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PSYC 3001: Research Methods II (Lockamyier) Spring 2023


Keywords, also called search terms, are words you enter into a database or search engine to find relevant sources on your topic. The keywords represent the core concepts of your research question or topic. It may take multiple tries to find the keywords that bring you to relevant sources.

To select keywords you will need to:

  • identifying the main concepts of your topic
    • Creating a research question can help
  • brainstorming synonyms and antonyms that could also be used to describe your topic
  • spell out abbreviations

An example research question:

  • What is the impact of a psychiatric disorder diagnosis on patient wellbeing?

Example keywords:

  • "psychiatric diagnosis"
  • "self-narrative"
  • "treatment"
  • "patient"
  • "wellbeing"
  • "recovery"
  • "impact"
  • "relationship"

Boolean Operators


Boolean operators are words or symbols that are used in conjunction with words to refine searches. 

Here are six helpful ones to use: 

  1. AND - narrows 
    1. Ex: ADHD and boys (this narrows down our results to only include ADHD and boys) 
  2. NOT - excludes
    1. Ex: ADHD not boys (this narrows down our results to include things about ADHD excluding those that mention boys) 
  3. OR - expands
    1. Ex: boys or males or men (this expands our our search to search for multiple possible terms) 
  4. * - expands 
    1. Ex: therap*  (using the asterisk in replace of an ending on a word will expand your search to include results that have any ending on the base word.) Instead of using "therapy," "therapies," "therapist."
  5. " " - exact phrase
    1. Ex: "executive functioning" (this ensures that the search results contain this exact phrase) 
  6. ( ) - confine
    1. Ex: (ADHD or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) AND (boys or guys or males)  — (this will instruct the database or search engine on what parts go together in your search phrase)


Example of using boolean operators. 

Adding a search field

A search field tells the database where to look for the keyword in the sources it will include in the search results. Search fields include "author," "abstract," "subject term," "title," or "full text." 

A abstract is the summary of the article and explains what the article will cover. 

A subject term is a descriptive word assignment to an item to denote the item's subject or main themes.