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PSY 1400: Introduction to Psychological Sciences: Search & Evaluation Strategies

Research Strategies

Keywords & Subject Headings: 

When looking for resources in the Gordon Library catalog, a good initial strategy to guide your search is using subject headings as your keywords.

  • Subject headings are preferred, standardized terms developed by subject area experts, whereas 'keywords' are generally based upon natural or subjective language. In this way, Subject Headings are a kind of controlled vocabulary, and they form the organizational backbone of searchable platforms, which facilitate automated, efficient searching. Many libraries (WPI included) use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)--which are generated by the Library of Congress--as their preferred terms.
  • As it relates to searching, the key difference is that Keyword searches look at most (if not all) of the words in a catalog record, but subject searches only look for words in the subject heading fields (6XX). As a result, subject searches are more precise, so subject search results will be more specific.
  • Consider some of the approaches recommended by librarians in the following video:

Developing keywords for research

Run Time: 2:44

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What are Keywords? (0:22)
  • Sample--Generating Keywords (0:38)
  • Effectively Using Keywords (0:53)
  • Using a Thesaurus (1:34)
  • Refining Search Results (1:48)
  • Evaluating a Library Record (2:10)

Try using some of the listed subject terms links/ keywords to find resources supported by--and accessible through--the Gordon Library.

Check out some of the following tutorials related to the research process.

Library Searching in 60 Seconds

Run Time: 1:03

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • Gordon Library Homepage (0:15)
  • Search Overview (0:30)
  • Filters (0:45)

Locating relevant databases for research

Run Time: 2:27

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • Understanding Relevance in Relation to Research Needs (0:21)
  • Understanding Databases (0:46)
  • Locating Databases (1:04)
  • Search Databases A-Z (1:04)
  • Search Databases by Subject (1:33)
  • Search Databases by Type of Resource (2:09)

Finding full-text videos

Run Time: 2:55

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • Why Search for Full-Text Articles? (0:30)
  • Sample Full-Text Search via SCOPUS (0:52)
  • Sample Search w/ Strategies (1:18)
  • Search Tips (1:27- 2:06)
  • Filters (2:10)

Peer Review Overview 

Run Time: 2:52

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is Peer-Review? (0:10)
  • The Impact of Peer-Review Processes (0:50)
  • The Peer-Review Process (1:39)
  • Locating Peer-Reviewed Articles via the Gordon Library (2:25)


The following tutorials will help students identify valid, legitimate, and scholarly rigorous information for your research.


Run Time: 3:17

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is TRAAP? (0:05)
  • Timeliness (0:26)
  • Relevance (1:03)
  • Authority (1:46)
  • Accuracy (2:15)
  • Purpose (2:40)


Run Time: 1:52

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is SIFT? (0:12)
  • Step 1: STOP (0:19)
  • Step 2: Investigate (0:41)
  • Step 3: Find (1:05)
  • Step 4: Trace (1:36)