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VIC106 Psychology and Society

Research Tips:

This guide applies to Professor Maria Cichosz' iteration of VIC106.

Research is often an iterative process.
You may go back and forth between these steps and have to try several combinations of search terms before you find what you’re looking for. 

Step 1: Identify a potential topic

In this course, what altered state of consciousness has been most interesting to you?
(from the topics already discussed or upcoming in the remaining weeks of the course.)

Step 2: Start your research with reference sources

  • Reference sources provide an overview and add context for a given topic, including relevant terminology, names of associated people, dates and events. 
  • Starting with a broader source (e.g., encyclopedia entry/article) will give you the foundation to further define your topic and get more specific in what you cover in your final paper.
  • The lengthier encyclopedia entries often suggest sub-topics or related aspects that you could research and focus on in your paper.
Sample starting points:
  • The comprehensive entry “Altered and Exceptional States of Consciousness” from the Encyclopedia of Consciousness 
    (describes in detail various differentiating factors for altered versus normal states of consciousness, and suggests specific practices and/or experiences or substances that can play a part in inducing ASC’s). 
  • The entry on Hallucinogens in the Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology
    (points to: studies on LSD to reduce anxiety and improve mood in persons facing terminal illness, psilocybin experiment that engendered “mystical experiences” in “normal volunteers” and many other potential directions for your more specific topic).

image of an arrow pointing diagonally up and left
 Check out the Reference/Overview Sources page for more suggestions. 

Note: Articles in the encyclopedias or other reference sources can be cited as one of your scholarly sources, provided they are ~1000 words or longer and list a few references or suggested readings at the end (as confirmed by Prof. Cichosz).

Step 3: Find book chapters or articles related to your topic

  • Scholarly books (authored by an academic in a related field or discipline) feature in-depth analysis and article-length essays on well-defined topics. 
  • Many scholarly books have chapters on standalone subtopics, and you can certainly read and cite a single chapter.

image of an arrow pointing diagonally up and leftNote: It’s perfectly acceptable to select book chapters and other sources from this research guide.

See the "Books on Course Themes" page

However, your topic may not be covered by the suggested books in the is guide or you may need additional resources.

To look for books and articles related to your topic, you can use UofT Libraries’ LibrarySearch. It searches all of UofT’s resources for books, journals, journal articles, videos and more. To learn how to make the best use of LibrarySearch. Please see: LibrarySearch Tips for how to use the tool most effectively.

Sample LibrarySearch advanced search formula:

Screen shot of two search formulas in the advanced mode of LibrarySearch


#1 is a broader search for any formats (books, book chapters, articles and more).

#2 is a more focused search, but keep in mind a search in the "subjects" field could exclude some relevant articles as subject tags are not sourced consistently for articles.

Specific database searching:

You can also find scholarly journal articles in subject-specific databases.
Links to specific databases in psychology, sociology and other disciplines can be found on the Finding Articles page of this guide.
For other databases, not listed there, use U of T’s Subject Guides, which identifies relevant databases for a particular subject. 
For example, you may be interested in the Pharmacology and Toxicology or Psychology guides.

Sample search formula in two different database interfaces:

Let's say your topic could be framed in anthropology (the study of humans and human ancestors through time) you could enter a search similar to the one below into the Anthropology Plus database.

Screen shot of search formula ion Anthropology plus


The same search terms in PsycInfo will garner quite different results to the search in Anthropology Plus. 
This is not only because it's searching a different collection of primarily psychology journals (possibly a larger collection overall) but also because the search interface allows for searching a category of description fields called "Anywhere except full text" (see screenshot below). This searches the title, the subject terms, the abstract and a few others. Basically it searches in the fields that describe a publication rather than documents that make mention of the search term incidentally.


screenshot of search formula in PsycInfo

Step 4: Selecting and evaluating your sources

If you're using books from the research guide, LibrarySearch or the databases the U of T library provides access to, you are most likely finding only scholarly sources. Scholarly simply means that is has been authored by a scholar and for reputable academic publishers, the content would have gone through an editorial review process. In a scholarly book/academic publication, look for information on the authors. This is typically found at the beginning or end of the book and with anthologies (multiple and different authors for each chapter) this is often under a section called "Contributors".

You might not find sources that answer all of the questions of facets of a topic that you hope to explore in your paper.
Try to recognize when a source offers insight, new or important information about one part of your specific topic. You can find other sources to inform the other aspects and trust your mind to make connections. 

You will demonstrate your learning by incorporating sources supporting different facets of your topic into a cohesive analysis.

Wishing you well with your research!

If you encounter any challenges finding sources, please don't hesitate to contact Diane, the librarian who supports this course or to drop into the library for spontaneous research support. 
Please see the Research and Writing Help page of this guide for contact information and details.