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Library Subject Guides

Psychology: Tips

UC Library Guide for Psychology

Learn to use the Library

Learn to use the Library
Self teaching resources to help you make the most of the Library's resources.

Google Scholar off-campus

Follow the instructions to turn on the Full-Text@My Library links off-campus to see which journals the library provides access to.

PubMed or Ovid Medline?

A guide to some of the differences between Ovid Medline and PubMed:

PsycINFO videos

PsycINFO on EBSCO: Playlist of online videos

Produced by the American Psychological Association these videos cover topics such as finding peer-reviewed items, searching for methodology and using the classification codes.

Tips for searching PsycINFO

Your searches will be more effective if you follow the below simple steps:

Step one: Search using the key concepts

Identify the key concepts in your essay topic e.g.

Discuss the effects of parenting style on children's development

The key concepts are parenting style and children's development

Step two: Consider alternative terms

Different authors may refer to the same concept using different terms. Different countries also use different terminology. When you search for information, you need to consider the range of words that might be used. If you only search on one term, you risk missing articles that use different terms. Take into account:

Synonyms e.g. parenting styles/childrearing

Related terms e.g. childhood development/psychosocial development

Spelling variations (e.g. behavior vs behaviour - PsycINFO subjects use North American spelling and terminology)

Plurals and variations on a word stem e.g child, children, childhood

Step three: Truncation

Use an asterisk (*) at the end of a word to locate alternative endings to the word, e.g. child* will find child, children or childhood

Step four: Combine your terms

Use AND or OR to combine your search terms.  Using an AND between your search words will help to narrow your search by finding all articles that containing all of the terms.  Use an OR between synonyms.

Enter your search

Here's an example of a good initial search for information on this topic

parenting style* AND child* development

A more complex search could be (parenting style* OR childrearing) AND (child* development OR psychosocial development or cognitive development)


Apply limits to your search to make your search more focussed.  Use the cntrl key to select multiple categories from each window.  Some of the most useful limits are:

Publication Type:

Age Group:




The results of your search will appear as a list of brief records.  When you find an article that looks useful, look at the subjects assigned to the article.  To find other articles, try using combinations of relevant subjects in another search.

Cited References and Times Cited in this Database links

Each article has the full reference list linked - see the Cited References links.  When you find a useful article, look at the linked references as this can lead you to other relevant articles. Sometimes there are also links to articles that have cited the article ("Times Cited in this Database").  Use these links to lead you to more recent research on the topic.

Refining Your Search

You always need to be prepared to refine your search and try other searches to find more articles.

Not enough articles?

Here are some tips to make your search broader:

  • Have you used too many search terms?  If so, reduce the number of concepts you are using, e.g. if you are searching for three concepts, try two.  Generic words such as influence or impact or effect don't need to be included in your search.
  • Break down long phrases and join together with AND. For example instead of "effect of alcohol on fetal development" enter one or more of the following:

alcohol* and fetal development
fetal alcohol syndrome
alcohol* and prenatal

  • Check your spelling (use North American spelling on PsycINFO i.e. behavior in preference to behaviour).
  • Truncate your search to find variant forms of a word.
  • Use a dictionary or encyclopedia to find alternative terms for your concepts. Alternatively, search the databases online thesaurus to find suggestions for other terms to use.


Too many articles?

  • Add another concept to your search and use the connector AND.
  • Apply a limit to your search
  • Think of more specific terms for your search.  Look in the PsycINFO Thesaurus for ideas.