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Psychology 100: Critical Thinking Topics assignment

This guide has been created to provide assistance for students in PSYC 100 who are working on their critical thinking topics assignment.

PsycINFO doesn't search like Google! What's going on here?!

Yes my friends, PsycINFO doesn't search like Google, and this can be off-putting to most people who are used plugging in a few keywords 'a la Google' and finding results.  To use this database, you need to first learn more about search strategies.  Once you know more about search strategies, and setting up searches, you can successfully search this database.  This page will walk you through some basics you need to know.

Video 1: Searching APA PsycInfo

*Please note we are in the process of transition between psychology librarians.  Zahra Premji will be the psychology librarian starting September 2021.  This video, created by Jessica Mussell, the previous psychology librarian, is still relevant for this assignment.

Lesson 1: Combining search terms

In PsycINFO, you have to tell the database how you want it to combine your search terms. 

Do you want it to bring back a list of results that contain  ALL of the search terms you typed in?  If so, you must put an AND in-between each search term. 

For example, the search: superstitions AND Friday the 13th, will bring back results containing both of these.

What if you also wanted to broaden the search to not only look for superstitions, but to also look for superstitious?  You could adjust your search to look for EITHER term by using OR. 

For example, the search: (superstitions OR superstitious) AND Friday the 13th, will bring back results that contain either superstitions or superstitious, but they must also include anything to do with Friday the 13th. 

Okay, but what's with those brackets?  Why are those now part of the search?

The brackets are used in a search the same way they are used in basic math.  It has to do with the logic of the order of operations.  Does everyone remember the acronym BEDMAS from elementary school?  It stands for:

  • Brackets, then
  • Exponents, then
  • Division/Multiplication, then
  • Addition/Subtraction.

If you were trying to solve this sample math equation: (3+5) -2, you must first solve the equation in the brackets (3+5) before solving the rest of the equation -2.

PsycINFO works the same way. 

For: (superstitions OR superstitious) AND friday the 13th, a search for all the results that contain superstitions or superstitious will be run first, then that set of results will then be run against any results containing Friday the 13th, second.  The final results will be a combination of the two.

Lesson 2: Searching for specific phrases

Another search strategy that is extremely useful, particularly if you're looking for a distinct phrase, is phrase searching.

By encapsulating a string of search terms in quotation marks, like so - "friday the 13th" - you are essentially telling the database you're searching to search for this EXACT phrase -- the words in the order you typed them in.

Why is this useful? 

Not all databases will look for your search terms in the order you type them in.  If you want to ensure your words are searched in a specific order, put the entire phrase in quotation marks, and this will help with your search precision.  Not only does this work in the library's research databases, but it works in Google as well.

To see what I mean, look at the two Google Scholar searches and search result numbers below.  The first search looked for the words in ANY order, the second search looked for the words in EXACT order. Notice how the second search did a better job of excluding irrelevant results that weren't perfect matches.

Search 1: No phrase searching

Search 2: Phrase searching

 

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