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PSYC 221: Physiology & Behavior (Bitran): Searching the Literature

Fall 2023

Article Sources

Subject Databases

You may want to check out the library's e-journals list to search for articles in specific journals. For example:

  • Neuroscience 
  • Behavioural Brain Research 
  • Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • European Journal of Neuroscience

There are 2 methods that you can use to search within 1a specific journal, newspaper, or other periodical publication. 

In some databases, you can specify the publication in your search options, either in the Advanced Search menu or by using a special tool. PsycINFO lets you use the Cited Reference search to search by Source.

You can also search within a journal by going to that journal's dedicated 'home page' in each database.  To do this, search for the journal title in the E-Journals List, then click on the name of the database you want to look in. 

Pay attention to the date ranges available in each database. You will need to match these date ranges to the date on your article (for example, a database marked "1993-present" will not contain an article dated 1984). 

From the journal 'home page,' you can browse by issue, and will usually also see an option to search the journal's contents. This will look slightly different in each database, and might say something like Search this journal (Sage) or Search within this publication (Academic Search Premier, PsycINFO, ProQuest). 

Google Scholar is a great tool for doing a broad search of scholarly literature on your topic:

  • Google Scholar searches across many disciplines. 
  • Your search results will include a broad range of sources, including journal articles, conference papers, theses, dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, and abstracts. 
  • Results come from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. 
  • Google Scholar also includes court opinions and patents.

You'll just want to keep some things in mind:

  • Coverage is not comprehensive. Many sourcess are hidden in publishers' databases and journals that Google can't search, so you'll want to look at other databases as well. 
  • Search results can include links to things like course syllabi and high school term papers, so you'll want to evaluate what you find. 

You can access advanced search features by clicking the arrow in the right of the search box. These features allow you to refine your search.

Look for the words Get Full Txt @ Holy Cross next to an article. You should be able to access any of these articles through the library's subscriptions. If you come across a source that Holy Cross does not have access to, remember that you can request the item through Interlibrary Loan.

Scholar Settings When you are on the Holy Cross campus, Google Scholar will automatically show you those Get Full Txt @ Holy Cross links next to articles that Holy Cross has access to. If you are off-campus, you can set your Scholar Settings to show the links for accessing sources through Holy Cross. You can modify your settings by selecting the Settings link in the upper-right corner of Google Scholar webpage.

Click on the Cited by and Related articles links at the bottom of a search result to find more relevant articles and books.

General Article Search Strategies

You don't have to begin your article searching from scratch. You may already have found some sources that, while not primary research themselves, can lead you back to primary/research articles. For example, try using....

  • Your textbook; 
  • Reference in your chosen text.
  • Wikipedia; 
  • News articles (non-scholarly articles): find a starting point. Read the information presented in these sources. Where does the information/research originate from? Can you locate the original research study? 

For example:

Say that you had found the following news article (from the Types of Research Articles page):

Cannabinoid may make new brain cells grow, reduce depression in rats. (2005, December 12). Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly 17 (47), 7. 

(1) Read the article for clues to the original research. Note that: 

  • The research was performed at the University of Saskatchewan; 
  • The research focused on synthetic marijuana; 
  • The study was conducted in 2005
  • One of the author's names is Wen Jiang

(2) Bring your clues into a search engine like CrossSearchPsycINFO or Google Scholar to look for a primary or secondary research study that matches your clues.  

A Google Scholar Search for  
university of Saskatchewan research synthetic marijuana 2005 
finds the original study as the first result. 

In  most databases you will see subjects listed for each resource. You can think of these as 'tags' used to identify the topic(s) covered in a given article or database. These subject headings can be very useful for identifying possible keywords for your search (or revising the keywords you are already using). They are also a great way of pulling together all of the resources 'tagged' with a particular topic! 

In many article databases, you can search by Subject (usually under Advanced Search options). Choose a subject heading and use that as your keyword; then, choose to search in the field Subjects.  

Some databases also allow you to search or browse a thesaurus, or a comprehensive list subject terms used in the particular database. For example, PubMed's thesaurus is called MeSH (for Medical Subject Headings). You can search the list of MeSH terms by choosing the appropriate link from the PubMed home page: 

From here, you can search the list of MeSH terms, orvisit the NLM's MeSH home page to browse the complete list: 

Once you've identified relevant MeSH term(s), you can automatically add them to your search in PubMed using the search builder.  Note that PubMed will also provide you with information on the technical definition of each MeSH term, which can be helpful when working with precise scientific terminology. 

TRACE-ing the citations and conversations in one or two articles can be a great way to spark inspiration and find new research. How?  See the graphic and worksheet below [click the image to enlarge]: