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PSY P425 Behavior Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence

A course guide to support students in P 425. Topics include: searching PsycINFO, building a keyword search, and filtering through results.

Getting Started with Keywords

This quick, 3-minute video explains how to develop keywords. Thinking strategically about your research question and the terms can help you navigate the vast amount of resources more quickly. 

Developing Keywords

Step 1: Identify Your Research Question

For example, let's look at the following research question:

Are there genetic causes linked to autism in children?

Step 2: Determine Key Concepts

What are the 2-3 main ideas or concepts of this research question? 

  • Genetics
  • Autism
  • Children

Step 3: Break Each Concept Into Synonyms

Take the four main ideas from above and brainstorm synonyms for those terms. 

Need some help? Consider using the Thesaurus feature in PsycINFO (Advanced Search-->Thesaurus)

Image of PsycINFO Thesaurus Button

The Thesaurus function provides historical terms or related terms. For example, in psychology, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder used to be referred to as 'shell shock.' The Thesaurus provides common language to tag or index articles so you don't have to try and guess every possible term. However, the Thesaurus doesn't catch everything, that's why it's helpful to think about related terms.
I used the Thesaurus and brainstormed possible synonyms for the example could include:

  • Genetics--Genetic disorders, genetic linkage, heritability
  • Autism-- Autism Spectrum Disorders, Early Infantile Autism
  • Children-- Pediatric, kids, youth

Step 4: Search and Adjust

Start building your search by using Boolean operators. Terms like AN, NOT, and OR can help organize your search and the results you're hoping to get. Using OR can help you find the synonyms of words because it looks for either term. For example, it can be helpful to put OR statements in between your synonym words:
Genetics OR Genetic Disorders OR Genetic Linkage OR Heritability

Using AND can help bind all of your main ideas together. You would use AND because it's important that both concepts are found. For example, we would put an AND between autism AND children because the demographic matters. 

NOT can be used when you notice article results that do not match your own research question. For example, if you only care about the role of genetics in autistic children in the United States and NOT Canada, you could build that in your search. 


  • Use an asterisk * on your terms that have different suffixes. In the example below, I used the asterisk for child* and kid*. Using the asterisk means it will look for child, children, child's and kid or kids. 
  • The Advanced Search function on PsycINFO can be helpful for organizing your search. In the example below, I put each main idea in its own box followed by the synonyms with OR in between. You can add a row and change the boolean operator to OR, NOT, or AND.
  • Use quotation marks to bind specific terminology together. For example, you might want to put "Autism Spectrum Disorder" in quotations if you notice your research results include articles about autism but other disorders too. The quotations bind the terms together so that it looks specifically for "Autism Spectrum Disorder" in that order.
  • Find what you need? Look at the keywords listed and try incorporating those in your search

Example of a Boolean search in PsycINFO