Psychology 102 (PSYC 102) Library Research Guide (Gordon)

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. 

There are two sections of PSYC 102 this Fall 2023 semester. This guide is for Dr. Iris Gordon's section of PSYC 102 (D100).

Assignment #2

In academia, the structure of communication is organized in such a way as to allow others to recreate the logic, rationale, and understanding of a research study. For this assignment, you will tasked with answering a question by annotating previous research using APA.

You will be assigned two questions (based on your last name) relevant to our current semester’s focus; the topic could be a question, debate, or ask you for your opinion about a concept we covered in class. Most importantly, you will select one of those questions and respond to the topic by using an evidence-based approach.


Finding a scholarly, peer-reviewed article in PsycINFO

For your assignment #2, you will be searching the Psychology-specific database PsycINFO to find one scholarly, peer-reviewed article about your assigned question.

Please log into PsycINFO via the SFU Library website to ensure you are granted full access as an SFU student. 

Of note, 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. 

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 scholarly journal, but is in fact a book review or editorial, not a primary research article.

Your article should also be peer-reviewed. While almost all scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, there are a handful that are not. You can check the "peer reviewed" box in PsycINFO as part of your search as an added measure.


Peer-reviewed journalPeer-reviewed or refereed journals have an editorial board of subject experts who review and evaluate submitted articles before accepting them for publication.
Scholarly journal: Also known as an academic journal, scholarly journals are are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars. To learn more about how to identify a scholarly journal, please view What is a Scholarly (or peer-reviewed) Journal?

Image of PsycINFO search home page with peer review box checked

Obtaining full text access to your article

Some databases provide the full text of all or some of the articles listed in it, while others provide only the citation. PsycINFO offers a combination of full text articles and citations to articles. 

When PsycINFO provides only the citation, SFU Library might still provide access to the full text of the article, but through a different database. To see if we have the full text of the article elsewhere, 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 approximately 700 databases, so we often have access elsewhere! If we do not have access, you may still likely obtain access by submitting a free interlibrary loan request.)

Screenshot of search results where the first two articles do not have full text, but the third result does.

Finding an on-topic article

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

  1. Identify the KEY CONCEPT(S) of your chosen 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 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. Use the boolean connector OR in-between each related search term.

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.

ADD ADDITIONAL SEARCH TERMS TO REFINE RESULTS. Some keyword searches in PsycINFO will yield a large number of results. For instance, a keyword search for depression in PsycINFO currently retrieves over 389,000 results - far too many to browse through! Even after limiting to a ten-year time period, there are still over 169,000 results. To narrow down your results, try adding additional keywords related to your topic, using the Boolean connector AND in-between each search term. For instance, if you are researching depression as related to social isolation during pandemics, you could try:

Keywords: Depression AND social isolation AND pandemics


A keyword search for just depression = 389,725 results*

A keyword search for depression AND social isolation =  3,526 results

A keyword search for depression AND social isolation AND pandemics = 414 results

The more specific you are with your search requirements, the more specific your results will be. 

* = actual number of search results will vary over time, depending on the date your search is run


Using search limiters

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. 

If you are receiving too many older or outdated articles, so you can make use of the publication date limiter. 

You will also need your PsycINFO source to be an academic article (also called a scholarly article). Because PsycINFO indexes other sources such as dissertations, book chapters, and encyclopedias as well, try limiting your search to academic articles only, select "academic journals" under the source type limiter.

Image of PsycINFO search results, with the limiters of publication year and source type highlighted

Primary Research Article

Your academic article for this assignment should be a primary research article

A primary research article is one where the authors have conducted new research and report results. A primary research article usually has sections such as Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion. 

There is no way to limit your search precisely in PsycINFO to retrieve only primary research articles. Limiting your search by source type "academic journals" will still allow items such as literature reviews to show up in your search. Ultimately, you will need to look at the article itself to determine if it is a primary research article. 

Recommended video: Find Three Peer-Reviewed Empirical Articles in PsycINFO (YouTube tutorial, 2m 4s)


APA citation and style

The American Psychological Association (APA) Style Manual (7th edition) 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.

Helpful online 7th edition APA resources:

Note: The SFU Library normally lends out copies of the 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, including questions about how to use APA style. 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!
For help with writing your paper, The Student Learning Commons provides a range of support for students, including consultations, workshops, handouts, and groups.