Psychology 100 Library Research Guide (Alder)

Fall 2022: This guide is for Professor Alder's class, section D100

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 -- where you can get in-person, online, and phone help, or book a consultation.

Psyc 100

This guide begins with some broad information on finding scholarly articles in PsycINFO, followed by more specific information on locating both a true experiment and a non-experimental empirical study for your assignment.

Finding a scholarly article in PsycINFO

For your assignment, you are required to locate two peer-reviewed, scholarly articles using the Psychology-specific database, PsycINFO. Notably, almost all of PsycINFO's indexed journals are scholarly. This distinguishes PsycINFO from other databases such as Academic Search Premier which contain a mixture of academic journals and popular/practitioner periodicals. 

Peer-review: while almost all scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, there are a few that are not. Accordingly, you should check the "peer reviewed" box in PsycINFO as an added measure.

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 100,000 online journals, and over 500 databases, so we often have access elsewhere! If we do not have access, you may still likely obtain online access by submitting a free interlibrary loan request.)


screen shot of links to obtain full text of an article in PsycINFO

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 strategy 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 study" 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 "twin study" listed as their 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.

Using Search Limiters - Date Range & Author Last Name

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 various parameters. For instance:

  • Your research articles from PsycINFO should be academic articles (also called scholarly articles). Because PsycINFO indexes other sources such as dissertations, book chapters, and encyclopedias as well, try limiting your search to academic articles only, by selecting "academic journals" under the source type limiter.
  • To limit to articles published within a certain time range, make use of the publication year limiter. 
  • Unfortunately, there is no direct way to limit your search by the first letter of one of the authors' last names. You will have to manually skim the results. 

screen shot of where to limit by date range and source type in PsycINFO


Assignment Search Tips

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. Also, 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)

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 - true experiment or non-experimental study. Of course, there is no guaranteed inclusion of these keywords in an article to indicate a particular type of study. In fact, it's entirely possible these keywords will appear in the kind of study you are NOT looking for as they are only keywords. However, adding them can help when you are browsing through a large amount of results and need a better chance of narrowing down one or the other. Sample common keywords for each type of article include:

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

Non-experimental 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, only ONE of the 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.


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.


APA citing and style

The American Psychological Association (APA) Style Manual provides the main writing, formatting, and citation style guidelines used in the field of Psychology. Importantly, the Manual provides guidance on how to cite your sources in-text and in your reference list.

APA released the 7th edition of the APA Style Guide in late 2019. This is the first new edition in 10 years. 

Helpful online 7th edition APA resources:

Note: The SFU Library also lends out physical copies of the full APA style manual itself. (Unfortunately, no digital copies of the APA style manual are available for institutional purchase at this time).


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 with broadening or narrowing your search results, finding on-topic articles, and providing guidance with APA style. We help you navigate the library's information resources as efficiently as possible!