|Topic: Using on-line search engines.
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
Each university and college will usually have their own system.
may need an identification number to log in. Contact your
department for information or your library.
Logging in is usually done in one of two
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
permission to use the system.
Next, choose your search
database or databases.
The best available search engine for psychology majors is
Other good databases are: ERIC, Social Sciences Abstracts,
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
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
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.
I recommend using Advanced Searches always.
A keyword alone can help or hurt. For
example, let's say you wanted to research 'attachment theory',
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
are not relevant to the topic, including this search result:
of omitted milking on the behaviour of cows in the context of cluster
failure during automatic milking."
Clearly, cow behavior is
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
or use one term for the title or a mixture of terms as keywords and
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
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
You may also use the word "not". "Not" means the search engine
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
This time, if you type in:
Search for: attachment in Title
** below for how to do this)
click on the GO button)
You get between
results, and no cows!
change the default from keyword to title, click in the keyword box and
Still, you might want to
even further to narrow down your search, if your database allows you to
do so. PsycINFO provides results from (a) journal articles, (b)
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
as books. Dissertation abstracts cause great difficulty.
time a graduate student completes a Ph.D., his or her dissertation
is published. The actual dissertation document may not be
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
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
citations in your search results is to limit the type of
To do so, go to:
Document Type Phrase", click on the box that reads "No Limit" and
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
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
Step 4: Results
You now have several
that are related to your topic. Read each title and if you think
the article may be helpful to you, click on the highlighted
You will then reach a new page with more detailed information about
reference. On this page you will find information such as title,
author, journal/book title, and abstract. Read the
If you think this is a good article for you to read, then print out
page and go get the article from you university library (or order it
interlibrary loan). You may also check to see if the article is
through databases that have full text articles. Academic Search
and Wilson Select Full Text are two examples of full text
Instead of going to the library to retrieve your article, you can just
print it from the website. Caution: Some full text
do not legibly print tables or figures from the original article and
thus be useless. Consult your professor to see if you may use
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
Continue with the next title on the list, repeating the procedure.