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PSY202 (Fall 2020): Introduction to Research Methods: Search Tips

Fall 2020, C. Shepherd

Search Tips

Finding primary or peer reviewed articles:  in PsycINFO, limit search results to primary articles by scrolling down to methodology and selecting EMPIRICAL STUDY (lower right corner below search boxes).

Finding review articles:  limit search results to review articles by scrolling down to document type and selecting REVIEW (lower right corner below search boxes).

Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database, it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.

Write down as much information about your topic as possible. Answer the following questions:

  • What is your topic?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know? What don't you know?

Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.

EXAMPLE:  I am interested in the topic of mental health stigma.

Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.

EXAMPLE: mental health, stigma [gender; race, etc.]

Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focusing your search.


mental health









You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between concepts. For instance:

(mental health)

AND (stigma OR prejudice)

AND (gender)

Boolean (connecting keywords) & Wildcards

2 short videos introduce Boolean search techniques:

[How Library Stuff Works, McMaster Libraries]

Search Strategy Worksheet

Use the worksheet to keep track of the "words that work"

~ includes search tips for truncation, AND, OR, NOT and "using quotes for phrases" ~

 Watch video (3 minutes) Part I:  Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy (UCLA Library)