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Attachment Across the Lifespan (PSYCH 457-001)

Winter 2023 - Prof. Jodl

About Search Tips

This page walks you through the process of conducting a search in the PsycInfo database.

Selecting Search Terms and Entering Your Search into PsycInfo

How to Use the PsycInfo Search Form

PsycInfo uses an advanced search form with multiple rows of search boxes.

  • Don't enter a full research topic, or even all of your search terms, on one single row.
  • Break your topic down into its component concepts.
  • Put each component of your topic into its own search box line
    • Example: Does your attachment relationship with your parents impact the quality of your friendships?
      • Concepts: parental attachment, friendship quality

screenshot of search in psycinfo for parental attachment and friendship quality

parental attachment
AND friendship quality

Review your Results, then Try Different Searches with Different Sets of Search Terms

Choosing keywords (search terms) is a very important part of conducting your literature search. You may need to experiment with multiple terms to find the ones that bring up the best results. This might be a related term like a synonym, or perhaps a broader or narrower related term.

  • Try different ways of searching for your topic
    • For each concept, consider possible synonyms as well as broader or narrower terms.
      • As you review your initial search results, look for ideas of how to modify your search with new keywords
        • Look for other related terms that show up in your results list
          • These might be terms that show up in article titles or abstracts
          • In PsycInfo, you will see a list of Subjects assigned to each article. These Subject terms are official classification terminology for psychological concepts. Pay attention to these terms and use them in future iterations of your search.

The following screenshot shows a search result in PsycInfo with the Subjects list:

screenshot of psycinfo search result with subject terms highlighted

Note that none of the my search terms exactly match any of the subject terms. There are closely related subject terms, such as "Attachment Behavior", "Friendship", and "Parent Child Relations". This lets me know that I might want to try a future search using some of these different terms.


Helpful Tool: A Keyword Table

One way to keep track of different search terms you use is to create a keyword table. This can also help you think through different ways to search on your topic, as well as how your topic might be narrowed or expanded in order to bring up more relevant articles related to different aspects of your topic.


Concept 1

Parental Attachment

Concept 2

Friendship Quality

Synonyms and
related terms
(broader, narrower)

Attachment Behavior
Attachment Theory


Parent Child Relations
Mother Child Relations
Father Child Relations
Family Relations

Peer Relations
interpersonal relationships
Relationship Quality



Too many results or not enough results?

Try broadening or narrowing your search terms that make up your research topic.

You may also need to think about broadening or narrowing the research topic itself. This can bring in related literature that may not be exactly on your specific research topic, but can inform your overall understanding of the topic.

When you only have two concepts, you may need to add in a third concept. Ask yourself if there is something more particular that you want to know about the relationship between your initial two concepts (e.g., maybe there is a particular outcome that may be impacted). Or if you have three or more concepts that make up your research question, you may need to search on just two of them at a time.


Advanced Search Technique: Combining Synonyms or Related Terms

  • Combine synonyms together to expand your search and retrieve the maximum number of articles on your topic
    • Use OR to combine like terms
    • Use AND between each separate concept
    • Use quotation marks around "exact phrases"
      • Be careful to limit this to exact phrases that you know are commonly used by psychologists, e.g., from the PsycInfo Subjects terms

Here is an example search showing how to combine together multiple search terms:

screenshot of psycinfo search form

"attachment behavior"
AND "parent child relations" OR "mother child relations" OR "father child relations"
AND friendship

Use Refine Results Filters to Focus Your Search

The initial advanced search form includes a set of Search Options, further down on the page underneath the search form. You can set up filters here to narrow your search.

Alternatively, (and this is how your Psychology Librarian usually prefers to do it), you can narrow your search after you run it on the search results page.

  • Look for the Refine Results column on the left-hand side of the search results page.

Recommended Refine Results Filters

screenshot of the refine results filterThere are many different filters to choose from. These are the most popular ones:

Publication Date

Use the date slider if you want to limit your results to articles published in the last 5-10 years.

Source Types

Use this filter if you want to limit to just academic journals or books, etc. However, unless you have a specific requirement to use only journal articles, it is not recommended to filter in that way. For example, book chapters can also be a very good source. The Library has many e-books available.

Also note that above the Source Types filter is an option to Exclude Dissertations. This is recommended, as generally most professors will guide students away from dissertations (book length reports written by graduate students in order to obtain the doctorate degree).


Especially useful when you are focusing on a particular age group.


Highly recommended when you need to fulfill an assignment requirement to find empirical articles. This is where you will find ability to limit to "empirical study" as well as more specific types of empirical research studies.

Literature reviews are also included as a Methodology type. These types of articles can be useful to provide an overview of a topic. Literature review bibliographies are a rich source of recommendations for other articles to read on your topic.

Using the PsycInfo Tools Menu

When you are viewing a single search result, there is a Tools menu on the right-hand side. If your screen is small, it may be hidden and will need to be expanded by locating and clicking on the double arrow icon on the far right of your screen.

screenshot of psycinfo tools menuHere are some of the tools that you may find to be useful:

Add to Folder

This creates a running list of articles that you are interested in. Keep in mind that this Folder will only be active for a single active search session (unless you create an account with the database).


Email yourself a citation and link back to the article.

If you add a list of articles to a Folder; you can then go to the Folder later (use the link in the blue bar across the top of the database) and email yourself the entire list of articles.


Get a copy and paste APA citation (see the Citing Sources section of this research guide for complete details).


Get a persistent link back to the article page on PsycInfo.

Be sure to save the permalink rather than the URL in the address bar. The address bar URL is temporary and specific to your search session. It will not work again! Only the permalink will.


Database Use Tip for Collecting Articles: It is not recommended to open up all the different articles you are interested in using different browser tabs or windows. These can time out and you will lose the article. Instead, use the Tools to collect a list of articles or to copy and paste citations and permalinks into a separate document where you are keeping track of the articles you find.


More Search Tips

When you do your searching, you might not come up with a list of all the articles you want to use from just a single search session. That's okay!

Find a few good articles and stop to read them.

Then, use clues from these articles to help you find more, such as:

  • Ideas for new searches...
    • Different search terms
      • Keywords the author uses
      • The PsycInfo subject terms applied to that article
    • Subtopics or related topics that provide a fuller picture about your overall research topic
  • References to follow up on
    • Pay attention to who the author is citing as you read the article
    • Use the article's bibliography to identify other specific articles of possible interest
      • Look them up!