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PSY 2350: Abnormal Psychology (Braam at MAVA)

This course guide is designed to support students in the MAVA Extended Campus program taking PSY 2350 with Joann Braam.

Using "Advanced Search"

Most databases, both from your library and ones such as Google Scholar on the Internet, provide the option to do a Basic Search or an Advanced Search. When ever you have the option, always select the advanced search. Advanced Search usually provides you with several search boxes, all

Basic Search Advanced Search
Has only one search box. Provides several rows of search boxes making it easier to search a complex topic.
Provides some basic limit options such as Date Range. Provides additional limit options useful to help narrow your search results.
Only option is to search ALL available fields in the database - this can pull in a lot of unrelated resources. Default is to search ALL available fields in the database, but you can select a specific field such as the Title, Author or Subject field to search in instead.
Harder to do a Boolean search. Easier to do a Boolean search.


Using Boolean Searching: AND vs OR, Including Phrases and the Truncation (*) Function

The approach you take when entering your search terms in a library database will affect the results you get.  Before building a search, think about how you want to combine your search terms.

Boolean Searching lets you combine search terms using the words AND and OR:

AND - Use AND to combine search terms for different concepts within your topic. AND tells the database to only retrieve results that contain ALL the terms you typed as long as they appear somewhere in the fields searched. This will narrow your results.

Example: anorexia AND depression - anorexia might appear in the title field while depression might appear in the middle of the abstract.

OR - Use OR to connect synonyms (or antonyms) related to a single concept within your topic. OR tells the database to retrieve ANY results where it finds at least one of these terms in any of the fields searched. This will broaden your search to increase the number of items in your results list.

Example: anorexia OR bulimia - some of the results might only find anorexia in the searchable fields, other results might only find the term eating disorders while other results might find both terms.

Including Phrases in a Search: Many library and Internet databases need you to tell them to treat a series of words as a n exact phrase by placing those words inside quotation marks. You can check a database's Help section to see if you need to do so or simply try placing it in quotes to see if you get better results.

Example: "eating disorders" yields more relevant results than eating disorders because most databases do one of the following:

  • When you type two or more words together into the search box and don't separate them by using AND or OR and you don't put them inside quotation marks, some databases act as if you are doing Boolean searching using the AND. In this case, while it will only find results that have all of the words in them, you will have a lot of unrelated results where the words were spread apart within a searchable field or even across different searchable fields.
  • When you type two or more words together into the search box and don't separate them by using AND or OR and you don't put them inside quotation marks, some databases act as if you are doing Boolean searching using the OR. In this case each of the words is searched individually and as long as it finds one of them it will add it to your results pulling in a lot of unrelated items.

Truncation (*) Function - Many databases let you use an asterisk symbol at the end of a word or phrase to bring back variations of that word or phrase that start with the root you placed before the asterisk. This can be a valuable search tool when used effectively.

Example: teen* will tell the database or look for the words teen, teens, teenager, teenagers, etc. and bring back any items that use at least one of those variations. "college student*" will find any items that use the phrase "college student or "college students".

Warning: While you can decide where to truncate the word/phrase, be careful not to shorten the root too much as it may retrieve too many irrelevant results.

For example: bul* will find bully, bullying and bullies, it will also may find bulk, bull, bullet, etc. If what you want is actually the concept of bullying a more effective place to truncate the word is at bull*. Where you are searching may also impact it's effectiveness. In a multidisciplinary database or the Internet you may need to combine it with another concept such as bull* AND "psychological impact".

Using Database Limit Options

Most of our databases, including Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, provide limit options that you can use to help narrow your search. Most databases have at least these two limits:

  • Full Text - Check this option if you only want to see the articles that have full text available in that database. When you use this option keep in mind that you may not be seeing some really great articles that you need for your research and you may have access to through one of our other databases, our print collection or our Interlibrary Loans service.

    Note: If you are in an indexing and abstracting only database such as PsycINFO, you will see Linked Full Text instead. This type of database doesn't provide full text, but the vendor (EBSCOhost) provides a "link" to take you to the full text for that item if it is available in another EBSCOhost database we subscribe to.
  • Published Date / Date Range - Use this when you want the database to exclude any articles that are too old to use in your research. Often your professor may state that you can only use materials from the 5 or 10 years.

Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection and many of our other databases provide additional limits you may want to use such as:

  • Peer Reviewed / Scholarly Journals / Academic Journals (name differs, but they all mean the same thing) - Check this option when you only want to see articles written by professionals in the field which are submitted to the publisher for review by experts in the field before they are published in professional, scholarly journals.
  • Journal / Publication Name - This tells the database to only search within a specific journal for articles on your topic.
  • Image Types - This tells the database to only keep the articles that include images such as pictures, diagrams, charts, etc.
  • Document Type / Publication Type - You can specify if you only want newspaper articles, journal articles, books, audio files, etc. The type of files you can select from will depend on the type of resources the database contains.

Some Databases have Unique Limits such as:

  • PsychINFO also has Age Groups, Intended Audience, Language, and more.
  • Proquest Psychology Journals also has limits for Age Groups and Language.

Sample Search using the PsychINFO Database

Step 1: Summarize your topic or create a research statement/question to identify what you want to find/learn. Sample question: Do depression and eating disorders relate to each other and what impact, if any, do they have on body image.

Step 2: Pull out two or three main concepts that are the most important to you - this will give you a starting point. Do depression and eating disorders relate to each other and what impact, if any, do they have on body image. For this search example I selected depression, eating disorders and body image.

Step 3: Take a few minutes to think about each concept. Make a list of any key words or phrases that come to your mind for each concept which could be used as a search term based on what you already know about that concept. Example:

Concept 1 - depression

Concept 2 - eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia

Concept 3 - body image

Step 4: Select a database, for this example Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection was used. Connect to the database from this Course Guide or from the Library's website mouse over Research, click on Databases, select the Alphabetical Databases link and select Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection from the A-Z list. From off campus you will be prompted to login - use your student email/Blackboard username and password (contact e for help if you don't know your login info).

Step 5: This database defaults to the "Advanced Search" option so you should see three rows of search boxes and Boolean searching. We are going to add our search terms into the database by focusing on a single concept for each row, so Concept 1 will go on the top row, Concept 2 on the middle row and Concept 3 on the bottom row. The database has already placed the AND in between the top and middle rows and the middle and bottom rows for us so we don't have to worry about that. If we have more than one search term for a concept we will use an OR in between each one in that row's search box.

  • When starting a search, do it in increments starting with your most important concept as Concept 1. So on the top row type in depression, leave the "Select a Field" box on the default (this will look in all searchable fields) and hit the Search button. This found over 44,000 results. Note: If you do this and find no results, this is a good time to talk with a librarian as you might need help discovering additional search terms that relate to your concept or there might be a better database you could use.
  • On the middle row, leave the first box on AND (this tells the database to only keep the items it found from the top row that also match the search terms we type on this row and to get rid of everything else). In the search box type in eating disorders OR anorexia OR bulimia and leave the "Select a Field" box on the default then hit the Search button. This narrowed our results list down to 1,228 items. Because one of our search terms is a phrase, we actually want to put it into quotes so the database looks for it as an exact phrase. Changing that search box to type in "eating disorders" OR anorexia OR bulimia  and hitting the Search button takes us down to 1,187 items.
  • On the bottom row, leave the first box on AND, in the search box type in "body image" and leave the "Select a Field" box on the default then hit the Search button. This narrowed our results list down to 149 items.

Step 6: Narrowing your search down further:

  1. Use some of the database's limit options to further narrow your search down. I recommend that you wait to apply any database limits until after you have some search results based on your search terms so that you have an idea of what type of information the database contains and how much. Once you results, you will see a "Limit To" section to the left of your results list. This way you if you suddenly get down to one article you can easily back up a step to where you had more results. Sometimes your assignment will specify requirements regarding your resources such as how current they need to be, whether you need articles only or can use any type of source, whether you need peer-reviewed materials, or evidence-based research to name a few. Other times it is up to you to determine what limits if any you want to apply. Here are some common ones you might find useful:
    • Publication Date - As soon as you have a results list, the Publication Date range will fill in to show you the year the oldest and newest items in your list was published. The 149 items I found in Step 5 where published between 1986 and 2018. If the currency of the item is important to me I might not want to use items that are thirty years old. In this case you can change the starting date to reflect the oldest publication date you want - just click in the beginning date box to type the date you want or use the scroll bar below it.
    • You can use the Source Types by checking the box for the types you want to keep in your results list. For example, checking the Academic Journals box will get rid of any magazine articles, books, etc. and only keep articles that were published in an Academic Journal.
  2. Identify Subject Terms for one or more of your concepts and switch from searching in ALL of the searchable fields to only searching the Subject field. Subject terms are the way professionals in the field/discipline talk about the concept. As you look at your results list, most databases will provide a list of subjects associated with that item directly under it in the results list. If you see a search term you used listed as a Subject on one or more of your results, you can change the "Select a Field" box on that row to the "SU Subject Terms" field instead. So in my search, depression is listed as a Subject under a lot of the items in my results list so I changed the "Select a Field" box on the top row to the "SU Subject Terms" field and went from 149 items that found depression at least once in at least one of the searchable fields to 82 items that have a main subject focus of depression giving me more relevant results.

    Note: You can do this for each concept row if you can identify a Subject Term. If you can't find a Subject Term for one of your concepts, just leave that row on the "Select a Field". If you find a Subject Term that you didn't think of, add it onto the appropriate concept row and make sure to add an OR between it and the search term you already have in that box then hit the Search button to see if it finds you more results.

Here is an image of what my search looks like with my Concept 1 searching just in the SU Subject Terms field, my Concept 2 and 3 searching all searchable fields and a publication date limit set to the current 7 years:

Image of sample search in the Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection database.