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APA PsycInfo Guide

Types of searches

There are usually two general approaches, when we refer to database searching:

  • running a broad search and then refining the results to come up with those that are more relevant to your needs, or
  • being specific from the very beginning.

When it comes to APA PsycInfo, these two approaches may be represented by the so called basic and advanced search respectively.

Apart from these two searching options, APA PsycInfo also gives you the opportunity to run thesaurus searches using the American Psychological Association's Thesaurus of Psychological Index terms .

To find out more about each one of these three types of searches, check the tabbed menu below.

What is a basic search?

A basic search is the simplest type of search you can run in APA PsycInfo. The basic search screen is the default screen you see when you first enter the database.

When should I use the basic search?

You should use the basic search when you wish to make quick searches and retrieve a broad set of results.

How can I run a basic search?

To run a basic search just follow the steps described below:

1. Type your key terms in the search box. By doing this, you are actually asking APA PsycInfo to go through the bibliographic records included in the database and retrieve the ones that contain your key terms. By default, the database searches in the following fields: title, translated title, author, keywords, abstract, subjects, and classification codes.

Screenshot of basic search screen

2. Refine your results. If your search is very broad, it is likely you will retrieve a big number of results. To narrow them down, you may use the facets on the left as shown in the screenshot below.

Screenshot highlighting APA PsycInfo's limiters

What is an advanced search?

An advanced search is a search option that allows you to run more complicated searches and gives you the opportunity to search for combinations of key terms. It also allows you to select the fields, in which you want to search.

When should I use the advanced search?

You should use the advanced search if you wish to search for combinations of key terms using Boolean operators , search for a term in a particular field, and/or retrieve a more targeted set of results.

How can I run an advanced search?

To run an advanced search, just follow the steps described below:

1. Click the "Advanced Search" link below the search box.

Screenshot highlighting the "Advanced Search" link

2. Type your search terms in the available search boxes. Note that you may select the field you wish to search in using the drop-down menus next to each search box. You may also select among three available Boolean operators (i.e., AND, OR, NOT) to combine your search terms in different ways.

Screenshot highlighting the Boolean operator and field selection menus

3. Make your search more focused. Notice the numerous search options that appear below the search boxes. These allow you to select from a variety of search modes, expanders, and limiters, such as publication type, population group, language, and many more. Using these filters will help you refine your search prior to retrieving your results.

Screenshot showing APA PsycInfo's limiters

What is a thesaurus search?

A thesaurus search is a search that involves the use of APA's Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms.

What is the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms?

It is a list of subject terms prepared by the American Psychological Association and used broadly in the areas of psychology and the behavioral sciences. The thesaurus is a controlled vocabulary used to describe content variations in a standardized way. This controlled vocabulary is used by APA staff to describe the items included in APA PsycInfo and index their bibliographic records.

When should I use the thesaurus search?

You will find the thesaurus search particularly helpful, if you are a new researcher, as it will help you discover terminology that is used in psychological literature. You will also find it useful, if you wish to search for a concept, for which there are multiple variations. Since the thesaurus maps each one of the variations to a single index term (also referred to as a subject term) running a thesaurus search prevents you from having to search for each variation separately. Lastly, using the thesaurus search allows you to search for relevant items without having to rely on the terminology or keywords used by individual authors.

How can I run a thesaurus search?

To run a thesaurus search, just follow the steps described below:

1. Click on the "APA Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms" link from the command bar at the top of the page.

Screenshot highlighting the "APA Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms" link

2. Enter your search term in the thesaurus search box (i.e., the second box on the page) and click "Browse". Notice that if your term is not included in the thesaurus, you will be taken to the closest term alphabetically. Also, note that if your term is no longer used, you will be prompted to use the respective term that has replaced it.

Screenshot highlighting the thesaurus search box

3. Click on the term to see its broader, narrower, and related terms.

Screenshot highlighting the term "psychoanalysis"

4. Check the box in front of the term or any of the broader, narrower, or related terms to add them to your search query. If you wish to search for a term and all of its narrower terms simultaneously, you may check the respective box under "Explode". if you wish to search for articles, the primary focus of which is the term you are searching for, you may check the respective box under "Major Concept". When ready, click the "Add" button to add your selections to the database search box (i.e., the first box on the page).

Screenshot highlighting the "Explode" and "Major Heading" options, and the "Add" button

5. Notice the complicated combination of terms that has been added in the database search box. Repeat steps two to four, if you wish to add more terms to your query and click on "Search" to view the results.

Screenshot highlighting the selected index terms