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PY 302 - Experimental Psychology I


The following guide is intended to assist you in the two parts of your assignment:  1) formulating a research hypothesis and 2) preparing a literature review.  For further assistance, please stop by the Reference Desk in person or online at Ask a Librarian.


Formulating a Research Hypothesis

Step 1
Take a few minutes to scan reference books, research guides, and annual reviews in psychology. They can help you define unfamiliar terms and provide you with a preliminary bibliography on a subject. The library also has a growing collection of E-Reference resources and a few links to psychology handbooks and encyclopedias are listed below. For assistance in locating specific entries within these e-reference books, please consult with a librarian.

  • Annual Review of Psychology
    General Collection BF30 .A56
  • Beginning Research in Psychology:  A Practical Guide to Research Methods and Statistics
     General Collection BF76.5 .D94
  • Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science
  • Criminal Law Handbook on Psychiatric and Psychological Evidence and Testimony
    General Collection KF9674 .P37
  • A Dictionary of Psychology
    Ref BF31 .C65
  • DSM-IV-TR: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
    Ref RC455.2 .C4 D54
  • Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology
  • Encyclopedia of Human Behavior (4 volumes)
    Ref BF31 .E5
  • Encyclopedia of Human Development
  • Encyclopedia of Human Emotions
    Ref BF531 .E55
  • Encyclopedia of Measurement & Statistics
    Ref HA29 .S2363
  • Encyclopedia of Mental Health
    Ref RC437 .K34
  • Encyclopedia of Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychoanalysis
    Ref RC437 .E49
  • Encyclopedia of Psychology
    Ref BF31 .E52   
  • Encyclopedia of School Psychology
    Ref LB1027.55 .E523
  • Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy, and Culture
    Ref BF173 .F6176
  • Handbook of Developmental Psychology
    General Collection BF713.H363
  • Handbook of Educational Psychology
    Ref LB1051 .H2354
  • Handbook of Positive Psychology
  • Handbook of Research Methods in Experimental Psychology
    Ref BF76.5 .H35
  • Handbook of Social Psychology
    Ref HM25 .H224
  • Handbook of Sport Psychology
    General Collection GV706.4 .H37
  • Stevens' Handbook of Experimental Psychology
    Ref BF181 .H336

Step 2
Search the Library Catalog to locate current important readings on a topic that are available at the Geisel Library. Such readings are useful for locating current debate within the discipline and for identifying important scholars in the field. An online catalog search will also suggest appropriate subject headings and keywords to be used in specialized subject databases such as PsycInfo. After you find some useful books on your topic, you may want to browse the nearby stacks to locate other helpful sources.  In addition to print book material, the Library Catalog also directs you to many e-books.  These are from a subscription called Ebrary.  Searching Ebrary directly allows you discover keywords within the full contents of a book and can therefore be a useful strategy.

Step 3
Search Academic Search Premier. This multidisciplinary, mostly full-text database is another great place to find ideas for interesting topics. Scanning the latest year's articles for broad topics such as sport psychology, for example, may offer helpful insights for ways to narrowing your focus. Some of the articles will offer a popular perspective, but will also point to more scientific studies.

Google Scholar provides citations to books and journal articles, as well as conference papers and unpublished materials. Full-text is often not available on the "free Web", but it is possible to request needed materials via Interlibrary Loan. Please consult with a librarian for further assistance.

WorldCat allows you to search the collections of libraries world-wide. Find a book in this database, and, if not owned by SAC, then click on the 'Request via Interlibrary Loan' link. Your book(s) will be available for pickup in the library in 7-14 days.


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Preparing a Literature Review

A literature review thoroughly describes work that has already been done on a specific area of research. It does not present new scholarship. Often it is included within a larger research project. Although it varies in size and format, a literature review always requires critical evaluation of sources before accepting them for inclusion.

The first step to writing a good literature review is, of course, to perform a good literature search. Look carefully at the list of indexes and databases that relate to your discipline. Use Boolean operators such as AND and OR. Use truncation symbols, usually an asterisk (*), to return results having all forms of a root term (e.g. parent* to include parents, parenting, parental, etc. into your search). Please see Research Help for additional information. Please also take advantage of the reference services available to you in the Geisel Library. Contact the Reference Desk in person or online at Ask a Librarian.

Most literature reviews have the following common characteristics:

  • An overview of the subject, which includes a statement of the objectives
  • A categorization and discussion of the works being reviewed, such as by methodologies, pro/con, etc.
  • A detailed explanation of each work, with emphasis on similarities and differences from other works
  • A conclusion which evaluates the works and suggests major implications

While your professor will offer specific instructions on preparing a literature review, the library indexes and databases will provide access to appropriate readings as well as examples of literature reviews which have already been accepted for publication. Although these databases are generally considered 'scholarly,' care must still be taken to evaluate content before accepting a title for inclusion in your review. For example, some articles may be from a trade journal, not a scholarly journal. Other titles may not be peer-reviewed.

To locate examples of published literature reviews in many of the journal article databases, key the following search statement into the find box and view results: "literature review" or "review of the literature" or "review article". (Note: One of these phrases will often be included in the article title or abstract.) Please see the following example:

A Sample Citation from PsycINFO

Screenshot of PsycINFO database

It is up to you to 1) determine the level of scholarship of each reading; 2) determine whether the reading is a primary or secondary source; and 3) determine whether the content of each reading addresses your research question. The following research aides will assist you in making these decisions.

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Guides to Preparing Literature Reviews

The following online guides offer additional information on preparing literature reviews:

Preparing a Literature Review (from Saint Anselm College)

Writing the Literature Review (from the Writing Center at Saint Mary's U. of Minnesota)

How to Write a Literature Review (from the University of California, Santa Cruz)

Information Fluency: The Literature Review (from Washington & Lee University)

Writing a Psychology Literature Review (from the University of Washington)

See also the following books located in the Geisel Library for information about conducting literature reviews:

Proposing Empirical Research: A Guide to the Fundamentals
     H62 .P316 2005
     See chapter: "Writing the Introduction and Literature Review".

Writing Literature Reviews
     Ref 61.8 .G34 2006


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About Empirical Research

How to Find Empirical Research (from Saint Anselm College)

Proposing Empirical Research: A Guide to the Fundamentals
     H62 .P316 2005

In the social science disciplines, the term "empirical research" is synonymous with the term "primary source". This type of research is usually published as articles in scholarly journal publications such as the American Journal of Psychology and indexed in specialized subject databases such as PsycINFO.

Sometimes an article can be a combination of both primary and secondary research.

Empirical research articles are usually substantial (more than 1 or 2 pages) and include a bibliography or cited references section (usually at the end of the article).

If an article is empirical, it will include terms* such as: methodology, case study, questionnaire, survey, sample, empirical, research design, data, results, experiment.

*When using PsycINFO, it is possible to limit search results to empirical articles.


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Major Databases

The following indexes and databases will provide access to scholarly readings in psychology:

The PsycINFO database contains more than 1.5 million references to psychological literature, spanning 1887 to the present day. It includes citations to journal articles, dissertations, reports, English-language book chapters and books, and other scholarly documents relevant to psychology and the psychological aspects of such disciplines as education, business, medicine, nursing, law, and social work. See also PsycArticles, a related database, listed below.    User Guide

PubMed is the premier bibliographic database of the National Library of Medicine. It provides access to the full-text of over 400 medical journals. Search PubMed if you need access to 1) very current information 2) full text to journals not owned by the college or available via other full-text databases. Click here for a PubMed Tutorial. Click here for more about the difference between MedLine and PubMed.


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Related Databases

Academic Search Premier
A broad index providing abstracts and some full-text for a range of academic areas, including psychology.

This database covers much literature from the nursing sciences as well as the allied health sciences. It is therefore strong in its coverage of the psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health and illness.

"ERIC is the world's largest source of education information, with more than 1 million abstracts of documents and journal articles on education research and practice." This database is updated monthly. (1966-present)

Google Scholar
Provides citations to books and journal articles, as well as conference papers and unpublished materials. Full-text is often not available on the "free Web", but it is possible to request needed materials via Interlibrary Loan. Please consult with a librarian for further assistance.

This EBSCO database is a subset of the larger PubMed database. It includes coverage for over 4,000 international journals in all languages from 1966 to the present. Use Medline for 1) EBSCO's easy to use search interface 2) To pinpoint titles owned by Saint Anselm College or available in full-text in other EBSCO databases. Otherwise, use PubMed as noted below.

"This database provides full text articles on current issues in psychology from respected sources, spanning from 1988 to the present. PsycARTICLES includes more than 25,000 full-text articles from 42 journals published by American Psychological Association and allied organizations. All journals included in this database are indexed in PsycINFO."

Project MUSE
"Project MUSE provides online, worldwide, institutional subscription access to the full text of more than 200 scholarly journals in arts and humanities, social sciences, and mathematics."

ProQuest Psychology Journals
Abstracts & indexing are provided for over 600 journal titles, and many of these also include full-text. Some full-text dissertations are also included in this database.

This is an excellent database for locating articles (some full-text) in the field of social psychology.

This database is as close as you can get to a simultaneous search of thousands of libraries' catalogs from around the world. You can see at a glance whether Geisel Library owns the material, and by clicking on the Libraries Worldwide link, you can find out if any nearby libraries own it. If we don't have it, there is also a link to submit an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request.

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The Library offers a tool which allows you to search for journal articles across multiple databases at once.  CrossSearch allows you to 1) select subject categories (choose Psychology) or individual databases that relate to your topic 2) enter your keywords using a google-style syntax 3)  run your search.

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About WebBridge and Interlibrary Loan

When searching CrossSearch or the databases noted above, you will notice a WebBridge button appearing at the end of most citations. Clicking here will let you know whether we own an item in electronic or print form. If we don't have access to the item, click on the link called Geisel Library Inter-Library Loan (ILL). After supplying your name and college ID number (include 'S'), WebBridge automatically completes an ILL request for you. You will usually receive the material within 3-7 days. If an article, it will come to you as a web link via e-mail. If a book or media, you will be notified via e-mail of its arrival to the library Circulation Desk, where you may pick it up.

A word of caution is to please read the WebBridge info carefully. If the book or article is already available at Saint Anselm College, you will not be able to obtain it through Interlibrary Loan.

Also, please take the extra time to determine whether this material is really appropriate to your research before placing an ILL request.

For more information please consult the WebBridge Video Tutorial (3.5 mins.; includes audio).


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Major Journals in Psychology

Here is a selected list of journal titles that would be available to you electronically or on the Lower Level of the Geisel Library when you consult the databases noted above. We may not own all of the issues, however. To determine format and specific holdings, please check Journal Finder, a link on the Library Homepage.

  • American Psychologist
  • Annual Review of Psychology
  • Child Development
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Neuropsychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
  • Journal of Abnormal Psychology
  • Journal of Clinical Psychology
  • Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
  • Journal of Experimental Psychology
  • Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
  • Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
  • Law and Human Behavior
  • Neuropsychology
  • Psychological Bulletin
  • Psychological Inquiry
  • Psychological Review
  • Psychological Science
  • Psychophysiology

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Alert Service

An important and under-utilized feature of several of the library databases is a service called 'Alert'. This service allows you to receive e-mail notification of new content that matches your research interests.  The service is available on several of the EBSCO databases including PsycINFO. For more information about this service, please contact the library reference department.


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Psychological Tests

ABOUT Psychological Tests

The following print and online reference resources will assist you in identifying tests. Some also supply reviews or summaries of tests.

In addition, information ABOUT tests can sometimes be found in books and journal articles. Use the subject heading 'PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS' and 'PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING' in the book databases. Using the thesaurus in PsycInfo (Search for 'Tests') will help you to identify information about the following types of tests:

Screenshot of PyscINFO database


Finding ACTUAL Psychological Tests

The Geisel Library does not have a one-stop-shop for accessing individual psychological instruments. However, unpublished tests may sometimes be found in journal articles, ERIC Documents, books*, dissertations and on the Internet. Note that copyright restrictions may apply to such tests. Another approach is to try contacting the test's author/developer and asking for a copy.

To obtain published tests it is usually necessary to buy the test. Contact the publisher of the test for prices, test availability, and ordering information. The Reference books listed above have publishers' directories with contact information. Also, search the WorldCat database to determine whether another library has purchased the needed test. If located there, it can usually be borrowed via Interlibrary Loan.

* Here are a few books in the library collection that contain psychological instruments. There may be others. To locate more, try searching by the Subject Heading 'Psychological Tests'.

  • Major Psychological Assessment Instruments
    BF176 .M35 1985
  • Measures for Clinical Practice
    BF176 .C66 1994 (2 vols.)
  • Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Attitudes
    BF698.4 .M38 1991

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Citing References (APA)

A copy of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, now in its 6th edition, is located on the library's Ready Reference shelves (Ref BF76.7 .P83 2010). For online guides to APA format, please see the following:

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Additional Help

Ask a Librarian


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