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PsycInfo: Search tips

Advanced Search

'Advanced Search' is the default search in PsycInfo ('Basic Search' and a 'Cited References' search are also available).  In 'Advanced Search', you can choose in which field of a record you will search:

  • Advanced Search drop-down menu in APA PsycNETThe 'Any Field' search will check all fields, including 'Author' and 'Source', but not the 'References'.
  • You can search for documents using one or more of the 'Index Terms' that represent the subjects of each document.  The index terms are drawn from the APA’s Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, which standardises the words or phrases used to represent concepts, meaning that you do not need to work out which words different authors use to refer to the same concept.
  • If there is no index term, you may wish to run a 'Title' or 'Abstract' search, or a combination of both.
  • A superior alternative is a 'Keywords' search, which not only checks the 'Keywords' field of records -the key concepts in the title or abstract-, but also the 'Index Terms' and 'Title' fields.

Phrase searching

PsycInfo allows you to specify that your search terms must be next to each other in the order in which they are typed, as an exact phrase. You can do this using double quotes or a hyphen.  For example, to find the phrase compulsive hoarding in a PsycInfo record, regardless of whether a hyphen has been inserted by the author, either of these will work:

  • "compulsive hoarding"
  • compulsive-hoarding

Using a wildcard to truncate a word inside double quotation marks is supported by PsycInfo (and other databases on APA PsycNet).  For example, it is possible to search for, "compulsive hoard*"

For more about the use of wildcards in PsycInfo, please refer to the Using wildcards section, elsewhere on this page.

Using wildcards

The following wildcards can be used in PsycInfo:

* In right-hand truncation: behavior* searches for behaviorbehaviorsbehavioralbehaviorism, etc.
* In left-hand truncation: *ache searches for compound words including headache and backache, but also moustache and Sprache (Germ.)

Boolean operators

It is recommended that you 'build a search' by searching for one key word (or phrase) or index term at a time, before combining your searches for related words or terms using the Boolean operators AND and OR (Boolean operators are case sensitive and must be typed in capitals).  In PsycInfo, you must go to 'Recent Searches' to combine searches. 

By searching for one word or phrase at-a-time, you will be able to verify that one stage of your has succeeded, before moving on to the next.  For example, if you misspell a word or phrase, the number of results retrieved should alert you that you have made an error.

Proximity searching

In addition to the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT, you can use a proximity operator in PsycInfo: NEAR/x, where x is the number of words that are in-between your search words.  Therefore, a proximity operator allows you to specify how near each other your words must be.  The theory is that if your words are close together, the results you find are more likely to be relevant.  For example, patient NEAR/2 anxiety will retrieve records where patient and anxiety appear within 2 words of each other, in any order.

If the words must be in a certain order, you should enclose the words and the proximity operator in double quotation marks, e.g. "disordered NEAR/2 eating" retrieves disordered eating, but not, eating disordered.

PsycInfo does not recognize the NEAR/ command when a number is not included.

Boolean operator precedence

If you use different Boolean operators in your search, the search is processed according to this order of precedence when no parentheses are present:

  1. NEAR/x
  2. NOT
  3. AND
  4. OR