Literature Searches in the PBA
The Old Way (a back door):
– Choose PsycINFO…
• Main screen
– Keyword Search
• And, or, not
• Peeking in
• Find More Like This can lead to other articles.
• And … Subjects: has hypertexted subject
terms associated with the article.
HTML version of article
So, … What is PsycINFO?
• PsycINFO is the main research database in the field of Psychology.
You can imagine it as a list of hundreds of thousands of articles,
book chapters, and dissertations on Psychology topics. If you are
looking for journal articles and other materials in Psychology, it's the
best place to start.
• Above is a sample record from PsycINFO
• A few things you should know:
– You do not get the full article here, just a short summary. Sometimes articles are
fulltext, which means that you can bring the article up on the computer screen
and read it right here. Rarely will you be able to go to the shelves of the Library
to find the article.
– Title: is the title of the article. The journal title is found in the Source: field. In this
case the journal is Brain and Cognition. You will need the journal title to find your
article on the shelves. Make sure you can interpret the numbers which come
after the journal title. In this case, it is volume 38, issue 1, pages 87-101. You
will need all this information to find the article.
– Publication Type: tells you that this is a journal article. Sometimes you will
encounter Dissertations in PsycINFO. Usually it is best to forget about these,
because PBA Library is unlikely to have them (they can be ordered).
– The Subjects: (also called descriptors) tell you the main topics of the article.
They are very useful because you can use them to search. For example, if you
are doing research on the topic of being left-handed , and you know that
PsycINFO has the descriptor Handedness, you can instantly find everything
there is on your topic. This will be discussed later.
– The Where can I get this? button will tell you if PBA has the journal. This will be
discussed a bit later.
• To access PsycINFO, start at the Library homepage:
library.pba.edu . If you click here, the Library homepage
will open in a new window. Then you can switch back
and forth between these instructions and that window,
and navigate your way to PsycINFO.
• On the homepage, click on the link alphabetical just
under Article Indexes and Databases in the center of
• Click P to jump down the list, and then click on the
heading PsycINFO (EBSCO).
• On the next page, click Connect.
• Choose the Advanced Search tab at the top of the
PsycINFO search screen for best results with most
• A very simple search of PsycINFO
• Imagine that you would like to find journal
articles proving that left-handed people are more
intelligent than right-handers. First, analyze your
topic for its key concepts -- in this case left-
handed and intelligent. Type your concepts
into the Find: box with the word AND between
the terms. Then click the Search button.
• Tip: Using the *asterisk at the end of your search
term instructs the computer to find every word
that begins with the letters before the asterisk,
e.g. left-handed, left-handers.
Advanced Searches in PsycINFO
• The Advanced Search option has very useful Search History and
Refine Search functions not available in the Basic Search. Search
History allows you to combine results of two separate searches.
Refine Search allows you to focus your search results. Except for
very simple searches, we suggest that you use the Advanced
Search option which you can reach by clicking on the Advanced
Search tab at the top of the PsycINFO screen.
Using subject headings (descriptors) from one good article
to find more
• One of the most useful features in PsycINFO is the formal subject headings or
descriptors (see the example above) which are assigned to each record. Using the
formal subject headings or descriptors can make it very simple to find articles on a
• One of the easiest ways to find the formal subject headings or descriptors is to start
with a search like you did above. We suggest you use the Advanced Search option
so that later in your search you can use the Search History and the Refine Search.
After you find one good hit, check to see the subject headings or descriptors. For
example, imagine that after you do a search for the term "left-hand*" you decide that
this record is a good hit.
• Using subject headings (descriptors) from one good article to find more
• One of the most useful features in PsycINFO is the formal subject headings or descriptors (see
the example above) which are assigned to each record. Using the formal subject headings or
descriptors can make it very simple to find articles on a particular topic.
• One of the easiest ways to find the formal subject headings or descriptors is to start with a search
like you did above. We suggest you use the Advanced Search option so that later in your search
you can use the Search History and the Refine Search. After you find one good hit, check to see
the subject headings or descriptors. For example, imagine that after you do a search for the term
"left-hand*" you decide that this record is a good hit.
• "Left-handed" is not one of the subject headings or descriptors, but Handedness is. If you click on
Handedness, you will see that there are more than 2700 articles with the same subject heading --
i.e. 2700 articles in which left- and/or right-handedness is an important topic.
• Now you can narrow in this search by adding another keyword to your search in the search box.
The search DE "Handedness" will automatically be in the Find box, where you can add the
concept of intelligence. The search will look like this:
• Using the asterisk in your search for intelligen* will ensure that that search picks up all the records with words
beginning with intelligen; for example, "intelligent" or "intelligence".
• You can also find a good subject headings or descriptors to match your concept of "intelligence" by looking again
at the subject headings or descriptors assigned to good articles. This is a little trickier, because there are several
good descriptors you could use: Intelligence and Intelligence Quotient are probably the best ones.
• In the Advanced Search mode you can also use the Thesaurus to find the best subject heading. Do a search for
each subject concept or descriptor separately, and then combine your searches.
Using formal subject headings or descriptors
from the Thesaurus for a precise search
• You can find formal or official subject terms related to
your research topic through the Thesaurus.
• Click on the Thesaurus button in the green bar near the
top of the screen.
• Then type a term or phrase in the Browse for: box and
click on the Browse button to reach the list of formal
subjects or descriptors.
• Notice that you can ask for the list in alphabetical order
or in order of relevancy to the topic.
• Click on the best hotlinked subject heading or descriptor
to see a scope note or definition of that subject heading
as it is used in PsycINFO. You may also see several
• Check all the subjects that you want to search and click on the Add button to
move those terms into the Search box. Notice that you can choose to join the
terms with OR for a broad search or join them with AND for a focused search.
• Tip: To search for records with any subject term as the major concept, click on
the box beside the term in the Major Concept column.
• Tip: To search for all records with this subject term and also for all records with
narrower related subject terms, click on the box beside the term in the Explode
• Then click on the Search button to perform the search.
Using the Search History to combine results of
searches in the Advanced Search mode
• The Advanced Search mode allows you to combine the results of
separate searches performed by using the Thesaurus.
• For example, you can use the Thesaurus to do a search for records
related to intelligence and then do a second separate search for
records related to handedness.
• Then click on the Search History tab to see a table that looks like
• Now click in the boxes beside any search results that you want to combine. Notice that you can combine the
search results with "and" to focus the search, or you can combine them with "or" to broaden the search. Click on
the Add button to move these search results into the Search box and then click on the Search button. Notice that
the program doesn't move all the subject terms into the Search box. The searches are referred to only by
numbers, S1 and S2, standing for Set 1 and Set 2.
• Click on the Search button to begin the search.
• Tip: Make sure that the Search box is empty before you click on the Add button to move the set numbers into the
Search box. You may need to delete some terms that appear there if you have just finished a search from the
• Tip: Make sure that there is no check mark in the box beside "Suggest subject headings".
Using Refine Search to limit search
results to the best records
• Limiting is a useful to cut down your results if you have a large number of hits. In the
Basic Search mode, click the Refine Search tab below the Find: box. You can limit
your hits to only full text online articles though this is not advisable since many good
articles are not full text or online. You can also limit your hits to a particular journal.
• In the Advanced Search mode it is possible to limit your search results in many
different ways, as shown on the screen capture below. To have these options show
on the screen, click on the Search Options tab. To limit in one of these ways, click on
the term describing how to limit the search. For example, in the Population Group
section click on the term Human to retrieve only records related to humans.
• Most of these different ways to limit are self-explanatory, but there are a few which
are helpful to know:
• Limiting results to journal articles. For many psychology assignments, you will want to
find journal articles only. Look for the Publication Type section in the list of ways to
Limit your results. Use the scroll bar to find Journal articles in the list of specific
publication types, and choose this option by clicking on Journal articles.
• Limiting results to literature reviews: Often it is helpful to find a literature review or a
meta-analysis which will summarize the results of many experiments. Look for the
Form/Content Type limit in the list of ways to Limit your search results. Use the scroll
bar to find Literature Reviews and Meta-Analyses in the list of specific Form/Content
types. Notice that the options under Form/Content Type are not in alphabetical order
so this requires looking at the whole list.
• Tip: To choose two limit options within one box, hold down the control key when you
click on each option.
Printing and emailing records & adding
items to your folder
• If you find an article on your topic, you need to record the
journal title, date, volume, page, etc. to go and look for it
in the Library. You can write this information down by
hand, or you can print out individual records or email
individual records to yourself. Scroll up to the top of the
screen to find Print and E-mail buttons.
• Another method is to add the record you want to save to
a folder by clicking the Add to folder button or link. After
you have completed several searches and added many
items to your folder, you can display the records in your
folder and print or email them all at once.
Finding the article or book
• The last step in the search process is to determine whether or not
PBA Library has the journal (or book) which contains the article (or
chapter) you have found in PsycINFO. PsycINFO includes articles
and chapters from thousands of journals and books, and PBA
Library does not have them all. However, if PBA does not have a
particular journal, and another library does have the journal, our
library will be able to order a free photocopy of the article.
• Tip: If you are in a first year psychology course, you will be able to
find all the articles for your work through the PBA Library. If the PBA
Library does not have it in print or paper form it will likely be too
specialized for your work.
• First, a few of the hits in your list of results may have a "Linked Full
Text" button. Clicking this button leads to a second page where you
can click on the PDF or HTML link to see the full text of the article on
your computer screen.
Searching for records for books or
articles by recommended authors
• Sometimes you may want to find records for books or articles by a
particular author recommended by your professor. Click on the
Authors button near the top of the page. Type as much as you know
of the author's name in the Browse box, using this format: Compton,
D*. Then click on the Browse button. Check all the author names in
the list that you want to search and click on the Search button to see
the records related to that name.
• Author Search