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Psychology 100 & 102 Library Research Guide

 

If you require further help with this assignment after reading this guide, please feel free to contact a librarian at one of our reference service points. NEW: bookable consultations with reference librarians are available.

Finding a scholarly article in PsycINFO

Virtually all of PsycINFO's indexed journals are scholarly. This distinguishes PsycINFO from other subscription databases such as Academic Search Premier which contain a mixture of academic and popular/practitioner articles. 

You should nevertheless check the "peer reviewed" box in PsycINFO as an added measure. While almost all scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, there are a few that are not.

After finding your article you will still need to look at the article and double-check whether or not it is a scholarly article. For example, you may find an article that comes from a "peer-reviewed scholarly journal", but is in fact a book review.

To learn more about how to identify a scholarly article, please view What is a Scholarly Journal?

Full text access to your articles

Some databases provide the full content (i.e., the full text) of all of the articles listed in it, while others provide only the citation. PsycINFO provides a combination of full text articles and citations to articles. 

Your articles must be cited in PsycINFO to meet your assignment criteria. However, you may obtain the actual full text of the article from any of our databases. Simply click on the "Get@SFU" link in PsycINFO and follow the links to see which other databases might have the full text. (Note: SFU Library provides access to over 85,000 online journals, and over 500 databases, so we often have access elsewhere).

If you are still having trouble locating the full text of an article cited in PsycINFO, please Ask A Librarian.

Finding on-topic articles

Before you start searching, it helps to clearly understand your topic.

  1. Identify the KEY CONCEPT(S) of your assigned topic, for example: drug abuse. You may need to read ahead in your textbook if you are assigned a topic not covered in class yet.
  2. Make a list of RELATED SEARCH TERMS for each concept that you can include to increase your results. If a simple search for drug abuse, for instance, is not providing a large enough pool of results, you may wish to add more keywords that represent similar or synonymous concepts: alcohol abuse, drug dependency, drug addiction, etc.

Research Concepts Worksheet Use this worksheet to help brainstorm keyword ideas.

 

TIP: BOOLEAN OPERATORS allow you to combine terms to narrow or broaden your searches.

AND requires ALL terms to be found in search results
Example: drug addiction AND neurobiolology

       OR requires ANY term to be found in search results
       Example: drug addiction OR alcohol abuse OR drug dependency OR inhalant abuse
 
       OR will bring more results; AND will bring less. Adjust accordingly.
 
"Quotation Marks" around your keywords will make the database search your words together as a phrase.
Example: a keyword search for alcohol abuse will bring up articles that have abuse as a keyword and alcohol as a keyword anywhere in the article, whereas a search for "alcohol abuse" will bring up articles that specifically have the phrase alcohol abuse in them.

 

A good way to enter search terms into a database like PsycINFO is to devote one search box to each concept.

 

TIP: Locating true experiments involving twins in PsycINFO can be tricky. One strategy is to first locate all of the articles in PsycINFO about twins. To do this, you can:
  • select "twin studies" in the methodology field (retrieves all articles using a twin study methodology), or,
  • use "twins" as a subject heading (retrieves articles "about" twins)
Ideally, your search should ask the database to meet either condition. Some articles will have twin studies as a methodology, but not twins as a subject heading, some articles will have the opposite, and other articles will have both twins as a subject heading and have "twin study" as its methodology.
 
Once you have found all of the articles addressing twins, limit to your date range. This will be your pool of articles from which to search for a true experiment.
 

 

Psyc 100

For your assignment, you are required to locate both a true experiment and a non-experimental empirical study. Unfortunately, there is no technical way to run a search in PsycINFO that will limit your search results to strictly true experiments or non-experimental empirical studies. This is because when the articles are added to PsycINFO, the articles are not originally classified either way. The only way to truly determine what kind of study you are looking at is to first read the abstract closely, and, if promising, continue reading the full article.

There are techniques you can use, though, to get more of the kind of search results you would like.

1. Use the Methodology limiter

On either the main search screen of PsycINFO, or the left-hand side bar once you've run your search, you can limit your article by methodology used. Choose the limit empirical study. This will help eliminate articles that fall outside your assignment requirements, such as literature reviews and case studies.

Note that all true experiments are classified as empirical studies in PsycINFO. However, many non-experimental studies are also classified as empirical studies. By limiting to empirical studies, you will simply remove some of the extraneous types of articles from your search results, such as literature reviews. Of interest, an article may have more than one methodology classification in PsycINFO, so you do not need to worry about, for example, losing any twin study (methodology limiter) by selecting the empirical study limiter. 

Using the Methodology Limiter in PsycINFO (YouTube tutorial)

Find Three Peer-Reviewed Empirical Articles in PsycINFO (YouTube tutorial)

2. Add keywords related to methodology to your search

In addition to your topical keywords entered (e.g., drug abuse, memory, dreaming, etc.), you can add keywords that are more likely to show up in either type of study. There is no guarantee inclusion of these keywords indicate a particular type of study. In fact, it's easily possible these keywords will appear in the kind of study you are NOT looking for; they are just keywords. However, adding them can help when you are browsing through a large amount of results and are having identifying finding one or the other.

True experiment keywords: control, randomization, manipulation, "independent variable", "dependent variable"

Non-experimental study keywords: survey, correlation

Can you think of any other research methodology keywords you could try adding?

3. Apply your article date and author limits after you run your topical search

You may find it beneficial to focus on getting your pool of search results on-topic first before you begin to apply the necessary author and date limits (remember, for each of the articles, one ONE author's last name needs to be within the restriction). This way you can try different combinations of subject keywords, making your search results as topically relevant as possible before you start adding those limiters. 

4. Think again: true experiments vs. non experimental research

Ultimately, a close reading of the abstract is essential. Articles that seem like true experiments may not be and vice-versa. It may be helpful to ask yourself what the independent and dependent variables are in the study. Are these variables that can be manipulated? 

Notably, the percentage of true experimental versus non-experimental designs will vary by Psychology sub-discipline, but in most sub-disciplines, there are usually fewer true experiments conducted. If you find the article that describes a true experiment first, you might discover that it cites and references articles reporting non-experimental research on the same topic. To find out, you will need to read the introduction carefully.

Please be aware that librarians cannot help in identifying what kind of article you are looking at, as this determination is a key part of your assignment.

 

DEFINITIONS
 
True Experiment: An empirical design with three key characteristics: control, randomization, and manipulation. In the simplest designs, a researcher manipulates one variable (the independent variable - IV) to see the measured effect on a second variable (the dependent variable - DV), under conditions where one level of the IV can be experienced by one group and another level of the IV can be experienced by a second equivalent group (due to randomization), while holding all other influences on the groups constant (control).
 
Non-experimental Designs: By definition, any empirical design that is not a true experiment - this includes all descriptive, correlational, and quasi-experimental designs. They will not have true manipulations and/or true randomization. Quasi-experimental designs treat some 'organism' variable (handedness, gender, race) as if it is an independent variable that can be manipulated - which it cannot (one cannot randomly assign you to be male). You cannot make cause and effect inferences from quasi-experimental designs, as you end up with the same 'third-variable problem' that prevents you from making cause and effect inferences from correlational research designs.
 
Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies can be used as part of true experiments or non-experimental designs.
 

 

Psyc 102

For your Psyc 102 assignment, you are asked to find two articles about the same topic, but based on two different underlying theoretical perspectives.

There is unfortunately no technical way to run a search in PsycINFO that will limit your search results only to those belonging to a particular theoretical perspective. However there are techniques you can use to return more on-topic results.

1. Add keywords likely to be associated with a theoretical perspective 

Adding keywords likely to be associated with a particular perspective can help you narrow down large sets of results. For instance, a keyword search for depression in PsycINFO currently retrieves over 200,000 results - far too many to look through. Even after limiting to a three-year time period, you may still have over 10,000 results. To narrow down your results, try adding keywords associated with particular theoretical perspectives. Keywords can include the name of the theory itself, e.g., humanistic.

Examples: psychodynamics, "object relations" (psychodynamic); dopamine, endocrine (biological); humanistic, actualization (humanistic); ethnology, "social processes",(sociocultural); "cognitive bias", attention (cognitive), punishment, reinforcement (behavioral)

There are thousands of possibilities.

2. Think about what broader theoretical perspective your article may belong to

You may find articles that discuss a hypothesis through a narrower theoretical perspective to the broad ones. Some of the main theoretical perspectives in Psychology include: Biological, Psychodynamic, Humanist, Cognitive, Behavioural and Sociocultural. If using an article from a narrower perspective, think about the broader theoretical view it might belong to: your article-in-hand may actually be applicable. On the other hand, you want to ensure you are not selecting two articles belonging to the same broad perspective.

Examples: Cellular neuroscience and developmental neuroscience are narrower fields of the larger field of biological psychology.

3. Apply your article date and author limits after you run your topical search

You may find it beneficial to focus on getting your pool of search results on-topic first before you begin to apply the necessary author and date limits (remember, for each of the articles, one ONE author's last name needs to be within the restriction). This way you can try different combinations of subject keywords, making your search results as topically relevant as possible before you start adding those limiters.

4. Add additional specific keywords to bring together articles with similar hypotheses

One of the challenges of this assignment will be to find articles that have similar hypotheses. You are, of course, limited to the pool of scientific studies that have already been published and then indexed in PsycINFO. As the topics of studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals are often very narrow in scope, finding two articles which research exactly the same hypothesis can be tricky. There is no way to search specifically by hypothesis in PsycINFO (but you can search just the article abstract). Adding additional specific keywords can help bring together articles more similar to each other.

For instance, if your topic is dreaming (about 4,000 articles in PsycINFO!), and you wish to bring together more similar articles, you could try adding a more specific keyword like insomnia to your search (search = dreaming AND insomnia)It's best to add these extra keywords after you have generated a large pool of search results that are generally on the same topic. 

You may need also to reflect upon how flexible you can be with your assigned topics - particularly if your pool of search results is quite small. For instance, if you are looking at an experiment about the affect of sleep deprivation on children with respect to anxiety, would a similar experiment done on adults be acceptable? What about if the effect being measured is depression or mood instead? You will likely find it quite challenging to find two empirical studies that explore exactly the same concepts across all variables (e.g., demographic, intervention, outcome).

Your judgement about the similarity of the two hypotheses is a key aspect of the assignment, so care in selecting your two articles is important. Consult your TA or instructor if you need additional guidance.

 

For more tips on identifying primary and empirical research, please see this Suffolk University Psychology guide

APA citing and style

The American Psychological Association (APA) Style Manual provides the main citation style guidelines used in the field of Psychology.

The library provides a guide to using APA and lends out copies of the APA style manual itself (the official source).

 

HELP!
 
Please feel free to Ask a Librarian if you require further research assistance with your assignment. We are happy to help with research strategies, such as learning how to narrow or broaden your search results. We can also help you navigate the library's information resources as efficiently as possible!