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PSY313H5 Adult Development and Aging

This resource assists with Assignment 2 in the PSY313 Adult Development and Aging course.

Definition: Empirical Study

To find empirical studies, look for peer-reviewed journal articles reporting original research.

Please refer to page 10 of the Publication Manual of the APA (2010) for a detailed discussion of those terms. We have print copies of the APA Manual in the library at the reference desk (call number BF76.7 .P83 2010). No completely electronic copies of the 6th edition are available.

Longitudinal studies track changes in a well-defined group of people (usually all the same age) over an extended period of time, coming back to the same subjects to gather data at different times. Read more about longitudinal studies in the Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology.

Cross-sectional studies collect data at one time from a varied group of participants of different ages. Read more about cross-sectional studies in the Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology .


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American

     Psychological Association.

Cross-Sectional Study. (2001). In Strackland, B., Ed., The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 163. Accessed from the Gale Virtual  Reference Library at on 1 Feb. 2014.

Longitudinal Study. (2001). In Strackland, B., Ed., The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 394. Accessed from the Gale Virtual  Reference Library at on  27 Jan. 2014.

Find Empirical Studies in PsycINFO

A good starting point is the specialized psychology journal article database called PsycINFO. PsycINFO lets you search all the key research journals in psychology at the same time.

  • Access PsycINFO here (or on the Library home page under Popular Databases). Please make sure you are in the Advanced Search, otherwise the Thesaurus tool will not be available.

 The search screen will look like this:

  •  Use the Thesaurus (link in the centre of the above screen capture, inside a red box) to help you get started.  Here is a sample Thesaurus search on the term "aging:"

  • Click on the NOTE icon to learn more about any of the terms PsycINFO has suggested.  If you like the term, you can include it in your search by clicking on the box beside it.  You will get all the articles on that concept in the database. Below is the note for "Aging," showing you all the terms you may add to your search:

PsycINFO thesaurus - using the notes to get more search terms

If you are using the Thesaurus, your search will look like this:

Once you have found a good starting term, or terms, it is time to set up the search limits. The PsycINFO tool called Limits will help you to refine your search to empirical studies conducted using the study design specified by Prof. Pichora-Fuller.

  • We will set up the following limits: scholarly and peer-reviewed journals only, empirical studies, cross-sectional or longitudinal design.
  • First, scroll below the search screen to start looking at the search options. Select the scholarly and peer-reviewed boxes:

PsycINFO search limits

Now that you know you will be getting only the kinds of publications researchers use to inform one another officially about their research, limit your results to the methodologies required in your assignment.

  • Scroll down the PsycINFO screen past the search box until you see a text box called Methodology.
  • Select Empirical Study and Longitudinal Study. Your results will include both types of studies:

  • Two other search limits will also help you retrieve empirical studies: Quantitative Studies (as they are mostly empirical), and Prospective Studies, which employ a long-term data gathering strategy.
  • Once you have selected the limits, click on Search. Make sure to look at the abstracts of the articles you find.  Often the type of study conducted is mentioned clearly in the abstract, and it will always be listed below the abstract under the Methodology.
  • Don't forget to go back to the definition of the empirical study: If the articles you find don't have the four sections characteristic of original quantitaitve research, they won't meet the needs of the assignment.

Is the Journal Peer-Reviewed?

Ulrich's Periodical Directory lets you see whether a journal in which you found your article is scholarly and peer-reviewed. 

Search for the title of the journal in Ulrich's

screen cap of ulrich's search

If the journal is peer-reviewed, you will see a REFEREE'S T-shirt image beside the title:

screen cap of refereed journal symbol


Use Article Finder to Get Full Text

With the new ALL search and ARTICLE search, it is easy to broaden your searches. 

Other tools, like Article Finder, help you to find a specfific article for which you have the citation.