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PSYCH 2219: Perceived Stress Assignment

This guide offers research tips for Dr. Siciliani's "Perceived Stress" assignment.

Where to Search

We recommend searching in APA PsycInfo (click link above).

Tip #1: Start with a simple phrase search.

Tip #2: Refine your search by specifying which fields the database will look in.

Tip #3: Use Boolean operators to effectively combine terms.

Tip #4: Set limits to find a particular methodology. 

Tip #5: Sort results by relevance.

Tip #1: Phrase Search

To do a phrase search, simply type your keywords into the search boxes. This screenshot shows one example:

Search for the phrase "perceived stress" (in quotation marks)

The quotation marks around the term indicate that an article will only be found if the words appear in this order.

To narrow the search further, you can add another keyword or phrase next to AND on the second line. For instance, you can try adding health. Because we're combining the terms with AND, both terms would have to be present for an article to appear in our results.

Tip #2: Field Search

To do a field search, specify in which field(s) the search will be carried out. The screenshot below shows that the database will look for stress* in article titles and for perceiv* or percept* in abstracts. If an article's title and abstract don't contain these keywords, the article will not be one of our results.

Search for stress* in title field AND perceiv* or percept* in abstract field

The asterisks after our keywords direct the database to search for variations on those words. For instance, stress* will find article titles that contain the word stress (or stressed, stressful, stressors, etc.).

You can also try looking for articles that mention experiments. See the screenshot below for an example of how to add this component.

Search for stress* in title field, perceiv* or percept* in any field, and experiment or "experiment 1" (in quotation marks) in the abstract field

Articles with experiments can also be found by setting a filter or limit, as you'll see in the next tip.

Tip #3: Boolean Operators

Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) are used to combine terms. Read on for more about these operators:

  • As you can see from the diagram below, AND will reduce the number of results, OR will expand the number of results, and NOT will exclude certain results.

Venn diagrams representing the Boolean operators

  • AND is the default operator, so the keywords heart lung liver in the same search box is actually seen by the database as heart AND lung AND liver. Because this is forcing the database to find results in which ALL of those terms are used, your result set will be small. If you change it to heart OR lung OR liver, the database will find results in which at least one of the three terms appears, making your result set larger.
  • If you’re seeing too many results with the wrong focus, you can use NOT to weed some of those out; for instance, “perceived stress” AND experiment NOT questionnaire.

Tip #4: Limits

Professor Siciliani and her TAs usually want studies that exhibit experimental manipulation. These can be hard to find by entering keywords, since studies won't always declare themselves as manipulations or use the terms dependent variable and independent variable—although some will. You may need to use critical thinking to determine whether the article fits this criterion.

However, some limits can be set—either before you run your search (look below the search boxes) or after (look to the left of the results)—to get you a bit closer. One helpful limit is Methodology. To find articles with experiments, you can select either Clinical Trial or Empirical Study. CAVEAT: These options will include studies that are formed around questionnaires, surveys, and interviews, which are not permitted by Dr. Siciliani. So keep that in mind as you scroll through the results.

The screenshots below show the Methodology category before (top image) and after the basic search has been run (bottom image).

A portion of the Methodology category of limits, which can be selected before running a search.

The Methodology category of limits visible after running a search. Only the 6 options with the most hits are visible.

In the second screenshot above, the numbers in parentheses indicate how many articles with that methodology will appear, based on the keywords you've entered (in this case, stress* AND perceiv* or percept*). To find Clinical Trial after you've run your search, you may first need to click the Show More link to add it to the visible limits and then select its checkbox. (By default, the database only shows the limits with the most hits.)

Tip #5: Sort by Relevance

It's usually a good idea to sort your results by Relevance instead of the default Date Newest. You'll find the sort options just above the first result.

Sort Options and Page Options. An arrow points from Date Newest (the default sort option) to Relevance.

You may also want to change your Page Options from Standard to Detailed. This will allow you to see the entire abstract as you scroll instead of just a snippet.