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PSYC 213 - Abnormal Psychology - Edmond

Keyword vs. Subject

When you type things into search boxes, you are, by default, doing what is known as a keyword search. When you are looking for information diseases, treatments, or drugs. it can be helpful to do a subject search instead. However, some databases' subject headers are not as robust or descriptive, so a highly targeted keyword search might be better in some cases. Here are some key differences between the two search types of searches:

Keyword Search Subject Search
  • searches anywhere in the record for the words you typed
  • provides a lot more, but possibly unrelated, results
  • useful if you know that you have the correct words
  • search is the same regardless of database
  • has been tagged by a person as being relevant to the assigned subject
  • provides fewer, but more relevant, results
  • useful when multiple terms describe the same idea (ex. drugs, pharmaceuticals, medication)
  • different databases might use different vocabulary

Databases (Links after Explanations)

CINAHL is a medical database, and while you may think you need a psychology database because you're in psychology class, much of the information about Abnormal Psychology is written about in medical literature (which makes sense if you think about who can prescribe and administer drugs). The majority of the articles are from peer-reviewed scholarly journals, but you may want to limit your search to be sure. 

In CINAHL, searching with the words memory dampening drug in the search box gets about 125 results. The results are ordered by relevance, and the database has determined that the most relevant result is the article titled "Another Look at the Legal and Ethical Consequences of Pharmacological Memory Dampening: The Case of Sexual Assault". In this article's title it does not use the exact phrase "memory dampening drug", but rather the word drug shows up in the assigned subject heading "memory drug effects". You can click on the subjects to do a new search for results that are associated with that subject.


PsycINFO is a database from the APA that indexes a large variety of psychological content. That means that not everything in PsycINFO is available in full-text nor is everything from a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. You will want to limit your search to full-text and scholarly. 

I have two important notes about PsycINFO that will make your life easier. 

  1.  The American Psychological Association publishes this database, while the DSM-V is published by the American Psychiatric Association. This means that the terms the database uses may not be the same, and when looking for information about drug therapies you are less likely to find information here than in a medical database like CINAHL. 
  2. If you are unsure if the term you are using is right check the thesaurus, which contains a cross-referenced list of the "correct" terms. 

In the example below, I have already checked the "Conversion Therapy" is the correct subject. In the first article, the phrase is highlighted in bold. When you access the article you can click on it to find more like it. 

ProQuest databases are far more suited to keyword searches than the other two, mainly because the keywords they choose are fairly generic. You have to put more effort into the search using boolean logic to include synonyms or exclude terms to find the best results. In this example, I've included only a few synonyms for LGBTQIA terms, but the more terms you include the more likely you are to get results that address that term. Keep in mind that you have to be careful not to overdo it as well. If you were to include "trans*" hoping that the boolean modifier would get both transgender and transsexual, you would get those words as well as transparent, transformational, and transit. 

How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT)

AND - Finds all the words
OR - Finds either of the words
NOT - Excludes a word from search

How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Modifiers "", *, ( )

"  " - Searches as an exact phrase
- Truncates a term to search for varied endings
( ) - Tells the database to do this part first