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Writing 101 (Silbaugh)

Writing Discipline: Psychology

Search Strategies - Basics

This video covers three search strategies to apply in database searches. (3:04).

1) AND/OR (Boolean Logic)

Use AND / OR to join search terminology.

  • OR - joins similar terms / terms that get at the same issue BROADENS
  • AND - joins dissimilar terms NARROWS

Examples: Using OR

  1. autism OR "autistic spectrum disorder"
  2. teens OR adolescents OR "young adults"
  3. "academic performance" OR "academic success" OR "academic achievement"
  4. "social skills" OR "social competence"

Examples: Using AND

  1. leaders AND "social skills"
  2. perception AND competition AND performance

Sample Search: AND narrows, OR Broadens

treatment OR therapy


ADHD OR "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder"

2) Phrase Searching " "

It is common to search for a specific phrase with "quotation marks ".  Most databases will recognize the using of quotation marks to search for two works together.

Examples: " "

  • "post traumatic stress disorder"
  • "limbic system"
  • "social anxiety"
  • "early intervention"
  • "domestic abuse"

Phrase Searching Narrows

  • social anxiety (52553 results in PsycInfo)
  • "social anxiety" (7013 results in PsycInfo)

3) Truncation *

Search for alternate forms of a work by truncating it and adding an asterisk *.

Examples: *

  1. trauma* > trauma, traumas, traumatic
  2. obes* > obese, obesity
  3. perform* > perform, performs, performing, performance
  4. therap* > therapy, therapies, therapeutic

Truncation BROADENS

  • trauma AND "mental health" AND child AND sex* (1643 results in PsycInfo)
  • trauma* AND "mental health" AND child AND sex* (2000 results in PsycInfo)

4) Fields

In PsycInfo the default is to look for your search terms Anywhere. If your results are not relevant OR you have too many results, you may wish to look for your most important terms in a specific field such as the Title field or the Abstract field.


Field Searching Narrows

  • "social anxiety" (Search ANYWHERE = 7013 results)
  • "social anxiety" (Search in Document TITLE field = 2650 results)

5) Methodology Limit

For this class, you will be primarily interested in empirical studies (original research).  Use the Methodology limiter in PsycInfo to narrow to these types of studies.


APA describes the methodology field values found in the PsycInfo and PsycArticles databases.

  • In addition to the Empirical Study limiter, there are also limiters for Clinical Case Study and Treatment Outcome/Clinical Trial.

A Methodology limiter (as the names suggests), limits or narrows the results.

  • "birth order" AND personality (without a methodology limiter = 1173 results)
  • "birth order" AND personality (with a methodology limiter of Empirical Study = 557 results)
APA describes the methodology field values found in the PsycInfo and PsycArticles databases.

LibWizard Finding Empirical Studies in PsycInfo

Finding Empirical Studies in PsycInfo

Finding Empirical Studies in Psycinfo Tutorial


1. Connect to the campus network via the VPN if you are off-campus.  You will need this connection to access one or more library databases while taking the tutorial.

2. Take the short quiz at the end of the tutorial.  Enter your email address AND your professor's email address. Afterwards locate the email confirmation. These emails often go to your SPAM folder, so be sure to check there.  It is often easiest to search in your email account for the phrase "Certificate of completion" to find your email confirmation.

3. You are ready! Click on the link below to start the tutorial. Follow the instructions on the left hand of the screen and, as directed, complete activities in the main screen (right).

Finding Empirical Studies in PsycInfo >>

6) Thesaurus - Subject Terms

Method A: Look for Subject (thesaurus) terms at the right of a search results page OR at the bottom of a citation.

Method B: Go Directly to the Thesaurus: From the Advanced Search screen in PsycInfo, you can search the Thesaurus (link found above search box).  See screenshots below.

screenshot search in psycinfo thesaurus



screenshot thesaurus in psycinfo 2

Explode option (expands) - retrieves all sources tagged with the subject PLUS sources tagged with narrower subject terms.

Major option (targets) - retrieves sources with the subject heading as the major point of the article.

7) Proximity Searching in PsycInfo

Sample searches on the ProQuest platform

Specific Order (Proximity)  Think of P for PRE! 

  • perceive* P/2 competition

The first term precedes the second term by two or fewer words.


Any Order (Near)

  • culture N/3 obesity

The terms are within three words apart, in any order.