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Psychology 301: Getting Started - Psychology


CNU Psychology Guide

Recommended Databases

Psyc301 Handout by J. Gray


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Other Searching

Wikipedia – can be amazing – use it to get a grasp of a concept or find out about a person, then look at the links listed at the bottom of the article.  Remember – anyone can change an entry, so take it with a grain of salt.  A great tool for finding the DSM axis or code.  It can help you get information about how a disorder is treated or which psychological assessments are used for diagnosis.  Utilize Wikipedia as a tool, not a source.  


Google – everyone uses it, why wouldn’t you?  There is a better way to use it with these shortcuts:  (,, filetype:.pdf, etc).  With these, you will get more specific results than a normal, haphazard search.  Google Scholar is good, but not great because it taps into a few of our databases and will retrieve articles that we subscribe to.  It does not not access the majority of our databases and is not a good replacement for actually searching in the databases we have. 

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Johnnie Gray
Trible Library, Media Center, 2317D

Searching for Articles


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 Psychology Research & Databases – Best Searching Practices


  Citing with the APA citation style can be confusing.  An excellent APA resource is the  Perdue University:  OWL.  It is a great website that is up-to-date and very helpful with clear examples.  The APA Style Manual, 6th ed. is also available at the reference desk but cannot leave the library.  There is also a handout we can give you for APA that covers the basics of citing information.  Also at the desk, there are several quick guides to citing with APA that may be easier to understand that the manual. 

   Selecting a search term can be difficult as many databases have specific words they use to organize and sort articles.  Using the thesaurus within the database can improve search results and even suggest narrower parts within that topic.  It is best to start broad and narrow your search down.  For example, “anxiety” is broad, the thesaurus can help you hone down something specific about anxiety that you may want to pursue.    

  Review Articles - review the literature on a specific topic.  These can be valuable to your research as they will discuss a topic and reference the important literature about that topic.  The research the author will have done benefits you as far as searching.

  Empirical Studies - the most common type of article found in psychology.  Typically consisting of research data that validates a theory or test and uses observations or experience.  It can also be flawed and be informative as to what went wrong with the study and how it can be improved.  These studies can all support theories.


 EBSCO Psychology - APA Databases

Ψ PsycInfo – bibliographic database of scholarly literature in the psychological, social, behavioral, and health sciences. PsycINFO covers journals, books, reviews, and dissertations.

Ψ PsycArticles (APA) - full-text database of journals published by APA and other publishers in subject areas such as applied psychology, health, theory, research, social/personality, and more.  All are peer-reviewed,

Ψ PsycBooks - full-text database of APA books, classic books, and entries from the Encyclopedia of Psychology.

Ψ PsycTests - repository for the full text of psychological tests and measures as well as a rich source of structured information about the tests.


When searching -

By default, you will retrieve full-text and abstracts. Abstracts aren't evil...we might have the article in another database and it might be full-text there.  Remember that a database acts as an index as well as a repository of digital items. Abstracts are tools to let you know what an article is about and to save time.  If you cannot find the full text in the database, try using JournalFinder and then, if you are still not having luck, Interlibrary Loan is your best bet.

             Using an asterix (*) behind the root of a word, such as anx*, would pull up words like "anxious" and "anxiety".  It can be quite helpful in broadening results when you are not having success in relevance.


Age Groups - when narrowing down human populations by age, use this.

Population Group - looking for animal or human studies?  Male, Female, and Transgender are also options.  You can select them here.

Document Type - not useful - will not give you Review Articles!

Methodology - will give you Literature Reviews!  Will also give you Empirical Studies!  Empirical studies use statistics and/or direct observations to make a point rather than relying on other studies for information. 

Classification Codes - a bit advanced to use, but can really narrow down topics - use with caution!


APA Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms (top tab) is the thesaurus feature that can help you with correct search terms (synonyms).  It also provides some information about terms, typically in the form of a scope note.  It may also tell you when the term was introduced.   

What does peer-reviewed mean?  It means that an editorial board of knowledgeable people in a field has agreed that publishing this article benefits the field in some way, thus advancing knowledge.

Non APA Databases
Psychology & Behavioral Science Colletion - EBSCO Database

This database contains the largest full-text database of psychology articles.  At the top, search for Subjects, Publications and even images.  Subjects works as a thesaurus does and can help you find the correct term to get the best results.   

 Advanced searching will give you more control over your searches.  You can select full-text articles as an option and search for many parts of an article - author, title, keyword, date, etc.  The search limits are not as comprehensive as APA Psycnet though.

ProQuest Social Sciences Database

Provides a simplified search interface where you can limit items to full-test and peer-reviewed.  Search by topics and also browse by publications.  This database is very forgiving when it comes to search terms.  It will suggest terms that the database likes in a box when your search results are returned.  Use those terms to help find more articles. 

There is a Thesaurus that can help you with your search terms.  Terms you might think are good to search with may not retrieve the best results.  Use this tool to find the best synonym for a term.  This can change your results from perhaps four hits to many more. 

 Advanced searching – click on the “more search options” tab as this will give you more control over your searches.  You can select full-text articles as an option and search for many parts of an article - author, title, keyword, date, etc.  

JSTORGeneral social science database. Only has 17 psychology journals, but each one has a large range of dates.  For instance, The American Journal of Psychology goes back to 1887.  Everything is full text. 


Finding psychological tests:   

APA PsycNet can help you determine a direction to go when pursuing psychological tests.  Simply perform a search for a topic and look at the left column under "Tests and Measures" and the top tests are listed with a number indicating how many articles are indexed and mention a certain test. 

Reference Books

Oxford Companion to the Mind - Ref. BF31 .O94 2004 (also available electronically)

Encyclopedia of Psycological Assessment - Ref. BF39 .E497 2003  v.1-2

Comprehensive Handbook of Psychological AssessmentRef. BF176 C654

Test CritiquesRef. BF176 T419

Mental Measurements YearbookRef. BF431 M46

Directory of Unpublished Experimental Mental Measures - Ref. BF431 .J29 2001

Tests in Print – Ref. BF431 T47 19XX


When in doubt, see a reference librarian for quick answers or set up a reference assistance appointment with us. 

We are here to help you whenever you need it and help you succeed!


Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

  Scholarly Publication:
Journals, print and online
Popular Publication:
Magazines and newspapers, print and online
Author Is a noted professional or expert Is a journalist, student, popular author; or may not be listed
Advertising None, very little or highly specialized Significant amount
Audience Advanced reading level; may have specialized vocabulary (jargon) Basic reading level for a general audience
Bibliography, Sources or 
List of Works Cited
A list of references is included at the end of each article Articles rarely include references, bibliographies or lists of works cited
Indexing Articles are listed in specialized databases and indexes; for example PsycINFO, EBSCOHost or JSTOR Articles are listed in general databases and indexes; for example Reader's Guide or  Periodicals Index
Level of Language Higher level language, topics are narrowly focused, serious tone, words used are specific to a discipline, written by experts Broad and simple language, general topics, written to be understood by almost anyone 
Purpose Discusses a specific scholarly field, contributes to the knowledge of the field in some way Current events, general interest items
Review Policy Articles are reviewed by peers; experts in the field. Editorial board is composed of scholars in the field Editor or editorial board are members of the magazine's staff
More Examples

Harvard Business Review, Lancet, Modern Fiction Studies, Nature, Feminist Media Studies

People, US News and World Report, Publisher's Weekly, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic

Adapted from:

Empirical Research or Review?

Research(Empirical) vs Review Articles

It's often difficult to tell the difference between original research articles and review articles. Here are some explanations and tips that may help:

Review articles are often as lengthy or even longer than original research articles. The authors of review articles are summarizing, analyzing, and evaluating current research and investigations related to a specific topic, field, or problem. They are not primary sources since they review previously published material, and are considered secondary sources. They can be of great value for identifying potentially good primary sources, but they aren't primary themselves.

Primary research articles are written accounts of research conducted by the authors.  The articles can be identified by a commonly used format. Primary research articles typically contain the following sections:

  • Methods (sometimes with variations, such as Materials and Methods)
  • Results (usually followed with charts and statistical tables)
  • Discussion

Abstract - found at the beginning of an article, will summarize the research findings and give you a good sense of the kind of article that is being presented, so this is an excellent tool to use to determine if the item is a review article or a research article. If there is no abstract at all, that in itself may be a sign that it is not a primary source. If it is primary research, the article will discuss steps and tests done in their research or experiment, much like you write up a lab report.  Do not use an abstract in a paper if ou do not have the full article on hand.  This is poor research.

*Adapted from Ithaca College Library

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