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Research Guides

Psychology: PsycInfo Search Tips

UW Libraries resources for research in and study of psychology.

On this page

  • General database searching tips and syntax
  • Developing a search strategy for your topic in PsycInfo
  • Using APA Thesaurus terms

Search Syntax


Retrieves items that contain both terms. Good for combining topics to narrow a search.

child AND trauma


Retrieves items that contain at least one of the terms. Expand a search by allowing for synonyms.

Trauma OR PTSD


Retrieves word variants – any word that starts with these letters: child, children, children’s, childhood


“  “

Retrieves items containing the exact phrase within the quotation marks.

“post traumatic”

(  )

Tells search system how to combine terms and in which order. Article needs to mention

Child* AND (trauma* OR PTSD)

Search Strategy Development

What do you want to find?  Journal articles in PsycInfo on the interactions of children with humanoid robots.

  1. Identify key concepts: children, humanoid, robots.
  2. Generate synonyms and terms to express those concepts in different ways:humanoid, anthropomorphic, human-like
  3. Consider using quotation marks, asterisks, and APA Thesaurus terms: "human like" OR android* OR DE "Anthropomorphism"
  4. Each concept can be held within a set of parentheses, using OR to find articles mentioning any of the terms listed for the concept: (humanoid OR anthropomorph* OR "human like")
  5. Combine your key concepts using AND so each article retrieved by PsycInfo has to mention each concept: (child* OR teen* OR adolescen*) AND (humanoid OR anthropomorph* OR "human like") AND robot*

PsycInfo: one concept in each search box; use AND to combine the 3 concepts.

*Note: After you enter your search terms, you can use the filters on the left to focus on what you're interested in. One of the filters is Age Group. If you are setting up an alert, you can include Age Group in your search strategy as shown above. AG "Childhood" refers to birth-12 years.

Searching With APA Thesaurus Terms

An indexed article in PsycInfo will be tagged with several APA Thesaurus terms that describe the content of the article.

How can I find useful APA Thesaurus terms?

  • Look at a relevant article. The words listed in the Subjects field are thesaurus terms.
  • After typing your search terms, look at the filters on the left side of the search results. The words listed under Subjects are thesaurus terms found in the search results.
  • Search the APA Thesaurus. Type a word, and click on Relevancy Ranked to look up thesaurus terms related to your word.

Browsing the APA Thesaurus

How can I search with APA Thesaurus terms I find?

  • If you find a term in the APA Thesaurus, click on the box next to the term, then click on Add to search.
  • You can type a thesaurus term directly into the search box. Use the drop-down menu to change from Select a Field (optional) to Subjects. Now PsycInfo will look for your term in the Subjects field.

PsycInfo screenshot: search for a word or phrase in the Subjects field.