PsycINFO - An Introduction

Open PsycINFO Basic Search Page in another browser window to work through this tutorial side by side.

Before we begin:  You can double click on any of the images (illustrations) in this tutorial to enlarge them. (Some screenshots may look different on your computer because of monitor size and browser configurations.)

Students not on Grace campus will see a screen that requires them to log in.  Use your Grace (email/campus) login to get access to the database being used in this tutorial.

Library database login screen requiring Grace username and password.

PsycINFO is a resource prepared by the American Psychological Association's (APA) which contains abstracts of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, books, and dissertations.  So you will be finding more than articles, but you can limit your results to articles if you choose.  

Having thought about your topic, have you come up with some good terms to use for your research?  Let's say, for example, that your topic concerns whether cell phone usage has any effect on a college student's grade point average.

What search terms would be best for the concept of grade point average?

If you aren't sure whether your terms are the best ones to use, try using the subject index or thesaurus of the database you are searching.  We'll be using the Thesaurus to search PsycINFO for multiple terms that describe our topic.  Click on the word Thesaurus in the blue toolbar at the top of the screen.

arrow indicates the location to the thesaurus in the toolbar

Your computer may look like the following two screenshots.

shows the EBSCO tool bar on a laptop reduced screen

shows the EBSCO toolbar dropdown on a laptop reduced screen

In the box under "Browsing: PsycINFO -- Thesaurus" type grade point average and click on the Browse button.  You will see that the thesaurus suggests using "Academic Achievement". If you click on the term Academic Achievement, you'll see an alphabetical list of terms in the subject index.  Click on the words Academic Achievement again.  Under your main heading of Academic Achievement, you'll find broader, narrower and related terms and you'll also see "Used for" terms.  "Academic Achievement" is used in place of these terms.  This will help you find terms to search that you might not have considered.  The results you get should be more focused on your topic because these articles have been identified as including that subject.

Let's select some subject terms.  Click on the box next to the terms that best describe the topic. 

list of subject terms related to academic achievement in psycINFO

I've selected Academic Achievement; Achievement; College Academic Achievement; Academic Aptitude; and Educational Attainment Level.

Next we'll add those terms to the search box by clicking on the Add button using OR to connect them. -- That means we are looking for any of those terms in our results.  

adding our selected subject terms using OR

You'll see the search terms we selected in the search box with OR in between each phrase.  You will also see DE in the search box several times.  That stands for "descriptor" -- the term that PsycINFO uses for their subject headings.  Leave those all in the search box and click on Search.

The results list is huge, but we'll narrow it significantly when we combine it with another search term.  So let's go to the Thesaurus again by clicking on it in the top toolbar as we did earlier.  This time we will search our second concept.  Our topic has to do with cell phones so let's browse for that in the Thesaurus.   Remember the process we just went through to find broader, narrower and related terms.

What is the best search term for cell phones according to the PsycINFO Thesaurus?

 Choose 2 or 3 or the terms provided and Add them to the search with OR  then click on Search.

Next we want to combine these searches, so click on Search History.

shows the results page with search history opened

Clear your search box by clicking on the x at the end of the Search box.  Then click on the boxes to the left of the search history entries you want to combine -- in this case, S1 and S2.  Now click the Search with AND button.  Notice that you have a new entry in your Search History, S3.

 We finally have a manageable results list, which we can limit using the "Refine Results" options to the left of the screen to get even better results.

points our date and format limiters on the left side of the screen

Sliding the date slider (blue bars below the dates) from left toward the right, will limit the publication date.  Or you may have no slider and will need to change the date by typing it in as needed.  Since we've already discovered that the term cellular phone was introduced in 2008, there will be no articles earlier than 2008. 

Limiting by Peer Reviewed (checking the box next to Peer Reviewed will automatically update the results) will eliminate any dissertations or books included in the results.

Looking down through the results list, you'll see some titles that look like they fit well with your topic.  Others may not reveal what's in the article.  Looking at the abstract will help.

What is an abstract?

You'll find the abstract by either clicking on the title of the article and scrolling down the screen a bit.  This will give you more information about the article.  To get back to the results, click on Result List just above the title.  The way to read an abstract without leaving the list is to hold your cursor over the page with the magnifying glass to the far right of the title.  

image of the abstract and page with magnifying glass in results

The abstract with some other information pops up and then disappears when you move your cursor off the pop-up bubble.

In your results list, you'll see a Find It button. 

image of a Find it button

If you click on that Find It button, another tab will open and you'll have to go between tabs to continue this tutorial.

What does the Find It button mean?

If the article is full text in another database, you will be given the coverage and a link to follow to the full text of the article.

shows coverage and link to full text

If it is not full text in any of the library's databases, you'll see this notice.

message stating access to the full text is unavailable.

In this case, you can click on the Request Item button; fill in your name and email address; submit; and a librarian will get the article for you from another library.  This can take from a few hours to a few days depending on how quickly other libraries respond.

You may find that an article you like is available through PsycINFO.  Then you can click on the HTML or PDF symbol and open the article to read, print or download and save.

shows full text available in HTML and PDF

 If you are still having problems finding enough information, be sure to contact your librarian.  At Morgan Library you can Ask-A-Librarian.  Tell us your topic and what you've tried and we'll make some suggestions for more search terms or different databases.



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