Main Lab

Theories
   Describing aspects of
    a good theory.

Phases of research
  Steps for conducting a
    research study.

Research methods
  Different types of 
   research methods.

Sources for Info
  Primary & Secondary
    sources of research.

Journal Articles
  Understanding a
    typical journal article.

On-line Searches
  How to use PsycInfo 
    and other search
    engines.  Includes info
    on full text articles.

APA Format
   Learn to write in APA 
      format.

Activities & Quizzes
   A variety of activities
    related to research. 
   To be used in classes.


 

Topic:  Using on-line search engines.
 

Step 1:  Login

     The first step you will need to do is to find out where you can log on to conduct on-line searches, and how to log in.  Each university and college will usually have their own system.  You may need an identification number to log in.  Contact your psychology department for information or your library. 
     Logging in is usually done in one of two ways.  The first way is a "local login", in which you are already on-campus or in the main system and can simply get into the search databases.  The second way is a "remote login", in which you are off-campus or not on the main system and need to do some extra step to verify that you have permission to use the system.

Step 2: Databases

     Next, choose your search database or databases.  The best available search engine for psychology majors is PsychINFO.  Other good databases are:  ERIC, Social Sciences Abstracts, Academic Search Elite, and Wilson Select Full Text. 

Step 3: Search

     Once you are in a search database, you are ready to conduct your search.  The following information can be applied to all search engines but I will specifically talk about PsycINFO.

      Every search engine prompts you for a keyword.  Usually the database uses "basic searches" as the default setting where you can place keywords in a blank box.  But there is usually an "advanced search" as well.  In advanced search, you may specify much more than a keyword, including Author & Title.  Therefore, I recommend using Advanced Searches always.
     A keyword alone can help or hurt.  For example, let's say you wanted to research 'attachment  theory', the relational construction between a caregiver and an infant.  If you type in "attachment" in the "Search for" box, and keep it as a keyword, your results will elicit over 5000 articles.  Not only is that too many articles for a mortal human being to look at, but many of the articles are not relevant to the topic, including this search result:

       "The effect of omitted milking on the behaviour of cows in the context of cluster attachment failure during automatic milking."

      Clearly, cow behavior is vastly different from the caregiver-infant bond topic.

Therefore, you need to think about what terms to use and how to use them.  I recommend either putting in more than one term as keywords, or use one term for the title or a mixture of terms as keywords and titles.  One way to focus your search is to type in two keywords, combined using the word "and".  "And" means the search engine will select those articles that have both keywords. 

(If you need to broaden your search on an obscure topic, use two or more keywords combined using the word "or".  "Or" means the search engine will select those articles that have either 1 keyword OR the other.  You may also use the word "not".  "Not" means the search engine will excludes terms so that each article retrieved does not contain the term following the word "not".  For example, you could type "attachment NOT cows" and no cows will show up.)

       Let's redo the attachment search.  This time, if you type in:

Search for:  attachment in Title   (see ** below for how to do this)
      and:    children in Title

           (then click on the GO button)

       You get between 200-300 search results, and no cows!

      **To change the default from keyword to title, click in the keyword box and select TITLE

      Still, you might want to specify things even further to narrow down your search, if your database allows you to do so.  PsycINFO provides results from (a) journal articles, (b) authored books (c) edited books (d) chapters and (e) dissertation abstracts.
      Some classes may only want you to use journal articles (consult your professor) and not secondary resources such as books.  Dissertation abstracts cause great difficulty.  Every time a graduate student completes a Ph.D., his or her dissertation abstract is published.  The actual dissertation document may not be available to the general public (click here for the website that will sell you many dissertations in their original format).  Unless you know the person or have some way to contact him or her, you may not get a copy.  Even if you have a way to contact the person, many dissertations are 200-500 pages long!!  Wait for the document to be published.
      Therefore, a good way to eliminate unnecessary citations in your search results is to limit the type of document.  To do so, go to: 

         "Limit search by:  Document Type Phrase", click on the box that reads "No Limit" and select the appropriate filter, in this case "Journal articles".

      If we redo our "attachment" search with the same terms but restrict the results to journal articles only, the results are now 100-125 journal articles, and still no cows.

      Keep in mind, the better you are at selecting keywords and reducing search parameters, the easier it will be to research a topic. 
 

Step 4: Results

    You now have several references/citations listed that are related to your topic.  Read each title and if you think the article may be helpful to you, click on the highlighted title.  You will then reach a new page with more detailed information about that reference.  On this page you will find information such as title, author, journal/book title, and abstract.  Read the abstract.  If you think this is a good article for you to read, then print out this page and go get the article from you university library (or order it through interlibrary loan).  You may also check to see if the article is available through databases that have full text articles.  Academic Search Elite, and Wilson Select Full Text are two examples of full text databases.  Instead of going to the library to retrieve your article, you can just print it from the website.  Caution:  Some full text databases do not legibly print tables or figures from the original article and may thus be useless.  Consult your professor to see if you may use full text databases.
    Click here for more information on full-text databases.
    After you do this with one reference, click on the back tab of your web browser to get back to your list of references.  Continue with the next title on the list, repeating the procedure.