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Stony Brook University


Guide to resources for conducting research in psychology and psychology-related fields.

Where to start?

The beginning of any research project is an uncertain time as you're trying to define just what it is you're researching. Here are some tips to help.

Do Background Reading

  • Consult your textbook, reference books, and publications geared towards a more general audience to get a sense of the current topics and discussions related to your interest.
  • Wikipedia can be used to learn the outlines of a topic and to find links to other resources.

Map out Keywords

  • From your readings, pull out phrases, names, acronyms, and other keywords that are unique to your topic.
    Example: dreams, nightmares, sleep, recall, REM sleep, lucid dreams
  • Think of the different ways certain aspects of your topic might be described in published research.
    Example: teens, adolescents, high school, young adults

Test Drive Your Search

  • Use a recommended database to do a preliminary search of the topic
    • Also try searching on Google Scholar (not technically a database but you can integrate it with our library databases)
  • Use the Advanced Search option in databases to combine the different aspects of your topic in different search boxes.
    • combine each search box with AND to connect terms and keywords that must appear in the results.
      Example: teens AND dreams AND recall
    • combine similar phrases/words in one box with OR to search for each alternative in one search.
      Example: teens OR adolescents OR high school OR young adults
  • Look through the results to see the type of research that's being done. Two articles with the same keywords can focus on different or very specific aspects of the topic.
  • Pick out any new, relevant keywords that might apply - or adjust your topic based on what is interesting you the most.

Start Digging

  • After doing the above you should hopefully have a better sense of what direction you're taking. Use your refined keywords to start locating research that you will use in your project.
  • Limit your results to narrow down your options.
    Example: set specific date ranges, limit to scholarly/peer reviewed sources, limit to certain types of research methods
  • Read the abstracts of relevant research to see if the whole article is applicable to what you are writing about.
  • Ask for help if you're stuck or want to talk out your strategy with a librarian.