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PSY 289 - Downtown - Psychology Research Methods: Find Articles

MegaSearch--The Broadest Search

This combo-search includes all the content of PsycARTICLES and many other databases, but it lacks the specialized limiters of PsycARTICLES.

Search for a focused topic in psychology


First, apply these essential settings

1. Open MegaSearch

2. Click Advanced Search (under the search box)

2. In the Disciplines box (below), check-mark Psychology.

3. Click Search.

4. On the left side, check-mark Scholarly Journals (peer reviewed)


Now add keywords for your topic

1. In the top box, add a word or phrase for your Main Topic. Then Search.

  • Notice the number of results.

2. Add a focus concept in the second box. Then Search.

  • The number of results has dropped

Do a fuzzy limit to empirical studies

  • In the third box, type this (in quotations):    "empirical study"  Then Search.
  • Note: this is not perfect. You still need to check the abstract to verify it is empirical.

Review the results

  • Find a good title. Click to open the full record
  • Read the abstract. Is this empirical?
  • Open the full text PDF.

Email articles to yourself, with APA citations

  • Open a full record
  • On the right, under Tools, click Email (an envelope icon)
  • Under Citation format, choose APA.
  • Type in your email address and a descriptive Subject line. Send.

How to spot an empirical study

1. The title gives you clues. Read it carefully and try to understand its purpose.

2. Review the abstract

  • Look in the method section (in middle of the abstract)

  • Look for data that was gathered from participants/subjects (or at least data that was analyzed). This is essential.

3. Make sure the article is NOT a literature review or meta-analysis.

  • If it is one of these things, it will usually mention these words, or it might say "systematic review."
  • A "case study" is a kind of empirical paper, but it is not an empirical research report. Ask your instructor for guidance.

4. In the abstract’s method section: Does it talk about selecting studies or papers for analysis?

  • If so, it is not empirical. It is analytical.


PsycARTICLES--specialized limiters

This database lets you precisely limit to certain kinds of psychology articles:

  • Empirical study (data from observations of behavior was analyzed to answer a research question)
  • Literature review (research that describes and evaluates many previous studies on a topic)
  • Meta-analysis (creates a comprehensive study out of many studies that share a hypothesis, by statistically combining all their findings).

It also contains the journals published by APA (and by some allied publishers), which are highly used by psychologists.


  1. Click Advanced Search
  2. To limit to empirical research reports, scroll down to Methodology. From this menu, select Empirical Study. (Or you can choose Literature Review or Meta-Analysis.
  3. Scroll up to the search boxes and enter your keywords, and Search. All of your results will be limited to empirical study articles.

Use the same steps to limit to Literature reviews or Meta-analyses

Note: These limits are "sticky." They will remain, until you undo them. To return to search for All types, click Advanced Search, and choose All from Methodologies.