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Psychology Research Guide: Searching Tips

Boolean Operators

When searching databases, the goal is to find a small number (e.g. 10-30) of articles relevant to your topic. Here are some tips for improving your search results:

  • Most databases allow you to choose a date range, so you can limit the search to recently-published articles only.
  • Most allow you to choose English articles only, which can further reduce your results.
  • Many also allow you to limit your results to peer-reviewed journals, which contain high-quality scholarly articles.
  • In keyword searching, a truncation symbol (usually *) expands your search by including various forms of a root word, e.g. memor* which will retrieve:
    • memorize
    • memorized
    • memorizer
    • memorizes
    • memorizing
    • memory, etc.

Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) serve to either narrow or expand your search:

  • OR expands it by including synonyms or related terms (e.g. Homeless* OR Shelter*);
  • AND narrows it by finding the subset of articles that contain both search terms you want (Homeless* AND Veteran*);
  • NOT narrows your search by eliminating articles that contain a specific term you do not want (neglect NOT abuse).

An easy way to remember the difference is the rhyme OR gives you MORE, while the other two operators give you less (although they may be better results).

Subject Headings

Subject Headings examples:

  • Adolescent Psychology.
  • Alienation (Social Psychology).
  • Memory.
  • Behavior disorders in children.
  • Nonverbal communication.
  • Intimacy (Psychology).
  • Personality.
  • Cognitive Learning.
  • Instructional systems -- Design.
  • Learning, Psychology of -- Congresses.
  • Education, Higher -- Congresses.
  • Genetic psychology.
  • Cognition in children.
  • Sex Differences (Psychology).
  • Psychology Experimental.
  • Mass media -- Psychological aspects.