PSY 321 Research Methods - Schemmel: Search PsycINFO


Tips for Keyword Searching

Construct your search using the keywords and/or phrases relevant to your topic. 

  • Use OR to search both keywords/phrases
  • Quotation marks can be used to search for phrases (e.g. "infant development")
  • Truncation searches for variants of a word. Use an asterik (*) at the root (e.g. play* searches for play, plays, playing, player, etc.)
  • AND combines the search components to find results with both components in the record

psyc info advanced search


Keyword searching is beneficial particularly when there is a new area of research that has not been assigned a subject heading yet. For example, research on "microaggressions" is fairly new, and the APA has not yet established the term as a formal subject in the database.

Searching with Subject Headings

What are Subject Headings (aka Indexing Terms)? 

The APA labels each item in PsycINFO with a set of subject headings (indexing terms). Subject headings are standardized words or phrases used to describe the idea. Searching with subject headings means you don't need to figure out all the ways different authors might refer to the same idea, like you need to with keyword searching. 

When you identify an article in PsycINFO that matches your interest, it's a good idea to look at the subject headings assigned to that item and revise your search using the most relevant ones. 

For example, the article "Children teach methods that they could not discover for themselves" has been assigned subject headings describing what the article is about, for example: 

  • Child Attitudes (major);
  • Childhood Development (major);
  • Cognitive Ability (major)

screenshot of subject heading for an article in psycinfo

If your interest centered on child attitudes and childhood development, you could use those subject headings to perform a revised search and retrieve similar, relevant results.

For more information about searching with subject headings, watch the following 3 minute tutorial.  

Get Full Text of the Article

Once you've identified an article in a database and you want to the full text, click on the green Find It @ PSU button to see if the article is available from journals in the Library (electronic and print). This will open a new tab or window.

If you see an Online Access link you can go to the provided link to access the electronic copy.

If there is no "view online" option, the article is not available from our library electronically or in print. You can request the article using Interlibrary Loan.

Using Limits

Use limits to filter results for specific aspects of the resource such as particular age groups, research methodology, or publication type. These selections help you quickly narrow down results to items most relevant for you (and your assignment!). 

limit options in Psyc Info

Explode and Major Heading


"Explode" means that you are searching for a particular subject heading and all the narrower subject headings underneath it. For example, if you search:

  • Social Interaction [Explode]

You are also searching its narrower terms:

  • Encouragement
  • Interpersonal Interaction
  • Nonviolence
  • Peace
  • Physical Contact
  • Teasing
  • Victimization

Major Heading

Most citations in PsycINFO are assigned 5-7 subject headings. 2 or 3 of those subject headings are likely to be designated as the primary focus of the article. Selecting "Major" means you will only retrieve those articles that have that subject heading designated as major. While this option can be useful occasionally, often it will limit your search too much and you will have very few articles to select.