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PsycInfo database: PsycInfo database

Finding journal articles about empirical research via PSYCINFO

Items covered in this guide about the PSYCINFO database  -- Your course assignment 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 complete search strategy

Walking you through the use of PSYCINFO

First you need to use the right database.  Hatfield Library offers access to over 240 databases, but there is one which provides more coverage of Psychology, and picks up articles from more Psychology journals than any other database -- and that is PsycINFO.

This database has some unique tools that make this particular assignment very easy to accomplish.

PsycINFO:  Abstracts and indexes the professional and academic literature in the field of psychology and related disciplines. Covers more than 1,300 journals in more than 30 languages. Also includes references to book chapters, books, dissertations and technical reports.


If you are connecting from off-campus, you will have to enter your WU Username & Password before getting inside this database.

This is what you will see when you have successfully logged into the PsycInfo database:

start up screen for PSYCINFO in the advanced search mode


But in reality, there is a lot more on the screen, if you move your eyes down a bit, and use the vertical cursor:

It is in this "advanced" section, where you find lots of options to play with, that are only found in the PsycInfo database, that you can use to save a lot of time, and increase the relevancy of your search results.

WARNING: Every time you open up the Advanced Search Options, all of the options get RESET back to their BLANK starting points, even if you did not intend to make any changes.  This can radically alter your search results, so you need to be setting your ADVANCED OPTIONS before your start entering your search strategy in the horizontal bars, right at the beginning, when you first open up this databasae.

Please take note -- This screen shot is only showing you one-half of the options that you can use to modify your results!

There are 4 key things you need to adjust within the ADVANCED options section, that will allow you to retrieve just those articles that are relevant for many PSYC assignments:

  • Peer reviewed.
  • English language.
  • Human.
  • Empirical study.

Finding those 4 article search 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!

Entering your search concept in PSYCINFO

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!





Example of a combining all of the search strategy elements together within fthe PSYCINFO database

An ordinary search of the PsycInfo database for articles discussing Libraries OR Librarians would yield over 18,000 citations to various types of documents (including Books, Dissertations and Encyclopedias), even though the requirements of your assignment is to only focus on Empirical Research articles!


But when you apply the options suggested for this assignment, the number of citations matching your search strategy for Libraries OR Librarians would drop substantially, down to the 2,700 range -- a difference of more than 6 to 1!

Gary Klein (librarian for Psychology)

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Gary Klein
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Mark O. Hatfield Library
Willamette University
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Salem, OR 97301
Willamette University

Willamette University Libraries

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street.
Salem Oregon 97301
Pacific Northwest College of Art Library
511 NW Broadway.
Portland Oregon 97209