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Tutorials and Training Tools: Tutorial Transcript: APA PsycArticles and PsycInfo: Finding empirical studies

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National University Library Tutorial: APA PsycArticles and PsycInfo: Finding empirical studies (Link)

Learn how to search APA PsycArticles® and PsycInfo® to find original, empirical research articles. (8:50)


The National University Library subscribes to several of the American Psychological Association’s databases, including PsycArticles and PsycInfo. This video is going to show you how to use these databases to find empirical research articles on your topic.

You can use PsycArticles to search for papers that were published in the APA’s own journals, and you can use PsycInfo to search for abstracts from other psychology and behavioral science publishers.

Before we get started, let’s make sure we understand what we’re looking for.

PsycInfo describes an empirical study as a: Study based on facts, systematic observation, or experiment, rather than theory or general philosophical principle.

We’re looking for articles that describe what the authors did to collect and analyze some kind of data, and they’re going to describe that process in so much detail that you, their colleague, could replicate their study if you wanted to. Empirical studies can use either qualitative or quantitative data. And they’re generally going to look like this: they have an introduction where they discuss their research problem and provide you with some context for their study, a very thorough methodology section, and a discussion about how the experiment went and what they found out. What we aren’t looking for are summaries, editorials, commentaries, or reviews, which will typically have a very different structure.

As a side note, sometimes you’ll run into literature reviews, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses. You’ll usually be able to tell what these are because they’ll have “review” or “meta-analysis” in the title or abstract. These papers review the results of many original empirical studies, often looking for trends that are common across a number of experiments with similar research questions. If you find one on your topic, sometimes it’s helpful to look at the studies they cite—these are often original empirical studies that you can then look up for your assignment.

Let’s start our own search. We can find APA PsycArticles AND PsycInfo using the A-Z Database List linked on the Library’s homepage. Notice that they’re listed under “A” for APA. You can also find them on the Research Guide for psychology.

I’m going to click on APA PsycArticles.

Here’s what the homepage looks like. We know we're searching PsycArticles because the name appears above the search bar. EBSCOhost is the search tool we’re using to access the PsycArticles database. If you want to, you can actually search both PsycArticles and PsycInfo at the same time. To do that, click on CHOOSE DATABASES, and make sure the boxes next to both database names are ticked. If you want to search across even more scholarly journals, the “Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection” is a good addition, and there are some sociology and allied health databases that might be useful, too.

Let’s click on the ADVANCED SEARCH link in PsycArticles.

Here’s an example research question we’ll use: What treatments are effective for people with a video game addiction? The main concepts here are VIDEO GAMES and ADDICTION and TREATMENT. So those are the words we’re going to put into the search bars. You’ll notice that we have multiple search bars here. We’ll enter the keywords for each concept in its own bar.

See the ANDs in the drop-down boxes? Using AND means we’re telling the database that we need articles that use all of the words: video games AND addiction AND treatment.  

I’m also going to try searching for some synonyms, because that might increase the number of results I get. For example, I might tell PsycArticles that I want it to find articles that use the term treatment OR therapy OR intervention.

Next, let’s scroll down the Advanced Search page and look at some of the limiters available to us. If you selected more than one database, you may see more limiters than this; right now, we’ve only selected PsycArticles and are only seeing PsycArticle’s limiters. There’s actually a limiter here for METHODOLOGY, where we’ll find EMPIRICAL STUDY as an option. Clicking on this should limit the articles we’ll see to only empirical studies.

We’ve also got limiters for population, including gender, human versus animal, or patient status. And if you’re looking for articles about an age group, like adults or teenagers or infants, you can use the AGE GROUP limiter.

Finally, you may want to click on this option: Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals, which means everything you’ll see will come from a journal that uses a peer-review process. You’ll see an option like this in most research databases.

Let’s click the search button and see what PsycArticles can find for us.

I’m liking some of the titles we’re seeing, and I’m noticing that many of them were published fairly recently. I can make sure that everything in my results list was published within a certain date range by using these PUBLICATION DATE options on the left-hand side.

If I’d like to know more about an article, I can click on this magnifying glass icon to see the abstract, which is a summary of the article’s research question, methods, and conclusions.

Pay attention to the subject terms listed just below the article’s title and citation information. These are labels that PsycArticles staff have applied to these articles to describe them, so skimming through them will give you a good idea of what an article is about, and can also give you some good ideas for more terms you can search for.

For example, I noticed that the term computer games appears more than video games. I also see references to virtual games, digital gaming, virtual reality, and games on mobile phones. I might try using that vocabulary in a new search.

Click on the Full Text option to open an article.

Like most scholarly databases, PsycArticles will generate citations for you. Just click on this yellow page icon. But make sure that the citation is formatted correctly before pasting it into your paper—sometimes automated generators make mistakes.

If you want a link to this article, don’t use the link in your browser bar. Instead, click on the chain icon here. If you’d like to save a link to a search results page, click the share option and use the permalink given there.

One quick tip if you’re searching PsycInfo: sometimes databases will include the abstract for an article, but won’t have the full text attached. If you’ve found a title that looks really interesting, but there’s no full text link, click on the link that says CLICK TO LOOK FOR FULL TEXT. EBSCO will try to redirect you towards other databases that do have the article available for download. If not, you’ll get the option to request the article through interlibrary loan. To avoid this altogether, you can click the “FULL TEXT” limiter to only see articles that are available for download here in EBSCO.

Remember that the Library’s staff is here to help you. If you’re not having luck finding what you need, you can email or chat with us by clicking on the HELP option on our homepage.