PsycINFO is the premier research discovery tool in psychology and related fields. It is produced under the aegis of the American Psychological Association and indexes articles published in more than 1,800 professional journals as well as books and book chapters, reports, and theses and dissertations. Approximately 60,000 new records are added per year through weekly updates. This tutorial is an introduction to the advanced search options available through PsycINFO.

On the right side of the screen you can see the PsycINFO search interface. You may have to log in with your ldap password first, if you are off-campus. Use the navigation arrows at the bottom to advance to the next page.

Click on the right arrow below to start.

The Keyword to Subject Approach

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The Advanced Search screen is the default search interface on your first visit to PsycINFO. Occasionally you may be redirected to Basic Search when you use the Modify Search option. Remember that you can always switch back to Advanced Search.

Let's start with a keyword search for Aspergers and pets. Type the two keywords into the search box(es). It doesn't matter whether you use one or two search boxes as long as the search terms are connected with an "AND."

Click on Search and take a quick look at your results. Then advance to the next page.

The Keyword to Subject Approach

2 of 2 Notice that you have various options to refine/narrow your results to the left of the results list. One of these options is Subject. Scroll down and click on the arrow next to Subject to expand the subject list.  Aspergers syndrome is not listed as a subject since it is not a defined subject in the PsycINFO database.  At the top of the subject list you should see "autism spectrum disorders" instead.

Clicking on "autism spectrum disorders" would narrow your search to records which have both the keywords "Aspergers" and "pets" and the subject "autism spectrum disorders." Narrowing an already small results list further is never a good idea. Better to start fresh with a different strategy.

Advance to the next page.

The Subject Search with Thesaurus Assistance

1 of 3The PsycINFO thesaurus can be a powerful research assistant. The thesaurus guides the researcher to the appropriate predefined subjects. These subjects have been applied to all records in PsycINFO in a consistent manner.

Start a new search by clicking on Advanced Search. Use the Clear form command next to the Search button to empty the search boxes, then follow the link to the thesaurus. It will open in a separate pop-up window.

Query the thesaurus for "Aspergers." The thesaurus will present you with the phrase Aspergers Syndrome. Click on Aspergers Syndrome to see related subjects and advance to the next page.

The Subject Search with Thesaurus Assistance

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Check the Major checkbox next to “autism spectrum disorder” which is the recommended subject for Aspergers syndrome and click on the Add to search button to add the subject to the Advanced Search form.

Note: The thesaurus allows for three forms of subject searching: exact subject, major subject and exploded subject. Checking the box to the left of the subject executes an exact subject search. Choosing the Major checkbox limits your search to records that have the subject that you selected as one of their major subjects. By choosing the Explode checkbox, you choose to include all conceptually narrower subjects from the PsycINFO subject hierarchy in your search. Exploding your subject search typically leads to a wider results set.

You successfully added “autism spectrum disorder” as a major subject to the Advanced Search form. Now add “pets” as a keyword to the second search box and run the search. Review your search results and advance to the next page.

The Subject Search with Thesaurus Assistance

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All the records in your results list share "autism spectrum disorder" as a major subject and "pets" as a keyword. You could further focus your results list with the assistance of the Subject facet which we explored at the beginning of this tutorial, but you should also consider exploring alternatives to "pets" with the help of the thesaurus.

Let's return to the thesaurus via the Advanced Search screen. Query the thesaurus for "pets" and open the Notes field by clicking on the icon to the right of "pets."

The thesaurus presents a variety of appropriate alternative subjects. Explode the subject "pets," which will include all conceptually narrower subjects and add "animal assisted therapy," "animals," and "interspecies interaction" to your search query by checking the appropriate boxes. Click on Add to Search to paste your selected search terms into one of the search fields on the Advanced Search screen. Your selections will be connected with the "OR" operator. Run this new search, review the first couple of results and advance to the next page.

Predefined Search Limits

Your results set should be neither too large nor too narrow at this point. Any further action will depend on your preferences and needs. The Population facet allows you to limit results to human or to animal subjects. Open the Population facet and click on Human.

Other helpful search facets are age group, source type and methodology. The most frequently used facets are listed directly underneath the search boxes and at the top of the facets menu on the results screen. They are the peer-review, scholarly journals and publication date facets. All limits can be selected prior to searching as well.

On the next page we will explore the search another search approach.

Search with Indexing Terms

Let's take a closer look at the Crossman and Kazdin article from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders at the top of the results screen. Click on the hyperlinked title of their article to open the full record. The full record has a number of useful features that are only available at this level. Search with Indexing Terms is one of them. Check any number of subject listed and run a completely new search. Search with Indexing Terms searches the complete PsycINFO database while facets further limit your last results list.

Advance to the next page where we will review our search history.

Search History

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Go back to the Advanced Search screen and click on Recent Searches to the right of Advanced Search.

You will see a complete record of all the searches you ran during this session. Each time you ran a search, the search was recorded. Recent Searches enables you to return to a previous search, to modify it, and to create a link for your records. You can see your search terms, but you have to rerun the search to see the limits which you applied. Last, but not least you can combine two or more of your searches following the examples listed underneath the search box.

Search History

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Professionals rely on the thesaurus to further their research. Don't underestimate its power. PsycINFO subjects will noticeably improve your search results. Occasionally, the thesaurus may not be the best starting point, but once you are looking at a record that matches your interests, you should take advantage of the subjects that were applied to this record. It is important to remember that a keyword search in PsycINFO does not search the full-text of journal articles or book chapters. The keyword search queries the text available in PsycINFO records which is limited.

Advance to the next page where we will take a closer look at a record.

PsycINFO Records

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Look up the article below in PsycINFO:
Berry, A., Borgi, M., Francia, N., Alleva, E., & Cirulli, F. (2013). Use of assistance and therapy dogs for children with autism spectrum disorders: A critical review of the current evidence. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(2), 73-80.

Click on the title of the article to open the full record. Below the citation for the article you should see the library's blue findit button.

This is your link to the full text of the article if the library subscribes to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. findit will open a new window or tab for you with available full text options. You also have the option to Get a Scan when the library does not have access to the article.

Scans or interlibrary loans for journal articles generally take one to two days and arrive via email. You will be notified by the library with access instructions.

Advance to the next page.

PsycINFO Records

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Below the abstract is a list of subjects that have been applied to this article. Notice that some subjects are identified as major

Further down you see the Population descriptor. Earlier on we limited our search results to Human with the help of this limit.

A further review of the record shows that this article is a literature review. This type of publication is identified under Methodology and can be applied as a limit. Literature reviews are overviews over previous research on a subject and the sources cited in a literature review will be of particular interest.

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PsycINFO Records

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PsycINFO records include a list of sources cited by the author(s).

How many sources are cited in this article?

PsycINFO also includes a list of publications which cite this article. Look for the Cited by label. Not all records in PsycINFO include a Cited by list, especially if they were published recently. The older a publication the higher the chances that it was cited by another scholar.

How often was this article cited by other scholars?

Note that the Cited by list in PsycINFO is limited to publications indexed in this database. Other databases may index additional publications that cited this article.

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Digital Object Identifiers

One last important element in the PsycINFO record is the DOI listing. DOI stands for digital object identifier. The doi is a unique number akin to ISBNs for books. DOIs are only applied to electronic publications and they can be used for articles, books and book chapters.

DOIs can be transformed into URLs that will lead directly back to the cited source. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association requires DOIs for article citations if a DOI is assigned.

Advance to the next screen.

Save, Print, Email and more

Consider saving interesting search results to a folder by checking the box next to a record. You can review selected sources by opening your folder. The folder icon is placed in the upper right hand corner in PsycINFO.

The folder permits you to save, email or print record citations in bulk. PsycINFO offers a variety of citation styles. APA style is one of them. Note that the APA style citations generated by PsycINFO do not include the DOI. You can add this manually or export PsycINFO citations to RefWorks, a citation manager, that will do this work for you. Go to Save to select RefWorks. Note that you need to set up a RefWorks account if you do not already have one.

As always, contact your librarian if you run into problems or have questions.


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