PSY 111: Introduction to Psychology : Search Well

Professors Dodson, Smedley, Tushup, Fall 2015.

How to Search Effectively

  • It's important to construct your search properly. Using the topic of "Does gender affect social interaction within groups?" as a search example below, note how each different piece of the topic is entered on a separate line.  Synonyms for the pieces are connected by OR--and kept on the same line--as seen below...
  • Boil your topic down to the most important words.  Ignore superfluous words like in, the, of, with, against, affect, impact.  Begin with a keyword search--Select a Field (optional). 

  • Put each "different piece" of your topic in a separate search box, if available.  Connect your synonyms with OR.
  • Too many results?  Focus your search by searching for your keywords in the ABSTRACT field or the TITLE field.  Click on the Select a Field (optional) pull down bar to select the abstract or title field.  Or...change your topic slightly--in this case, you might want to look at a specific age group such as college students. 
  • Too few results?   Add synonyms to your search--using OR--and keep your synonyms all on the same line. For gender, you could also use men OR man OR male OR female OR woman OR women.
  • Increase your results by removing the least important "piece" of your search while still retaining the "essence" of your search.  In this case, the least important piece may be social interaction.
  • Still no results?  Broaden your search slightly.  Still no luck?  Try a different database.
  • When reviewing your results, look for relevant "subject" or "descriptor" words.  Find subject terms either on the results page, or at the end of individual records.  Write down relevant subject terms that you find.  The subject term in PsycINFO for gender is human sex differences.
  • Go back to the search screen and using the subject terms you discovered, search your subject terms in the subject or descriptor field.  Subject terms are gold threads--they will almost always lead you to the most relevant results.
  • Be sure to take advantage of:
  • Boolean connectors (AND, OR, NOT)
  • Exact phrase searching -- "social interaction"
  • Field searches (search within the title, abstract, or subject fields)
  • When you find an article you want, choose PDF full-text or HTML full-text links.  Or...use the       link to find full-text.
  • No full-text?  Use the Interlibrary Loan link to receive a copy of the article or book from another library.

Search Well

Although the topic's unrelated to yours, the search strategies/concepts are extremely useful.  Guaranteed to make you laugh and teach you valuable search skills.