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Finding information for Psychology and Psychological Practice: Activity 2: Searching Subject Databases

A guide to searching literature for psychology and pyschological practice

Activity 2: Identifying Subject Databases

Library Services subscribes to many high quality databases that will be useful to your literature search. 

Have a look at what databases are available in your subject area. 

  1. In FindIt@Bham https://findit.bham.ac.uk, click on Databases at the top of the screen
  2. In the Filter by section of the screen click on the All Subjects drop down arrow  
  3. Select Psychology  
  4. This lists all the resources in the discipline
  5. You can narrow the list by selecting from the Type: drop down arrow
  6. The best resources for undertaking your literature search are the bibliographic databases

If your research area crosses over into other disciplines, e.g. education, nursing, you could check the subject categories for those disciplines too.

To access a database, click on the hyperlinked title.  You may be prompted to re-enter your university username and password.

Activity 2: Searching Databases

Web of Science is a useful bibliographic database for all subject areas, covering sciences, social sciences as well as arts and humanities, back to 1900.  Web of Science relies on keyword searching – there is no cross referencing -   so you must use all of the synonyms and related terms you can think of, as well as remembering alternative word endings.

  • Use the OR function to combine related terms, e.g. therapy or treatment
  • Use the * (wildcard) to indicate alternative word beginnings or endings, e.g. *therap*
  • Use quotation marks for phrase searching, e.g. “learning disability*”
  • Use near/n for adjacency e.g. sleep near/2 (problem* or difficult* or issue* or trouble*)

Undertake a topic search using your example from Activity 1.  Type as much or as little into each search box as you like but be careful that each search is coherent.

View and combine previous searches by clicking on Search History, then

  • use OR to bring together your alternative terms / synonyms, then
  • AND to find results containing both/all of your search topics e.g. “brain injury” AND rehabilitation.

On the results page, use the Refining Results to the left of the screen.  Try refining your search by Subject Area, Document Type (e.g. Review), or Language.

To save your results, place a tick next to any of interest to add them to your marked list and click the Add to marked list link before moving to the next page.  Once you have ‘marked’ all the references you need, click on Marked List at the top of the screen – from there you can print, save and email results either from the initial results display or the marked list.

The process for searching these three databases is similar.  To get the full search functionality of these databases it is important that you only search one database at a time.  You can try rerunning searches on the different databases later, if appropriate.

Search PsycINFO for the keywords identified in Activity 1.  Make sure you are using subject headings – the search screen will default to Map Term to Subject Heading for you.  Search for each individual term, building up a list of search lines. 

If there is no relevant subject heading for your concept, you can use free text/keyword searching in the same way as in Web of Science – to do this, untick the Map Term to Subject Heading box, and type your search into the search box.

  • Use the OR function to combine related terms
  • Use the * (wildcard) to indicate alternative word endings
  • Use adjn for adjacency, e.g. family adj2 therap*

Once you have searched for all of your concepts, you will need to combine them using OR and AND as appropriate. 

Use the Limit your search options to limit your search to review articles, date range or age group.  Additional limits are worth checking.

You can save your search, and your results can be printed, emailed or saved to reference management software (e.g. RefWorks) using the Export button. 

You can also save your search history by setting up an account within Ovid.  Look for the Save search history button underneath your search.

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