Resources by Subject Basic Guide to Research for Psychology

A. Locating Background Information

You might browse some of our reference sourcesfor assistance in selecting and defining your topic. These sources can also provide useful background information on your topic to give you a better understanding of the various aspects of your topic. We have numerous subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other resources available in print and online.

Check the following call number areas in the Reference Collection for background information from sources such as subject encyclopedias:

BF is Psychology

Depending on your topic, other subject areas, such as Education or Medicine, may helpful.For a more detailed breakdown of call number areas, see the Library of Congress classification schedule.

Some examples of reference books in the library are listed on the Psychology Subject page. This is only a small selection of materials from the Reference collection. To locate additional items, browse the Reference shelves or look in MaconCat.try a broad subject search such as "Psychology" and look for subheadings such as "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries."

Additionally, you can look at several of our psychology periodical publications for help in developing your topic .

B. Locating Periodical Articles

  1. Determine whether you should use scholarly materials whether you need primary sources.
    How do you tell the difference between a scholarly journal from a popular one?
    How do you tell the difference between a primary source and a secondary source?
  2. Formulate a search strategy.
    Identify the important concepts of your search and choose the keywords that describe these concepts.
    Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included. Reference sources can help with this.
    Determine which search features may apply, i.e., truncation, Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), etc.
  3. Use indexes and databases to locate scholarly journal and popular magazine articles.
    Go to the Library's home page and click on Find Articles and choose Psychologyfrom the subject list, or choose the database from the alphabetical list. 

    Academic Search Complete 

    OmniFile Full Text Mega

    • Available through EBSCO; updated weekly.
    • Indexes more than 600 journals in most academic disciplines; supplies numerous full-text articles.
    • Coverage from 1980s to the present.

    • Available through APA PsycNET; updated weekly.
    • Indexes periodical articles, books, book chapters, dissertations and technical reports.
    • Coverage 1872-present.
    1. Type your search in the search box.
    2. The truncation symbol is the * and will give all endings to these words. 
    3. There is full-text in this index for the 50+ publications of the APA (PsycArticles). Check the library catalog for other materials. The majority of materials will be scholarly, although a very small number may not be.

    C. Use the World Wide Web to get government documents, reports, opinions, and other publications on your topic.

    Use the Library's Research by Subject links to be directed to quality web directories and reference sources.

    D. Critically evaluate the materials

    Not all information is good, valid information. Evaluation means that you need to look carefully at your information sources to determine whether the source is reliable and appropriate for your information need. You should always evaluate any information source you use. The seven key criteria for evaluating your sources are:

    Authority, Currency, Accuracy, Scope, Objectivity, Documentation, and Presentation

    See the Evaluating Sources page for more!

    E. Cite your resources properly

    Always use the style preferred by your professor or suggested by the major professional association or society in the field of study. APA style is used in the field of Psychology. See the Psychology Research Guide for more on APA style!

    As you write other papers, be aware that the four major citation styles are APA, Chicago, MLA, and Turabian. Copies of the guides for each style may be found at the Reference Desk.

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