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PSY 458 - Capstone in Neuroscience: Home

Finding research

This guide provides some resources and other information that will help you find good articles for your writing assignment. This page has direct links to databases and journals that cover neuroscience and similar topics. The page on Evaluating Sources will give you a refresher on how to best identify good sources for your references. If you are having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, take a look at the Video Tutorials page of this guide, and if you want more information about how to properly cite the information you find, take a look at the Citations and References page.

Don't hesitate to reach out if you get stuck or have questions that aren't answered in this guide. Happy searching!

Best bets for finding research

Looking for related research? The databases listed below are some recommended options for tracking down resources to use in your paper. If you need a refresher on how to best use them, check out the How-to videos on the Video Tutorials page or contact us!

Keyword searching using Boolean operators


Keep in mind that the literature databases you will most likely be using do not function like Google or other search engines. Google relies on natural language processing to find quick answers; literature databases require you to be a little more thoughtful and purposeful with your search strings in order to pull together sources for in-depth research. You will have better luck finding what you need if you have a basic understanding of keyword searching using Boolean operators.

A basic keyword search in most databases will look for your terms in a few different places, most often in the article title, author, subject terms, and abstract fields. Keep in mind that, with very few exceptions, literature databases will not search in the full-text of an article! So if you want to find a wide array of sources on a particular topic, you will need to spend a little time brainstorming synonyms for some of your keywords. 

VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to Search: Topic Breakdown

Boolean operators

Once you've got your starting list of keywords, you need to think about how to input them into the database's search interface, which often requires a basic understanding of Boolean operators and how they work. Simply put, Boolean operators tell the database how the keywords you're searching for are or are not related. The operators you'll want to become familiar with are ORAND, and NOT. (Note: you don't have to capitalize your operators when you go to type in your search strings, but it can help visually separate your terms and is highly recommended.)

Boolean Operator When to use it Example search string What it does
OR Use OR when you want to search for synonyms or similar concepts vaccination OR inoculation

Will bring back results that mention either "vaccination" or "inoculation". 

Will increase the number of search results; search is more comprehensive.

AND Use AND when you want to connect two or more different concepts  cancer AND lethargy

Will only bring back results that mention "cancer" together with "lethargy" (but not necessarily adjacent to each other).

Will decrease the number of search results; search is more focused.

NOT Use NOT when you want to exclude a concept from your search results. Use very sparingly! dementia NOT Huntington

Will bring back results that mention "dementia", but will exclude those that mention "Huntington". Best to only use if you notice the same irrelevant concept coming up in your search results, as it may potentially exclude some relevant information.

Will decrease the number of results.

Order matters with this one! "dementia NOT Huntington" will bring back a different set of results than "Huntington NOT dementia".

VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to Search: Boolean Operators

Advanced search techniques

There are lots of other techniques you can use to effectively and efficiently search literature databases. Most will allow you to use all the techniques listed below but may have slightly different characters or syntax. Be sure to check the databases' help pages to find the correct syntax for each resource!

Strategy What it does Example

Uses an asterisk to search for results that include the selected prefix with any word endings

VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to Search: Truncation


Will include results that mention "nurse", "nurses", "nursing", etc.


Uses a symbol (most often $ or #) to search for terms that may have alternate spellings or additional characters. Check the help page for the database you're searching to make sure you're using the correct symbol.


Will include results that mention "anesthesia" (American spelling) or "anaesthesia" (British spelling)

Phrase searching

Uses quotation marks to enclose a group of terms that must show up exactly as typed.

VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to Search: Phrase Searching

"cancer fatigue"

Will only include results that mention "cancer fatigue" exactly (but not necessarily "cancer-related fatigue").

Proximity searching

Uses an operator and a number (e.g., "N3", "NEAR/3") to find terms that appear in close proximity to each other. Some databases, like PubMed, do not allow for proximity searching, and others use different syntax. Be sure to check the help page for the database you're searching to make sure you're using the correct syntax.

VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to Search: Proximity Operators

blood N3 collection

blood NEAR/3 collection

Will include results that mention "blood collection", "collection of blood", "blood was collected", etc. 

(Note: does not work in PubMed)


Uses parentheses to group terms and more effectively use Boolean operators.

VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to Search: Boolean Operators (starting at 2:09)

(cancer OR neoplasm) AND (chemotherapy OR radiation)

Will return search results that mention "cancer" together with either "chemotherapy" or "radiation", as well as "neoplasm" with either "chemotherapy" or "radiation".

Subject headings Uses predefined subject terms (also called controlled vocabulary) to help account for different spellings, synonyms, and other related concepts. Typically more limiting than keyword searching. Different databases use different terms, so be sure to check the resource's thesaurus to select the best headings.


Will return search results that have been tagged with the Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) term "dementia". MeSH is used primarily in PubMed; other resources have similar headings.


Get to Full Text with Find It!

Most literature indexes do not have the actual journal articles included within them.  Instead, these indexes just contain information about the article, e.g. titles, authors, abstract.

When you find an article of interest in an index, click the "Find It" button by that entry to get to the full text.  If we have a subscription, "Find It" will provide a link to the journal article. (Or if we have the print, it will provide a link to the catalog with the location and call number.)

Find It button

(A few databases, like Academic Search Complete, include full text for some articles. These databases may allow you to search only for articles available in full text, but be aware that you are only searching a small portion of the articles we actually subscribe to.)

In-class library presentation

Here is the link to the slides we presented in class on Wednesday, September 7, for those who would like it. We've also included a PDF version as an alternative.

Psychology Librarian

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Megan Jaskowiak
Office Hours: Mondays, 1-3 in the Psychology Building 2nd floor. Otherwise schedule an appointment (either in person or by Zoom)
216A King Library

Biology Librarian

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Ginny Boehme

My appointment scheduler is open for you to meet with me virtually. The default platform I use is Zoom, but if you prefer Google Meet or WebEx, that's not a problem at all.

202 King Library