Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Course & Subject Guides

Research Methods in Psychology - Oakland Campus

A guide to using PsycINFO, Google Scholar, and other psychology resources for PSY 0037.

Choosing Your Topic

Select a topic that interests you. This statement seems obvious, but if you're researching something that doesn't interest you, you probably won't give it the same thought or effort as you would a topic that intellectually engages you.


Focus Your Topic. Many researchers find this to be one of the toughest parts of research. Often a researcher's initial topic may be too broad or general. Concept Mapping is a graphic method of "mapping" out a complex topic and its different facets. Think of an image of a wheel with several spokes coming from a central hub. Place your main topic in the hub. Think about the different issues or aspects of your topic, and write one aspect or issue at the end of each spoke. This exercise can help you select which issues or aspects you address within your report.


Browse the Literature. Do some initial research on your topic to get a sense of what issues or challenges are wrapped up in your topic. This initial review of information can also help you select useful search terms.

Selecting Keywords

The search terms or keywords you use to search are what determine the results you get. Here's a good exercise to help you generate keywords:


1. Express your topic in the form of a question or topic sentence. "What are some valid approaches to reducing prejudice in individuals?"


2. Generate keyword search terms by identifying the main ideas or concepts within that question: What are some valid approaches to reducing prejudice in individuals? = Reducing, prejudice, individuals


3. Expand your search terms by brainstorming related terms or synonyms that describe your main ideas:

  • reducing - reduction, lessen
  • prejudice - discrimination, racism
  • individual - person,  somebody

Combining Search Terms

You can create complex search strategies by combining keywords using the linking words AND, OR and NOT. For example, if your search terms are prejudice and individual:


AND Narrows and focuses the search results. The search prejudice and individual will bring only results where both the terms prejudice and individual are present.

OR Broadens the search results. Using or will bring results where the term prejudice is present, or results where individual is present, or results where both terms are present. Or is useful if you have more than one way to refer to a concept -- Example: (prejudice or discrimination).

NOT Excludes anything where the term after the NOT is present.

The use of quotation marks around a group of words indicates a specific phrase such as "systemic racism"