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PSY100 Introductory Psychology: Getting Started

A quick guide to PsycINFO with an emphasis on Thesaurus use. Ovid and ProQuest interfaces are covered.

Subject Searching using the Thesaurus

Locate the Thesaurus among Search Tools in the main Ovid menu or on the top right of the screen in ProQuest.

Set Thesaurus display to Permuted Index for your initial Ovid search by pulling down the search type menu.  This will allow you to find all PsycINFO descriptors for the term you are interested in.  NOTE: In Permuted Index, you can only search for Descriptors matching a single search term. In Ovid, you already know how many results you will get from each descriptor; just click on the box beside the retrieve option. Expolde will retrieve ALL the instances of your descriptor, broader and narrower; clicking right beside the exact thesaurus term will rerieve a narrower set of exact matches.

The ProQuest interface will match your search term to the nearest thesaurus subject heading match.  The term "Descriptor" has been dropped. To use thesaurus subject headings in your ProQuest PsycINFO search, check boxes beside the descriptors you want and combine them using either the OR operator (for a broader, inclusive search) or the AND operator (for a very focused search).  The option to Explode thesaurus terms is also included.

Subject Searching: Copy/Paste from your Keyword search

You can start with a keyword search, then construct a descriptor search as follows:

1.  Do a keyword search on your topic.

2.  Look at the subject terms associated with each article in your search results.

3.  Find the subject terms that are most relevant to you, based on the articles returned.

4.  Copy/paste the relevant subject terms back into your search window.

5.  Limit to searching by subject.

NOTE:  Each article record has at least one descriptor; often, many are included.

How is Subject Searching Different from Keyword Searching?

Keyword Searching:  In keyword searching you are taking your best guess that the terms you are using will appear in articles that are about your topic.  This can be a very effective way of searching.  However, you may get a number of irrelevant results because the keywords you chose may not match those used in the field.  You also won't know if you've found all the articles on your topic.  Subject searching can help to alleviate these problems.

Subject Searching:  Subject terms (ProQuest) or Thesaurus terms (Ovid) are the controlled vocabulary (or tags) used within a database to organize material.  Subject/thesaurus terms are added to articles as they are being indexed.  In theory, all the articles dealing with a certiain concept will get tagged with the same subject even if the terms used by authors actually drifted, or evolved, with time and even if they showed regional (geographic) variation.  If you can find the right subjects for your topic, you can focus your search on relevant articles and be sure that you've found everything on your topic.