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Social Dimensions of Health

This guide is based on the excellent Psyc 499 LibGuide, which was originally created by Jessica Mussell.

Searching PsycINFO

Enter your search terms as show below and click on "Select a Field" if you want to specifically search the terms as part of a title or an abstract. It is not necessary to select a field. You can choose to click on the Search button and it will automatically search all categories.


The Peer reviewed limit will allow you to restrict your search to peer reviewed journals. Peer reviewed journals undergo a review process where experts (peers) in the field review a work before it is published in the journal. The term peer reviewed journals is used interchangeably with refereed journals.

The Scholarly journals limit will restrict your search to articles present in scholarly journals. Scholarly journals are intended for an academic audience.

Date range limit allows you to restrict your searches to a particular time period. Some professors will ask you to limit your searches to only the last 5 year or 10 years. Enter the years only in the boxes and hit enter.


Empirical refers to information gained by means of observation, experience, or experiment. To find an empirical study, click on the "Advanced Search Button" below the search fields.

Scroll down to bottom of the page and under methodology, select "Empirical Study"

This will allow you to limit your search results to empirical studies only.

Using the PsycINFO Thesaurus

1. For a list of subject headings that exist in PsycINFO, click on the Thesaurus tab at the top of the page.

2. Enter your search terms in the Browse field, and then select from: Term Begins With, Term Contains, or Relevancy Ranked radio buttons and click Browse. A list of headings is displayed and your search terms are retained in the Browse field.

3. Click on the term to read when the term was introduced, scope note, broader term and narrower terms associated with your term. This will give you an idea of all the other keywords and terms you can use to search the database.

4. Check the little box beside your term and then the click on Add.This will add your term to the Search Box at the top of the page.

Using Explode and Major Concept


When you Explode a term, you create a search query that “explodes” the subject heading. The headings are exploded to retrieve all references indexed to that term as well as all references indexed to any narrower subject terms.

In a database, exploding retrieves all documents containing the selected term, as well as any of its first level of narrower terms. If a plus sign (+) appears next to a narrower or related term, there are narrower terms below it.

Major Concept

When you select Major Concept for a term, you create a search query that finds only records for which the subject heading is a major point of the article. Searches are limited with specific qualifiers (subheadings) to improve the precision of the search, and limited to major subject headings indicate the main concept of an article.

Combining Explode and Major Concept

If you select both Explode and Major Concept, you retrieve all references indexed to your term (and its narrower terms) and all articles for which the subject heading is a major point of the article.

Search Tips

Constructing an effective search:

From your topic identify keywords or concepts for your research topic that will help you find more resources. List all the synonyms or related terms for your keywords and use the concept map below to construct an effective search.

Search Tips:

  • Use boolean operators : AND, OR, NOT to combine your searches
  • Separate different concepts / keywords using AND
  • String together similar search terms or synonyms using OR. As you conduct your research, you will notice that more than one word can often be used to express a concept.  For example, “teenager,” “adolescent,” and “youth” all express essentially the same concept.  If you are having trouble finding information about your topic, try using a related word or synonym.
  • Place parentheses around groups of synonyms (learning OR education)
  • Wildcard (#): The “#” replaces any extra characters that may appear in alternative spellings. For example, “colo#r” finds both color and colour.
  • Wildcard (?): The “?” replaces one character, for example “ne?t” finds neat, nest, or next, but will not find net.
  • Truncation (*):The “*” replaces any number of characters and will find all forms of a word root, for example, “therap*”  finds therapy, therapies, therapist, therapists, therapeutic, therapeutically, etc.
Creative Commons License
This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.