Researching Empirical Studies for PSYC1a & PSYC1b

Tips & Tricks

Relevant? Empirical?

EbscoHost logo

To begin searching for empirical studies for your Psych1a research paper you will want to use EBSCOhost. EBSCOhost is a database of periodical articles. These include magazines, newspapers and journals. Empirical studies will be published in scholarly journals.

You will need a Gavilan Library card to search EBSCOhost from off campus. Your 'password' will be some part of your library card number. The instructions are on the login page.


Step 1:

Get Started.

Click on the EBSCOhost logo on the Library Homepage.

On the following page, Select Research Databases on EBSCOhost Web Interface

Step 2:

Select the databases you want to search.




In EBSCOhost you begin by searching our 3 most general databases. These three are the most useful to most people. These are Academic Search Premier, MasterFILE Premier and Newspaper Source Plus. For this project you will want to customize the choices to databases that are about your discipline of psychology.

Click Choose Databases

screenshot of choose databases link




Empirical studies will never be published in popular magazines or newspapers. The first thing to do is unselect the Newspaper Source Plus database. Look at the other databases and select the ones that may be about your topic or discipline such as Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection.

Note: For PSYC1b you will want to add MEDLINE or Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Adding these two databases is optional for PSYC1a.

Unselect the databases you don't want to search and select those you do want to add and Click OK

Screenshot of Choose Databases box - unselect Newspaper Source Plus and Add Psychology and Behavioral Science Collection

To find out what each database covers put your cursor over the bubble next to the database name and you will find a description of that database.

screenshot of database description

Step 3:

Enter your research terms.




Resist the urge to type your research question into the search box. That would only give you articles that have that sentence in it.

You want to pick out the key terms in your research question and then search for articles that have those terms. If your research question is What are the effects of gender identity disorder on daily life? you will want to search for something like "gender identity disorder" effects.

The basic search screen works like Google. If you search for multiple words, the database looks for articles with the first word AND the second word AND the third word not necessarily together. You can force the database to search for your words as a phrase by putting them in quotes. ie: "gender identity disorder". You do this when you only want articles that have those words in that order.

You can also play with a single search term like causes. If you search for that word you will not get articles with the word caused or cause or causation. You can search for the term caus*.

The * is a truncation symbol, this will return articles with the words cause, causes, caused, causation etc.

When you have entered your search terms click on Search


EbscoHost search box with search terms "gender identity disorder" effect*


Step 4:

Evaluate and narrow your results as needed.


Your results will be a list of articles that have your search terms in them.


Screenshot of a result list in EbscoHost

As mentioned earlier, empirical studies will not be published in newspapers or popular magazines. Use the database to narrow your results to include only scholarly journals. Note the Refine your results box in the left column. Click the Scholarly Journals box and then click the Update button.

Refine your results box -- use this to refine your search by scholarly journal articles or full text

Next, note the option in the Refine results by column to refine by subjects or subject thesaurus terms . This is your opportunity to use suggested subject terms to narrow your results. So not only will the articles have your particular words but they will be about that topic. We can add Psychological aspects. This reduces our results to 1 article.


narrow results by suggested subject

If you use these topics to narrow your results you can remove them just as easily if you want to return to your original list. Look for the small orange box with the x to remove the term from the search.


Screenshot showing selected limiters for the search

Each entry lists the title of the article, the author(s), the publication in which it appeared, the publication date, and whether or not it is in the database full text. If it is full text you will see a link to pdf full text or html full text.

EBSCOhost indexes (lists articles that have been published) for thousands of periodicals. It has full text articles for over a thousand periodicals. For this project you will want to look for at least (2-4) of these articles as full text so you can start working with them. You may also find some articles that you want to use that are not included full text in EBSCOhost. Gavilan library can get copies of these articles by ILL.

Screenshot of an article listing pointing out author names, article title, journal title and publication date

Step 5:

Are the articles relevant? Are they empirical?




Once you have narrowed your results then you need to determine if they are relevant to your topic and then if they are empirical. In order to read the abstract/summary of your article put your cursor over the magnifying glass icon next to the article. Screenshot of magnifying glass icon This will display a popup window with the publication information, the abstract and links to the citation and/or the full text.

Screenshot of an article preview


Read the abstract to determine if it is about your topic. If it is relevant, then you need to determine if it is empirical. An empirical study is research based. You will look for clue words such as this study, control group, participants, sample, respondents, methodology.


If there is a link to the full text you can click on it to read the article. If there are three dots after the abstract it means there is more to the abstract. Click on the Full Citation link to read the rest of the abstract.

If the article is not full text you may want to request the article by ILL.

Step 6?

Ask for help

You can get help with your searches from the reference librarians at the Library. We answer questions in person, by telephone, by email and by chat. Click on the Ask A Librarian icon on the library homepage to get our contact information.



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Last updated on October 6, 2010 .
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