of known interest.
- Click on the References link in the record for an article of interest in your search results.
- Examine the list of citations, and select one or more by clicking the box to the left of the list. (Note that not all citations will have a box.)
- Click on the button.
- Records in the resulting list share citations with the original article and in fact will likely include the original article.
- These related records are sorted by relevance, based on the greatest number of shared citations.
- The Related Records search is useful for identifying related research in a subject area, and for seeing who else shares your interests.
Finding citations to articles by a specific person in a specific journalTracing the influence of a specific publication is quite easy using the References feature of PsychInfo.
- From the PsycInfo homepage click on the green References button in the bar near the top of the screen
- Use the name of the author; enter the name as Smith J* unless you are sure that the author consistently uses her/his middle initial or complete name
- Enter the exact journal title; no abbreviations needed here.
- Can also include the title of the cited work and year.
- Click the button to produce a list of articles by this author in this publication.
- Use the checkboxes in the left margin to choose articles of interest from the list, and click on the button.
- You will see a list of journal articles which cite your article.
- Clicking on the title will show an abstract of the citing article.
- Clicking on the References link will show the list of references in the citing article.
- And, clicking on the Times cited link will show which articles cite the article that cited the McFarland article