Research tips for PSYC 100

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Empirical research articles and how to find them

These articles report original research or studies, i.e. actual observations or experiments, rather than theoretical developments or methodological approaches. You can identify them in several ways:

  • keywords: look for “study,” “empirical,” or mentions of participants, observations, methodology, or measurements
  • structure: will usually include introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections
  • publication: should be in an academic or professional journal, such as Journal of Psychology or JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, rather than in popular magazines or newspapers

PsycINFO is a database that contains scholarly journals that publish empirical research articles in the field of Psychology.

Basic searching:

Step one

When searching for a topic, first it's best to break it up into keywords according to the main concepts.
For example, if you're interested in the impact of social media on loneliness in teenagers, your keywords might be:

  • social media
  • loneliness
  • teenagers

Step two

Next, you should think about other keywords that might also describe your topic. This helps make sure you don't miss relevant articles. 

For example: teenagers could also be adolescents, young adults

Step three

Next, you can use the drop-downs with AND, OR, and NOT to tell the database to include or exclude various terms.

Social media AND loneliness will only retrieve articles with both terms, which creates a narrower search

  A screenshot of a search in PsycINFO with keywords social media, the AND connector, and keyword loneliness

Teenagers OR adolescents will retrieve articles with either term, or both, which creates a broader search  A screenshot of a search in PsycINFO, with keyword teenager, the OR connector, and keyword adolescents

Step four

Finally, you can use the Thesaurus to look up Subject Terms and add them to your search. PsycINFO will also suggest Subject Terms if you toggle that option before searching.

Thesaurus highlighted and Suggest subject terms underlined at top of search screen in PsycINFO

Subject terms are a tag that indicate the major subjects of a work, and can help you make sure you've found all relevant material on a particular topic.

Empirical article searching:

On the Advanced Search page, you can scroll down to Methodology and select EMPIRICAL STUDY to narrow your search.

Advanced search box labeled Methodology, with Empirical Study selected from list of options

    Tracking down references

    If you have information like the article author, date, or general topic, you can track down these references in various ways. Citations usually include at least the author's last name and date, for example: (Kruger 2005).

    You can use the drop-down fields in PsycINFO's search to focus on the author and date information: 

      A screenshot of a PsycINFO search with keyword Kruger, field Author, AND connector, keyword 2005, field date of publication

    You can then add in keywords related to the general topic, to narrow down further:

    A screenshot of PsycINFO with additional keyword email

    To find works that cite a particular article, you can use the Cited References search to look up the article, and then see what other articles are citing it.

    Screenshot of the header of PsycINFO, with the link Cited References circled

      Citation Guides: APA Style


      Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (print book, in Reference and on Reserve at Science Library); official manual of APA style

      Purdue's Online Writing Lab guide to APA Style

      APA Style: has a quick answers section for common questions about references

      In-person help

      You can make an appointment with me or ask anyone at the Reference Desk for help with citation!

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