Using the Library
After you have identified a general idea for your paper or research, it is
time to explore the topic in greater detail. The place to do this is the
library. Do not let the library frighten you! It is actually a warm and
A good starting point to research your topic is the Thesaurus of
Psychological Index Terms (TPIT), which is published by the American
Psychological Association (APA). There are several of these in the LVC library.
An older version is in the Psychology Department Reserve. A newer version is in
the Reference Section of the Library (Ref. Z 695.1 .P7 T48 1991). If you
canêt find it, ask the librarian to help you.
The TPIT will help you find and expand upon the correct terms or keywords
that you can use for computer searches, Psychological Abstracts (PA) or other
sources. Psychological Abstracts are indexed according to the terms in the
TPIT. The TPIT has two major sections-the Relationship Section and the Rotated
Alphabetical Terms Section. Start with the Relationship Section in which the
terms are listed alphabetically. Under each term is a scope note (SN) which
provides a definition. This section provides the year the term was added to the
controlled vocabulary (number that is superscripted after the term). If a term
was recently added (for example, "acquaintance rape 91"), it will not appear in
previously published indexes. This section also gives you other broadly related
terms [(B) or (R)] and more specific narrow terms (N) that can be used in your
The second part of the TPIT is the Rotated Alphabetical Terms Section. This
is useful for ideas that are expressed by several words or a phrase, (for
example, "forced choice testing methods"). Terms that are not used for indexing
are marked with a star*, so you have to look for more appropriate terminology.
This part of the TPIT needs to be used in conjunction with the Relationship
After you have identified your key words and terms, the next step is to use
Psychological Abstracts (PA) or other indexes. PA is the most commonly used
index by psychologists. It is published every month and is easy to use. A new
volume is issued every year (1997 is volume 84, 1995 is Volume 82, 1994 is
Volume 81 and so on). Each monthly issue is numbered from 1 (Jan) to 12 (Dec.).
Begin with the year(s) in which you are most interested. Typically, it is most
advantageous to start with the current year and work your way backwards.
Generally, you should search a topic for the last five to ten years unless you
are doing a really brief or really comprehensive review. To use PA, locate your
term in the brief subject index which appears in each monthês issue.
Following the term are the entry numbers for that particular month. These are
arranged numerically. Start with the first number and locate it in that same
issue. You will find that each citation includes two parts. The first is the
name of the author, title, journal, volume number, year and page numbers. You
will need this information to get a copy of the actual article. The second is a
nonevaluative abstract of the article. You should be able to decide whether the
article will be useful to you by reading the abstract. Repeat this process for
each entry number (make sure you write notes or any information you will need
to get the useful articles as you review each entry). At the end of each year,
an expanded subject index is issued for each volume. If you are using these,
make sure you record the volume number as well as the entry number or else you
will not find the correct abstract. The same numbers are used for abstracts in
each year. If you use an abstract number from one year it will be associated
with a different abstract for another year. PA also has an authorês index
to help you locate specific authors or co-authors. REMEMBER - PSYCH
ABSTRACTS ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR READING THE ACTUAL ARTICLE ITSELF!
In addition to PA, other useful resources are: Sociological Abstracts,
Social Work Research and Abstracts, ERIC (two parts: Resources in Education and
Current Index to Journals in Education), Animal Behavior Abstracts, Biological
Abstracts, Social Sciences Index, Dissertation Abstracts International (use as
a secondary source), Psychopharmacology Abstracts, Subject Guide to Books in
Print and Index Medicus. Ask the librarian to help you locate and use these
materials (some may not be available at LVC, but may be located at nearby
Another way to search a topic is to use the Social Science Citation Index
(SSCI) or Science Citation Index (SCI) and the "principal article" method. This
is accomplished by first identifying an early primary or principal article that
has been published at some point in the past. SSCI and SCI allow you to search
for later articles that cite this primary article. For example, let's say that
you are interested in "body image" and eating disorders. In your literature
search you find that Cash & Brown published "Body image in anorexia nervosa
and bulimia nervosa" in 1987, which is a key article in this area. By using
SSCI, you can find other relevant articles about body image that have cited the
Cash and Brown article since 1987. As you continue your search, you may
identify additional "principal" articles that can be used in the same way. SSCI
offers author and subject indexing of over 1400 world-wide journals covering
all of the social sciences.
Computerized Data Searches
Over the years, there has been a revolution in the use of computers in various
areas including searching research topics. Currently, the most often used computerized
data base by psychologists is PsycINFO. This indexes Psychological Abstracts
from approximately 1967 to the present. In order to use this, you will need
to identify some "key words" for the search (see using TPIT above). In addition
to PsycINFO, computerized data searches are available for ERIC, SSCI (this is
called Social Scisearch), Dissertation Abstracts International, Sociological
Abstracts and many other indexes. Many of these databases can be accessed using
using WebZ a gateway to FirstSearch
databases and EbscoHost Academic Full Text Elite. To get more information about
how to conduct a computer search of a topic, see the reference librarian.
Another source for searching topics is the Internet. There are currently a
number of user-friendly programs that allow you to "surf the net" easily. These
include NCSA Mosiac, Netscape and Microsoft Explorer. All of these programs are
available at LVC and each one includes a number of ways that topics can be
searched on the Internet. Ask someone in the Psychology Department to help you
make use of these programs. You can also access these programs in the computer
labs around campus and in the Bishop Library.
Suggested Readings: Reed, J.G. & Baxter, P.M. (1983). Library use: A
handbook for psychology, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
(available in the Psychology Department Reserve section of Library).
Jolley, J.M., Keller, P.A. & Murray, J.D. (1993). How to write
psychology papers. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press (available in
the Psychology Department Reserve section of Library).