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 friendly place.

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 search.

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 Section.

Psychological Abstracts

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 libraries).

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).