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PSYC 904: First-Year Graduate Seminar (UNH Durham)

Tips from Your Librarian

  • It's helpful to keep a record (even if only an informal one) of where and how you searched; what terms worked or didn't work well in specific databases, and what synonyms, related terms, or broader or narrower terms you are seeing that would be useful to try in other searches.
  • Backward and forward citation searching is a very good alternative strategy to matching search terms in a database. Following the citations among articles helps to connect ideas rather than simply matching keywords.
    • To use Google Scholar for this, you can search in GS using the title of a highly relevant article you found and then click on the "Cited by" link at the bottom of the GS entry. This connects you to newer articles that have cited the article you searched. Not all of these newer articles will be pertinent to you as authors cite articles for different purposes, but you may find some valuable and more recent literature.
    • The Web of Science database also provides "Cited by" searching from a smaller universe of journals that are more quality checked before being added to the database. 
  • If you want to keep current with your topic, you can within some databases save your searches to rerun later or set up email notifications when newer results are found in the database. Another approach to current awareness is to set up table-of-contents alerts from key journals that you have identified for your area of interest.

Approaches to Searching and Finding Related Articles

Use 2 or 3 significant words or terms from your research topic

Develop synonyms and alternative terms

  • Example: teens or youth or adolescents

 Try a broader concept if a specific term doesn't retrieve enough results

  •  instead of brothers, try siblings

Try a more specific aspect or element if you get too many results with a very broad concept

  • instead of Southeast Asia, search specific countries such as  Vietnam, Indonesia or Thailand

Use the connector "and" to retrieve records with all the keywords you list to focus and narrow your results

  • reading and metacognition

Use the connector "or" indicate that any one of the terms listed needs to be in the results shown; this usually increases the number of relevant results

  • audience or attendees

Use quotation marks to indicate a phrase

  • "cognitive behavior therapy"

Use an asterisk * to pick up words with the same stem but different endings

  • therap* returns therapy, therapeutic, therapists

Look for new words or terms to search when reviewing your results or reading the full-text article.


Searching by the subjects assigned to articles helps

  • identify articles in which the subject is a main focus and not just not just a passing reference
  • pull together results on same concept even if author uses different terms in title or abstract
    • the subject "capital punishment" will retrieve articles using the term "death penalty" as well as those using "capital punishment"
  • when a keyword may have multiple meanings or a more general meaning
    • the subject "flow (conscious state)" will get more relevant results than just searching the keyword "flow"

Look at the subject terms in records for articles that fit your topic closely and search those subjects for more articles

Use the thesaurus available in some databases to see if your keywords are subjects or if alternative terms are used

  • For example, PsycINFO uses "Military Families" as a subject but not "Military Wives"

Some specialized databases allow you to limit your search in other useful ways: educational level, age, population group, research methodology, language, etc.

Limiter options vary by database:

  • check the advanced search screen
  • view the limiters to the left or right on the search results page.

Make connections through ideas and concepts rather than specific words

Look at the reference list at the end of a relevant scholarly article you found. This may lead you to earlier articles related to your topic. Search the UNH Library catalog by the name of the journal to see if we have the article online or in print.

Check "Times Cited" or "Cited By" links, if available, in databases such as PsycINFO or Sociological Abstracts to identify some newer articles citing the article in the database record. This may lead to related relevant articles.

Use Web of Science and Google Scholar to follow citations from published articles to identify older and newer related articles across many disciplinary fields in the sciences, social sciences, and arts & humanities.

Google Scholar results include "Cited By" links to articles, books, presentations, and more. Note that not all links go to peer-reviewed publications.

What else have the author(s) published on this topic? Search their names in the relevant database or look for their CV (curriculum vita) online.

Subject-specific journals may publish articles on similar topics, so try searching within specific journal titles that you see appearing frequently in your search results. Consider setting up alerts with key journals to have the latest table of contents sent to you.