The title of my research paper will be “Should a Licensed Professional Counselor be allowed to be friends with their patients/ clients on social Media such as facebook, snap chat etc. I will attach the file as to what is expected. The references picked have to be between 5 and 10 years old. the more recent the better.
Conducting a Literature Search:
Using the Library, Online Databases, and
Internet Search Engines
Here I will review how to conduct a literature search in Psychology, focusing on the use of
PsycINFO as your primary database. I will assume that most of you will not have used this
database before, but you will find that it will be tremendously important as you go on in your
program (particularly if you intend to complete an independent research project).
• Why do a literature search?
• Where to start
• Distinguishing between primary and
• Using Internet search engines as a tool
• Using PsycINFO
We’ll begin by discussing why we should do a literature search and how to start. We will also
briefly review how to distinguish between a primary and secondary source, in case you are not
clear on the difference yet. Then we will focus on how you can use internet search engines, like
google, and library databases, like PsycINFO, to help you in conducting your literature search.
Why do a Literature Search?
• It’s an important part of the research
? What has already been done?
? Is there consensus in the area?
? Who is conducting this kind of research?
? What questions remain unanswered?
? How have other researchers operationalized the
? What methods have other researchers used?
Conducting literature searches allows us to determine what research has already been done, so
that we avoid unnecessary duplication, and to determine if there is generally a consensus on
research findings in the area. If not, this presents a unique opportunity to try and clarify the
discrepant research findings. It also helps to determine who are the key researchers conducting
research in the area. Most importantly, in developing our own research questions, literature
searches and reading through previous research allows us to determine what research
questions remain unanswered, how other researchers have operationally defined their variables
(i.e., how have they chosen to measure or manipulate their variables), and what methodology
they’ve used. These are important pieces of information to know as they are likely to inform
decisions you make in your own research.
Where to Start
• How do you do a literature search?
? Define your topic or research question
? Compile a list of keywords
? Compile a list of important researchers in the
area (if you know this already)
Now that you understand why we conduct literature searches, you might be wondering how
you even begin such a daunting task (and trust me, it can be quite daunting!). First, you want to
begin by defining your topic, or ideally, a more specific research question that you can use to
guide your literature search, narrowing down your potential results. Next, you want to compile
a list of keywords you’ll use to search through previous research, as well as a list of important or
key researchers in that particular area if you know some of them already, again this will help you
in searching through previous research.
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
• Primary Source:
? Original accounts of an “event,” written by
someone who experienced the event in question
? e.g., empirical articles, research reports,
• Secondary Source:
? Interprets and analyzes primary sources.
? e.g., textbooks, magazine articles
We should also distinguish between primary and secondary sources, as this will be important in
sorting through your results. A primary source is an original account of some event that is
written by someone who personally experienced that event. In the context of research in the
behavioral sciences, primary sources include empirical articles describing original research
findings, other types of research reports, and conference proceedings (although the latter are
typically considered “unpublished” and are not considered as legitimate as empirical articles). In
contrast, a secondary source interprets and analyzes primary source material, and include
textbooks, magazine articles, and review articles. Secondary sources include literature reviews.
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Are all journal articles PRIMARY sources?
• NO! Review articles will often summarize the
research that has been done in a particular
area. These summaries are not considered
original, although they may draw original
conclusions based on the integrated research
You might be wondering if all journal articles are considered primary sources? The answer is no.
Often times you will come across journal articles that do not discuss original research findings
but rather review research that has been done on a particular topic, often to draw novel
conclusions by integrating the various research findings. These kinds of review articles are
considered secondary sources, although their novel conclusions can be treated as primary
Primary vs. Secondary Source
If you’re using an empirical journal article, is
all the information considered PRIMARY?
• NO! Most of the information presented in the
introduction is a summary of previous
research findings. Citing this information
without going to the original source can be
problematic as you’re not sure if these
researchers paraphrased properly.
You might also be wondering if all of the material in an empirical journal article (which details
original research conducted by the authors) is considered primary source material? The answer
again is no. Although the data presented and the conclusions drawn from this data are primary
source material, much of what the authors will report in their introduction and parts of their
discussion refer to previous research findings relating to their research. So these sections are
analogous to secondary sources. A good tip is that if you see that the authors have cited
someone else, this is not primary source material. This can be an important distinction as citing
the secondary information without going and reading the original account can be problematic
because you cannot be sure that the authors have paraphrased the original material properly.
Peer – Review
• Primary and secondary sources come in two
? Peer-reviewed vs. not peer-reviewed
Journal articles may or not be peer reviewed. Peer-reviewed articles are those that are
submitted to a panel of experts in the field. The panel makes a decision about scientific merit of
the work and only articles deemed scientifically rigorous are published. This filtering process
ensures that the report you are reading is of relatively high quality. Journal articles that are not
peer reviewed (at least in the field of psychology) contain articles in which the scientific merit is
questionable (because the research has not been reviewed by an outside source). In this class,
you should choose and read only those articles that have been peer reviewed. You can choose
the “peer reviewed” limiting button in most databases.
Using Internet Search Engines
• Using an Internet search engine or Wikipedia
can be a good place to start.
? Most of your results will be from magazines,
newspapers, and personal websites.
• Using an actual encyclopedia will provide even more
accurate starting information
• Can also be a good way to find articles that
are not available at UTPB.
? e.g., Google Scholar, author’s website
When you first start out, you may find that using an Internet search engine, or even Wikipedia,
can be a good place to start. However, the problem with relying on these methods is that most
of your results will be from magazines, newspapers, personal websites, etc. In other words,
most of the material you will obtain through these means will be secondary sources, and we
generally discourage the use of secondary sources in scientific writing (particularly those that
have not been reviewed by a scientific panel). Nevertheless, you may find that this is a good
way to determine who are the key researchers in the area, what keywords to look for, or even to
locate articles you’ve found using library databases but that we do not subscribe to. For
example, some authors will have PDF versions of their articles available on their websites
(although this seems to be less frequent due to recent concerns with copyright issues).
Using Online Databases
• For your literature review, you must find
relevant PRIMARY sources in the area
? These must be peer-reviewed
• Several online databases search through
various psychology journals for articles that
match your topic of interest
? PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PsycFIRST
The best way to conduct a literature search is to use an online library database because these
will generate a list of sources that will include primary sources, which you should rely on for
your papers. In psychology, there are several online databases that you can use to search
through various psychology journals as well as journals related to psychology for articles that
match your topic of interest. These include PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, and PsycFIRST. In the past,
UTPB subscribed to all three of these; but we now have access to only PsycINFO, although this
was always the best of the three and should meet all of your needs.
What is PsycINFO?
• Online database of citations and abstracts of
scholarly work in behavioral sciences and
• Searches through journal articles, doctoral
dissertations, authored and edited books (not
textbooks), and chapters from edited books.
• More than 2.7 million records, 2450 journal
titles covered, and updated weekly.
PsycINFO is an online database of citations and abstracts of scholarly work in the behavioral
sciences and mental health. It searches through journal articles, doctoral dissertations,
authored and edited books (but not textbooks), and chapters from edited books. The best thing
about PsycINFO is that it is extremely comprehensive, including more than 2.7 million records
and 2450 journal titles, and it is updated weekly – so odds are you will find what you’re looking
for in PsycINFO.
How to Access the Online Databases
• Go to the UTPB library website. Click on
Journal Databases, then scroll down to
• If accessing PsycINFO from off-campus, the
easiest thing to do is to log in to Blackboard
and click on link to library.
? Make sure you’re accessing it through the
“remote access” link
To access PsycINFO, you’ll want to go to the UTPB library website and then scroll down to
PsycINFO. As most of you will probably be accessing PsycINFO from off-campus, you will need to
do things a little differently. The easiest thing to do is to log in to Blackboard and click on the
link to the library towards the top of the page. This will redirect you to the library website, but
because you’ve logged in through Blackboard you will not need to log in again. However, make
sure you are looking for PsycINFO by clicking on the “remote access” link; if you try and access it
from the journal databases link, it will ask for a username and password and you will not be
able be able to log in to PsycINFO.
Searching for Sources
• Use keywords to find sources that relate to
your research question and/or area of
• Assume you’re interested in social
interactions and communication, we can try
searching for some sources using the keyword
Once you’ve access PsycINFO, you can begin your literature search. This database allows you to
use keywords to find sources that relate to your research question or to your general area of
interest. So let’s say you’re interested in social interaction and communication. You can begin by
putting in “social interaction” or “communication” as keywords at the top of the page.
This search generates THOUSANDS of results!
However, if you were to do so, you’d generate thousands of results – and I would assume most
of you wouldn’t have the time to sift through 54,133 results (I know I don’t!).
Refining your Search
• You can refine your search by specifying
where you want to look for your keywords
(e.g., title, subject)
? PsycINFO includes several other useful
searching options (e.g., abstract only)
• You can also limit your search to a particular
time period using the year option.
To reduce the number of results to a more manageable size, and to hopefully produce more
relevant results, you should refine your search. There’s a few ways to do this. First, you can tell
PsycINFO where you want it to look for your keywords, such as the title, abstract, etc. Usually,
the best way to search is by limiting your keywords to the abstract. The abstract is a brief
summary of the entire paper, so it should include all important keywords, increasing the odds
that results that come up are relevant to your search terms. You also could search in the title;
however, most titles are 12 words or less, which means that authors do not necessarily mention
all of the important keywords and you might miss some important sources by limiting yourself
this much. You can also limit your search to a particular time period using the Year of
Publication option, which can be helpful if you’re trying to locate a particular article.
Refining your Search
• You can also refine your search by adding
? Use AND if you want references to include both
? Use OR if you want references to include one of
? Use NOT if you want to omit any references that
include this keyword
Another way to refine your search is to add more keywords; you can then tell PsycINFO you
want your results to include all keywords using the “and” option, only one of the keywords
using the “or” option, or to omit any references that use a particular keyword using the “not”
Refining your Search
• Assume you’re interested specifically in
Impression Formation during Computer-
• You can refine your search with additional
keywords that might yield more relevant
? e.g., under keywords search for “impression
formation” AND “computer-mediated
So, let’s say if although your general interest was in social interactions and communication,
you’re interested specifically in impression formation processes during computer-mediated
communication. You can refine your research by adding more specific keywords that might yield
more relevant sources, so we could put “impression formation” AND “computer-mediated
communication” in our search terms.
By refining your search, you’ve reduced the number of
references you have to sort through to 4!
You can see how effective this can be; we’ve reduced our results from over 54 thousand to only
four! Now this means that our search terms might be too specific, but learning how to refine
your searches will be an important tool.
Searching by Author
• If you’re interested in finding additional
articles by a particular person, you can also
search according to Author.
• Let’s try searching for some articles by Dr.
? Tip: Search according to last name
Another good way to search for relevant sources is to search according to author name,
particularly if you are already familiar with the key researchers in the area. This can be fruitful
because searching for a particular author’s papers might help you to learn what the best
keywords are to generate relevant sources for your research topic. To illustrate how to do this,
let’s try searching for some articles by Dr. Hughes – a good tip is to start out by searching
according to their last name, because you may not be sure how they report their first name in
You’ll notice that this lists papers that are written
by other people with the same last name.
Searching by Author
• To find articles that are written only by
Jamie Hughes, find an article that she has
written in the list and click on her name.
• Go back to the search option and search for
? This will list only the publications that include
her full name.
So, to find articles that are written only by Dr. Jamie Hughes, you can scroll down until you find
an article that was written by her and click on her name; this will bring up a list of articles on
which she is an author. Alternatively, you can go back and refine your search to include the first
name. If you do this, you’ll need to put the last name first, followed by a comma, and then the
first name. This also should bring up a list of publications that include the full name only.
Finding Relevant Papers
• To decide if a reference (paper) is relevant or
not, you can click on the title. This will bring
up additional information about the
? Abstract summarizing the ref; table of contents
? Where and when the ref was published
? Descriptors that you can use to search for similar
Once you’ve gotten your list of sources, you’ll need to decide if a particular reference is relevant
or not. To determine this, you can click on the title for each result, which will take you to a
detailed results page with additional information about that reference, including the abstract
summarizing the reference (or the table of contents for books), where and when the reference
was published, and descriptors you can use to search for similar references. It’s generally good
practice to read through the abstract to determine if the source is appropriate or not, as it may
be difficult to determine this simply by reading the title (although you might be able to tell that
the reading is definitely not relevant by reading the title, you may think something is possibly
relevant by reading the title only to find out that it really isn’t when you read through the
Finding Relevant References
To illustrate, here is an example of the detailed record you would obtain by clicking on the title
for one of your results. Note that this page also includes all of the information you’d need to
locate the full source as well, and a link to a PDF or HTML file also will be included on this page
if you can access the full reference electronically via PsycINFO (and this is an option for several
Saving, Printing, or Emailing
• You can identify references you’re interested
in by clicking “add to folder” below each
• Very practical if you’re doing an extensive
Typically, once you’ve determined if a source is relevant or not, you may find it useful to save
the record into a list of relevant records that you can print, save, or email to yourself later. In
PsycINFO, you can do this by clicking the “add to folder” link below each record, which will save
that record into a list you can access anytime while you use PsycINFO and can choose to print or
save for later reference. This is a very practical feature if you have several results to sort
through, or if you’re conducting multiple searches.
You can access your list of marked records, even if
you’ve done multiple different searches.
To access the list of saved records, all you need to do is click on the “folder view” link on the
right-hand side of the page, which also will display the last few records you’ve added to your
Saving, Printing, or Emailing
You can then choose to
print, email, save, or
export your list of saved
Once you’ve in folder view, you also have the option to print, email, save, or export these
records. I generally find it very useful to print or email (if I don’t have immediate access to a
printer) the list of records, including the abstract, so that I can read through the abstracts later
to determine if the record is actually relevant. The other nice feature of doing this is that you
have a hard copy of all of the reference information, which will make it easier for you to locate
these sources later on should you need the full record.
Let’s say you have found the perfect paper (e.g., Rude or rushed? Effect of narrative and
impression processing objective on person perception). You clicked on the title, read the
abstract, and even saved and began reading the full text version of the paper. You think it is
perfect for your literature review. But you still need additional sources and would like to read
more about the topic. You can find similar articles by clicking on the “cited references”
This page shows you all the articles that were cited in the original paper. You can examine if any
of these related titles may of interest to you.
No Full Text?!
• Search article title using a search engine
• Search the library catalog for journal title
• Use interlibrary loan….
Imagine that you found an article that you would like read, but there is no full text available on
PsychInfo. The first thing you do is search for the title using a search engine (like google). But
alas, you could not find it there either. So you begrudgingly go back to the library catalog and
type in the journal title. You find that perhaps the journal is in the stacks at the library but the
stacks do not include the year you need! Blurg! Your last option, and I would only use this
option as a last resort, is to order the item via interlibrary loan.
The interlibrary loan option is on the panel to the right (under MYLIBRARY). The next screen will
ask what type of item is needed (a journal article, book, etc). The final page will ask for detailed
information about the item. Apparently it will also charge your account $1.50. If you do not live
near UTPB, just be sure you do not request a book. Journal articles will be copied and sent to
you in PDF form, but if you order a book the librarian will assume that you’ll be by campus to
pick it up!
1. Say you need to do research on the topic of drug problems among athletes. Your first step is to identify some
keywords that will help you search for information. Which of the following is not a good keyword to get useful
2. Your professor gives you an assignment to find journals articles about uncertainty reduction. What should you
A. Browse the journals in the current periodicals sections of the library until you come across an article about
B. Use an internet search such as google to locate an article
C. Search a newspaper, such as USA today using the keyword “uncertainty”
D. Search the Dunagan Library catalog
E. Search the library database (such as an EBSCO (PsychInfo database) for articles about uncertainty
3. Say that you have conducted a search for “bi-polar disorder” using the PsychInfo database and your keyword
returned too many results. Which of the following tactics could limit your search or limit the number of items
returned? Circle all that apply.
A. Limit the publication date to the last 10 years
B. Choose only peer-reviewed journal articles
C. Include dissertation abstracts
D. Include the keyword “mental”
4. True or false: Scholarly journal articles can be accessed via the Dunagan Library Catalog?
5. Journal article are all the same
B. No, some are peer reviewed while others are not
C. No, some are primary source articles and others are secondary source articles
D. B and C above
3. A and B, possibly D.
4. False. You can see which journals the library owns, but cannot locate specific articles
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