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PSYC 2301 - Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology

A resource guide for Psychology Research Methods class

Database Search Strategy

Developing Search Terms and Strategies

Take this lesson to learn how to develop search terms and strategies to create effective searches for finding sources. This lesson includes video, audio, images, and text, and a mix of online and offline interactive activities. The offline activities include Word documents that can be printed out and written by hand or downloaded and completed on your device.


Keyword Search Tips

  • Keyword search:  Always use 'keywords' instead of an entire sentence to run searches
    • keywords are the primary concepts in your research topic
    • Watch this video to see how to identify good keywords and use them on a search platform
  • Use "AND" to connect different concepts to get results that cover them all
  • Use quotation (" ") around phrases
    • Use quotation marks around a phrase to ensure that the database searches for the exact phrase
    • You don't have to use a quotation for a phrase, but you tend to receive more irrelevant results without one
  • Use synonym (or alternative words or phrases), and connect them with “OR” to retrieve more relevant results
    • Example: for the concept of "teenagers", the synonym could include "adolescent, adolescence, teens, teenager, juvenile" 
    • Scan relevant search results to discover new keywords and phrases that you could use
  • Use truncation mark: in EBSCO databases, use an asterisk (*) too truncate a word
    • Example: aggre*   -- This will search for and find articles that contain the word aggressive, aggression, aggressiveness
  • A literature search is an iterative process.  Expect yourself to test different search keywords back and forth a couple of times.