What to search for

Many of the search terms you can use are already in your assignment. I recommend entering a unique concept into each search box. For example, let's say your group is researching anxiety in college students. Your search might look something like this: 

This database provides autocomplete suggestions, as you can see in the screenshot above - I almost always take advantage of them! 

If you need to add another concept, click on the plus button below the Search button - it will add another line. 

Troubleshooting your search

Use database filters

In most databases, you'll see "filters" that you limit your results to a certain type of result, or limit your search results to a certain timeframe. In many cases, these filters will be to the side of the results. Here's an example from Ebsco (the company that provides access to Psych Combo):

The date filter and the scholarly journal filter are good places to start!

Try to think of similar, broader, and narrower ideas or terms

Let's use the example we came up with above. Here are a few ways you might break that down by concept and similar terms.

  • Concept: anxiety 
    Broader ideas / terms: mood disorders
    Narrower ideas / terms: social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder

  • Concept: college students
    Broader ideas / terms: young adults 
    Narrower ideas / terms: first-year college students

  • Concept: group therapy
    Similar ideas / terms: group interventions, group counseling
    Broader ideas / terms: therapy, counseling
    Narrower ideas / terms: CBT therapy, mindfulness

Tip: In Psych Combo, the autosuggest feature will help you with a lot of this. However, you can also find related terms by looking at the subjects associated with the article.

Too many results? Use quotation marks to search for phrases.

Using quotation marks for a phrase tells the search tool to search for that exact phrase - instead of looking for each word individually. For example:

Broaden or narrow your search by using AND, OR, and NOT (a.k.a. Boolean operators)

To broaden your results, use the word OR between words or phrases. For example, if we search for "cat OR dog" we'll get all the results for cat, and all the results for dog.

Venn diagram illustrating OR Boolean operator

To narrow your results:

  • Use the word AND to indicate that you want things that have BOTH terms / phrases. For example, if we search for "cat AND dog" we'll only get results that mention both animals.

    Venn diagram illustrating AND Boolean operator

  • Use the word NOT to indicate that you want to exclude a certain term or phrase. For example, if we search for "cat NOT dog", we'll only get results that mention cats and don't also mention dogs.

    Venn diagram illustrating NOT Boolean operator

Another way to find relevant articles

You can use articles' reference lists and Google Scholar to find related articles - check out our guide on using bibliographies to find sources.

Here's the general idea...if you have one good article to start with:

  • You can look backward by looking at the article's bibliography. As you were reading the article, did any of its citations seem relevant to your research topic?
  • You can look forward by seeing who has cited your "one good article." Because academic publishing is a slow process, this is more useful when the "one good article" is at least a year or two old.

Here's a visual way of looking at it - in the example image below, the De Wever, Schellens, Valcke, & Van Keer article is our "one good article."

Image showing a timeline with three citations, each one cited by the previous one