Abnormal Psychology

Psychology, as PSYC-228      |      Julia D. McQuade (Section 01)



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Focusing your topic

Annual Review of Clinical Psychology

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM 5

Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology

Tips for narrowing:

  • specific mechanics/features of disorder
  • related disorders (comorbidities)
  • specific populations
  • risk factors/etiology
  • clinical treatments/approaches

*review introductions of articles -- what story are they telling?

Keywords & Subject Terms



Generate as many keywords as you can related to the components of your topic! This will help make sure you're getting all of the relevant research, even if the authors use slightly different vocabulary.

Review your results for additional terms and research directions - you might find new paths for your investigation.

Keyword combining: AND, OR, NOT

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

NOT in front of a keyword will retreive articles without that term; this is useful if there are particular lines of research that you want to exclude, or aspects you aren't interested in.

Subject terms: hashtags, for articles

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

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

    Finding Empirical Articles

    Recognizing empirical research articles

    Empirical research articles report on original research, using data from experiments and observations. This is different from other types of articles, which may focus on developing theory, reviewing prior research, or presenting new directions in clinical practice.

    Here are some tips for recognizing empirical articles:

    • does the article describe details of a study design, observation, or analysis of participants?
    • is there a section on methodology and results?
    • is it fairly lengthy? (ex: more than 3 pages)

    If you're ever unsure, talk to a librarian or consult with your professor.

    Search filters

    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

      Citation Hopping


      Once you've found a relevant article, take a look at their list of References to see who they've cited! References will take you back in time through the scholarly conversation.

      Cited By

      In the article record, there will often be a link named Times Cited in this Database, or Cited By - clicking on this will bring you to articles that have cited your article, going forward in time.

      article record with Times Cited in this Database link

      If you don't see a Times Cited link, try searching for the article in Google Scholar, and looking for a Cited By link there.


        Taking notes as you research both helps your research process and your writing. As you find and review articles, jot down notes around these questions:

        • what aspects of my topic does this cover?

        • why would I include this? what does it contribute?

        • where am I not finding anything?

        • where are there contradictions between studies? where specifically do they disagree?

        It can be incredibly helpful to use a Literature Matrix to help summarize and synthesize the research you've found:

        Literature Matrix, by Nita Bryant, Ph.D. Behavioral & Social Sciences Research Librarian. James Branch Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University (CC BY-CN-SA 4.0)

        Writing Center

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