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PSYC 133: Advanced Topics in Cognitive Psychology (Kahan): Search Strategies

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Search Strategies

Searching databases for journal articles is a bit more challenging than using tools such as Google or Bing. The good news is that you have a lot more control over how you design the search. This also means you should get better, more targeted results.

  • Before you start searching, try focusing your topic by writing a one sentence research question.
    For example: Do interventions help smokers change their behaviors? 
  • Identify the main ideas in your research question.
    • intervention
    • smokers
    • behavior
  • Boil the statement down to keywords, or the most important elements of your issue.
    EX: interventions; smokers; smoking; behavior
  • Use an asterisk to find variations of a word.
    EX: smok* will find smoker, smokers, smoking
  • Then, separate the keywords with the "and" and "or" connectors 
    EX: intervention* and smok* and behavior*

The above search strategy in the PsycINFO database will look like this. Note that I changed "Select a Field" to "SU Subjects" for the first two terms so only the index terms for this article are searched.

You can also limit your search to "peer reviewed" publications so you search only the academic literature.


This search retrieved 521 peer-reviewed citations.

NOTE: If you are not sure about what terms to use, the PsycINFO Thesaurus is extremely helpful.


Last Revised on January 23, 2020

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