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PSYCH 3002 - Research Methods in Psychology

A guide to using APA PsycInfo, Google Scholar, determining if a journal is peer-reviewed, and limiting to empirical studies. Includes directions for creating a Zotero account, how to upload citations to Zotero, and how to download citations in APA format.

The power of APA PsycInfo Subject Searching

To focus your searches using APA PsycInfo try the following commands:



Also consider using the NOT command which eliminates all results with the word that follows it.

e.g.,   the search       "social media"  AND Meta NOT "meta-analysis"

... returns results that contain both the phrase "social media" and Meta, but not the phrase "meta-analysis

The "N" command (proximity) only returns results where search terms appear within a specified number of words from each other:

e.g.,  the search:        "social media"  N4  algorithm

... returns results where the phrase social media is within four words of the word algorithm.


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A powerful technique to use in APA PsycInfo is "subject" searching.  If you perform a keyword search on "disabilities" and "reading".  This search returns over 8,000 results - many not particularly focused on either "disabilities" or "reading".


Search results from a keyword search on disabilities and reading.  Most results are not particularly focused on these concepts.


However, if you look at the "Subjects" listing under search results that look promising you will find specific subject terms that are linked with that article e.g., Learning Disabilities, Reading, Reading Achievement, Reading Comprehension, Reading Development, Reading Disabilities, Reading Skills, Reading Speed, etc.

Each "Subject" heading such as Reading Disabilities indicates that an article is particularly focused on that concept - making subject searching much more powerful than keyword search (or Google Scholar searching).

So start with a keyword search in APA PsycInfo ... then identify some potentially useful subject terms ... and then repeat the PsycInfo search limiting to the subject heading by changing the dropdown menu to SU Subjects 


Limiting PsycINFO to the subject heading "Reading Disabilities"


Other Options

You might also try limiting your search terms to either AB Abstract or TI Title ... especially if there are no obvious or effective subject headings to choose from.



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Before you search - you may wish to limit your search to “Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals.”   

To limit to “Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals” be sure to check the box labeled “Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals” farther down the search screen:




Finding Empirical or Experimental Research using APA PsycInfo

You can use APA PsycInfo to search specifically for empirical research - articles that report an actual experiment or study.  To find research articles type in your search and then - using the "Methodology" option at the bottom of the search page - limit your search to  the option "EMPIRICAL STUDY"


Limiting PsycINFO search results to empirical studies using the Methodology option.


Limiting to More Specific Types of Empirical Research.

You can also use the Finding Empirical or Experimental Research using APA PsycInfo search option to focus on more specific types of research such as a Qualitative Study or Quantitative Study.