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IDS 101: From Eudaimonia to Happiness: PsycInfo database

Finding journal articles about empirical research via PSYCINFO

Items covered in this guide for the PsycInfo database -- Most assignments for Psychology courses can be completed by using the PsycInfo database which is produced by the American Psychological Association.  PsycInfo is the world's largest database that primarily focuses on Psychology and allied fields of research.

  • - Walking you through the PsycInfo database
  • - Entering your search concept
  • - Finding 4 types of article options on the database's screen
    • * Peer reviewed journals 
    • * Articles written only in English
    • * Articles focusing on Humans
    • * Empirical research articles
  • - Example of a comprehensive search strategy

Entering your search concept into PSYCINFO database

There are 5 central concepts that are important to grasp, in order build an effect search strategy for any article oriented database:


  • If you have a MULTI WORD PHRASE you need to treat it differently - treat it like a mathematical expression, and put it inside a set of PARENTHESES:    For example:  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ===> Chronic Fatigue Syndrome )



  • Meaningful use of synonyms - do not search for just one word, to cover your core concept.  Try to include synonyms & unique phrases that are closely allied with your prinicpal area of focus. Separate each of the synonyms with the OR command:    For example:   Greenhouse gases ===> (Greenhouse gases) OR ozone OR (Carbon dioxide) OR (CO2) OR Smog OR (Global warming)


  • Using WILDCARDS for variety of words that have similar starting point of spelling - do not search for just one word, if there are an entire family of words that all have the same base word.  The ASTERISK "*" is the wildcard to use in this database.    For example:   Econom* will automatically pull in:  Econometric OR Economic OR Economically OR Economize OR Economizing


  • If you have a HYPHENATED WORD you need to search for it both WITH and WITHOUT the hyphen::    For example:  Non-Profit Organization ===> ( Non-profit Organization ) OR ( Nonprofit Organization )


  • Understanding the searching options of that particular database -- if your database has the capability of specifying a unique field to search, try looking for your topic under the SUBJECT umbrella.   For example:  an ordinary search as contrasted against  a subject only search




For some research toptics, the difference in the number of articles retrieved between these two simple options could be 4 to 1!





Finding those 4 article options within the PSYCINFO database

When you know upfront that you have to find resources that meet certain criteria, it is always best to set up those restrictions at the beginning of your search process, rather than after the fact.

This is relatively easy to do with the PsycInfo database, since all of the necessary options are offered to you, directly from the ADVANCED SEARCH SCREEN:


#1:  Peer reviewed:  This is just a simple check box, but it is relatively small sized.  Click on it, so that it displays a "check mark".  Now move onto your second option.


#2:  English language:  This is also a simple check box, and it is also relatively small sized.  Click on it, so that it displays a "check mark".  Note that you do NOT have to scroll through the long list of available languages.  The ENGLISH option is available to you as the check box.  Now move onto your third option.



#3:  Human:  This is option is found inside the section called "Population".  Click on the line called "Human".  Now you can move to your last option.



#4:  Empirical study:  This is option is found inside the section called "Methodology".  Click on the line called "Empirical Study". 

Now you are ready to actually execute your search!  There are 2 search buttons on the screen...  One is at the far bottom right fo the screen, in a grey colored box, the other "Search" button is near the far top of the screen, in a dark green button.  Either button will do!

Gary Klein (Reference Librarian)

Gary Klein's picture
Gary Klein
Mark O. Hatfield Library
Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem, OR 97301

Work phone: #503-370-6743

Gary's general work schedule (Spring 2020):
Mon - Thu = 9:30am -- 9pm; Fri = 9:30am -- 5:30pm AND ALSO by appointment at other times.