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Psychology: Tips and Tutorials

Searching PsycINFO effectively and efficiently

Searching PsycINFO effectively and efficiently

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

Diferent people refer to the same concept using different terms. Different countries also use different terminology. When you search for informatioin, you need to consider the range of synonyms that might be used in place of the concepts you have in your essay question. 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 uses North American spelling and terminology)

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

Step three: Consider using a truncation symbol to search for alternative word endings

Use an asterisk (*) at the end of a word to locate alternative endings, 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. 

Didn't find 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 (you need to 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 search for to broaden your search.

Found 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.

Scholarly Journals

You can find these printed journals in the library

Subject Guide

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Fadia Al-Akhras
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