Psychology 201

Assignment Review:

Use scientific databases to find  a literature review paper and an empirical research study.  Both papers need to be on the same topic.  Write a summary of each paper  then propose your own research project based on those summaries.


Empirical Research Study

(from Penn State University Library)

Empirical research is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief.

Key characteristics to look for:

  • Statement about the methodology being used
  • Research questions to be answered
  • Definition of the group or phenomena being studied
  • Process used to study this group or phenomena, including any
  • controls or instruments such as tests or surveys
  • Ask yourself: Could I recreate this study and test these results?
  • Read the abstract of the article for a description of the methodology

How do I find empirical research on my topic?
Empirical research is published in books and scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. The Libraries have several databases you can use to locate peer-reviewed articles from scholarly journals.

Some databases allow you to limit your search by methodology. Or, try adding the keywords “empirical research” or just “empirical.”

Literature Review–

(from UC Berkeley Libraries)

Literature reviews (also called review articles) survey and synthesize primary research on a particular topic.

Key characteristics to look for:

  • They are articles authored by researchers and published in scholarly journals
  • They summarize multiple primary research articles
  • They are secondary literature

Why are literature reviews a good starting point for researching a topic?

  • They provide an overview of a particular area of study
  • Their extensive reference lists may be used to locate further relevant articles
  • They may provide ideas for narrowing a too-broad topic

How can I tell if an article is a literature review?

Usually the abstract or introduction to a literature review will state the authors’ intention to survey or analyze the literature on a particular topic. Literature reviews usually have extensive bibliographies, with perhaps 50 – 200 sources cited. Literature reviews usually do NOT present data or other very specific results of research.

 Psychology Databases:

Click on the “Articles & More” icon on the Library website’s home page…


and then scroll down the alphabetical list until you see “Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection” and “PsycINFO.” These are two search tools that are – as their names suggest – specifically for searching academic literature in the psychology fields.   You can access these search tools off-campus by entering your last name and COCC ID#.


Other Databases:

Try Academic Search Premier and  Medline.  Both of these are Ebsco Databases, and will use the same search techniques described below.

Searching Psych Databases:


PsycINFO lets you search over 3 million citations for scholarly journal articles, book chapters, books, and dissertations in the field of psychology. The interface will look similar to Academic Search Premier. Take a look:


Some key search points for this topic:

  • Use “ “ around the phrase “heart rate”.
  • Use truncation to search both challenge and challenges.
  • Search for your keywords in the abstract (use the pull down menu on the right).
  • If your goal is to review past research, do not limit to full text.
  • You may want to limit to References Available or Peer Reviewed
  • Note…scroll down and look for the limit box for methodology.  Choose LITERATURE REVIEW or EMPIRICAL STUDY.

Getting full text:  

When you search PsycINFO and find an article you want to read, you will most often see the “Check for full text” link rather than the “PDF Full Text” link.


PsycINFO primarily searches citations, not full-text content, so it’s searching much more content than we subscribe to. Click on the “Check for full text” link, and you will be given the option to request a copy of that article from Interlibrary Loan (ILL). ILL articles are delivered via email in 1-4 days, so you do need to plan ahead.


 Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection

The Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection includes full-text content from almost 400 psychology journals. It does include some content from popular publications as well, so when you search in here for your articles for this assignment, go ahead and check the “Peer Reviewed” check box under “Limit To” on the left side of the screen after performing your initial search.

Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection is also an Ebsco database…so this search form will look familiar:


Although there is more full-text available through the Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, you may still see the “Check for full text” link. You can also request articles from here through Interlibrary Loan.

Searching More Than One Ebsco Database at a Time:

Note that because both of these are Ebsco databases, you can actually search both at the same time. Look for the “choose databases” link:



Then choose the databases you wish to search within the EBSCO collection of databases–remember to also search Academic Search Premier and Medline, if you wish.

 More About Searching:

Want to explore more about searching? Click here to find more search hints:


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