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Psychology: Getting Started

This guide is designed to help you find materials available from the Houston Cole Library for research in psychology.

Terms to know

The following terms are often used in all types of libraries and knowing the meanings of these words will help your research process.

Abstract Short summary of an article's methods and findings, written to help researchers decide quickly if the article is relevant to their interest.

Article Single piece of writing by one or more authors, shorter than a monograph (book), published in a periodical or journal.

Citation Publication data for an article, which allows a reader to identify the source; includes article title, aurthor(s), journal title, date of publication, volume, issue number, page numbers.

Database An electronic collection of publications that allows users to browse individual titles or to search many all at once. A database may be either an index or full-text, and might have both kinds of entries.

Index Lists of publications which may provide an abstract of an article, but does not provide complete text. Use an index to identify material the library may not own but which you may find in databases.

Journal A periodical produced for specialists in a particular field, often produced by a scholarly society or academic school; almost always peer reviewed.

Magazine Commercial periodical publication for interested non-specialists; rarely peer reviewed, but often a good measure of what matters concern a discipline.

Newsletter Special-interest periodical of notices and brief summaries of current information, often directed at members of an organization.

Peer review An editorial process before an article or book is published in which writing is judged to be good enough for publication by other people who work in the field; it typically represents a higher standard of ability, accuracy, and professionalism (and therefore reliability and quality) than journalistic or non-peer-reviewed work

Periodical The catch-all term for publications issued on a regular basis, including journals, magazines, newspapers, and newsletters, whether in print or in electronic form.

How to get started with psychology research

Where To Start?

Items in the Reference collection are great starting points for research. Encyclopedia articles offer concise overviews of a topic, summaries of key research in a particular discipline, and often include a bibliography (list of references/resources) which can serve as a starting list of sources for your project.

You can:

  • Define your topic
  • Find background information
  • Identify keywords and terms to assist you in searching for articles and other resources

Tips for coosing a topic

Interest: Choose a topic of interest to you and your reader(s); a boring topic translates into a boring paper.

Knowledge: You can be interested in a topic without knowing much about it at the beginning, but it's a good idea to learn a little about it before you begin your research. Read about the issue in a good encyclopedia or a short article to learn more, then go at it in depth. The research process mines new knowledge – you’ll learn as you go!

Breadth of Topic: How broad is the scope of your topic? Too broad a topic is unmanageable -- for example, "The Education of Children" or "The History of Books" or "Computers in Business." A topic that is too narrow and/or trivial, such as "My Favorite Pastime," is uninteresting and extremely difficult to research.

Guidelines: Carefully follow the instructor's guidelines. If none are provided in writing, ask your professor about his or her expectations. Tell your professor what you might write about and ask for feedback and advice. This should help prevent you from selecting an inappropriate topic.

General Instruction/Psychology Librarian

Charlcie Pettway Vann's picture
Charlcie Pettway Vann
Houston Cole Library

700 Pelham Road NE

Jacksonville, AL 36265

256 782-8434