Term Paper: Evaluating PsychINFO Malia Van Heukelem

Term Paper: Evaluating PsychINFO
Malia Van Heukelem
LIS 663 – Fall 2013: Dr. Péter Jacsó
December 2, 2013
This assignment to find 10-12 articles or books for a patron on a topic was
distilled from a long inquiry into three main topical components: terrorism,
children and teens, and behavior. PsycINFO is the best source database due to the
behavior component. Synonyms were tested for hit results to arrive at a set of best
terms which were further queried utilizing the options for Any Field, Keyword,
Abstract, Index Terms and the Title fields. Help files were examined and various
tests were run before additional limiters were applied to narrow by languages,
date range and document format to optimize the search to less than 40 highly
pertinent results. The final best results were selected and viewed using the
Display function (with abstract) before printing.
The patron inquiry was very lengthy with many irrelevant terms: “…how
the domestic and international terror attacks and terroristic actions by nations,
groups and individuals may affect the feelings and behavior of children and
teenagers who are witnessing these events directly or see them on TV.” This was
a large amount of information to process at once. Initially, 5 or 6 topical
components were identified before discarding redundancies such as nations,
groups, and individuals (because that covers everything). Likewise, the witness
aspect was discarded since the results tested less useful than the other concepts; if
the child or teen is having behaviors and feelings related to terrorism, then it
follows that they have witnessed events directly or seen them on TV. Of course,
Evaluating PsycINFO/ LIS 663 - Fall 2013
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the child or teen could have heard about the terrorism on the radio or read about it
in a newspaper, but this was considered insignificant to the overall topic.
Synonyms were added to the initial search terms to create the following list with
corresponding hit results. (Figure 1)
(Figure 1 – Draft list of synonyms with hit counts)
In the list above, initially, there were only three natural language terms
that stood out for the terrorism component plus the Terrorism Index Term. Thus,
the HSPLS’s Gale Virtual Reference Library / Encyclopedia of Mental Health,
2012 was searched using the most successful terms (terror* AND child* AND
behavior*) to find an additional useful synonym for terror. The term PTSD was
added as a successful match. (Figure 2) Best terms were determined by hit results.
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(Figure 2 – PTSD confirmed as useful synonym for “terror”)
After each of the draft synonyms were tested, the following were
identified as the final best terms based on number of hits and pertinence of the
resulting articles: (Figure 3)
(Figure 3 – Final best terms for the three main topical components)
The first round of tests (searches of the combined best terms for Any
Field, Keyword, Abstract, Index Terms and Title fields) were limited by full text.
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By using this function, the result lists were too narrow and discarded all the books
since the full text button automatically limits results to the PsycARTICLES
database. (Figure 4)
(Figure 4 – Selecting “APA Full-Text Only” is too limiting)
Broadening the search by removing the APA Full Text Only limiter opened
up the results to retrieve many pertinent articles and books that could then be
narrowed using very specific searches where each of the topical components
appears in the Title field. Results that are not designated as “full text” should not
be discarded since it was found that the majority of results could still be accessed
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in full text and/or through the University of Hawaii’s Voyager online public
access catalog using the Find It button. (Figure 5)
(Figure 5 – “Find It” button locates full text via various sources and Voyager)
Help Files
PsycINFO help files were examined to learn more about the functionality
of certain key features such as language searching, truncation, Boolean operators,
proximity operators, and saving the search history.
Inconsistent results were returned when using the Language field search.
This prompted testing for any publications in a language other than English.
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Entered NOT English in Language field as instructed in the video tutorial which
retrieved: “167,537 results for Language: English”. Then attempted a no holds
barred search with “the” in Any Field which returned an error message: “The
search engine could not process your query”. (Figure 6)
(Figure 6 – Search attempt to determine extent of non-English language records)
Searching resumed using “a” instead of “the” which retrieved: 2,081 results for
Any Field: a NOT Language: English. One of the tests using only “terror*” NOT
Language: English returned only two results; the first one in English. (Figure 7)
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(Figure 7 – Limited to language NOT English which returned only two results;
the first one is published in English)
One nice option in PyscINFO is the extensive list of searchable fields. As
discussed in class, it may be appropriate to search only in the Title field or
Abstract fields for the best match when there are many pertinent results available.
The help file explanation of truncation and wildcard searching says to use
an asterisk. This is helpful since it is intuitive for searchers experienced with other
platforms such as ProQuest and EBSCO. (Figure 8)
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(Figure 8 – Help file: truncation mentions wildcard searching, but is limited to
the asterisk)
PsycINFO does not recognize the “#” symbol which was tested using a
simple search for Any Field = colo#r and stated “did not match any documents.”
Tested Any Field = colo?r which returned 102,015 results; the same search was
narrowed to the Title field and found results for both colour and color. Upon
examination of the results list and the fact that the number more than doubled
when using the “?”, some unexpected words were included: colon, colony,
Colombia, etc., indicating the database is applying truncation. The test was
repeated searching Title field for “colo*r” which returned the same number of
results which confirms that the “?” applies the same truncation as the “*” even
though it was omitted from the help file explanation. (Figure 9)
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(Figure 9 – Adding an “*” or “?” in “colo?r” more than doubled the results)
Proximity searching in PsycINFO is similar to ProQuest; must use capital
NEAR/#. (Figure 10) Tested using a number and without; same function either
way, so long as NEAR is capitalized.
(Figure 10 – Help file: explanation of proximity searching)
Boolean operators are case sensitive and must be typed in all caps and
have the same functionality through the advanced search boxes whether
parentheses are added or not. The explanation in the help file explains the
functionality and provides good illustrations for clarification.
Searches Beyond PsycINFO
Prior to obtaining confirmation that the assignment could be limited to the
PsycINFO database, tests were performed on a few other options. UH Library’s
One Search / Primo resource discovery tool was tested to see if there was an easy
way to locate full text articles and books in Hamilton Library or a nearby branch
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of the HSPLS. The PsycINFO database was not included in the search facets in a
quick and dirty search of the most successful terms for the three main topical
components: “terror*” AND “behavior*” AND “child*”. However, this resource
offers to limit by full text articles in the American Psychological Association
(APA) source database which could prove useful if PsycINFO was not available.
After testing various terms and search combinations in the UHM
PsycINFO database, the HSPLS databases were examined. PsycINFO was not
located as a standalone HSPLS database; however EBSCO’s Psychology &
Behavioral Sciences Collection claims to be “…the world’s largest full text
psychology database …” (Figure 11)
(Figure 11 – Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection: “world’s largest full
text psychology database…”
This would appear to be an excellent source to address the query.
Unfortunately, after the first search of the database, a recurring error message was
returned each time over the next two hours and was repeated three days later.
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(Figure 12) It could not be determined whether this was caused by anti-virus
software or high traffic on the site.
(Figure 12 – Error messages received: attempting to access HSPLS database)
Returning to search PsycINFO through UHM, it was noted the Psychology
and Behavioral Sciences Collection was also available. To run a quick test, the
three best terms: terror* AND child* AND behavior* were searched (Figure 13)
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(Figure 13 – Testing number of pertinent records: Psychology and Behavioral
Sciences Collection)
The same test was executed on the PsycINFO database with a far larger result list.
(Figure 14)
(Figure 14 –Testing number of pertinent records: PsycINFO)
The two databases were further tested with a simple search of terror* with
the Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection returning 3,774 results and
PsycINFO returning 10,244 results confirming PsycINFO to be the more robust
Out of curiosity, the same search was run using the One Search / Primo
discovery tool with 96,914 total records; however, when selecting just the
American Psychological Association source database, there were only 3,801
records. (Figure 15) This is far less than the stand alone PsycINFO database.
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(Figure 15 – Testing number of pertinent records: Primo / One Search)
Best Features:
Citation searching in PsycINFO is far superior to anything seen in the
EBSCO and ProQuest platforms. Once a highly pertinent result is selected, the
bottom of the screen includes all the cited references with links to the articles in
which the citation appears, who cited the referenced article and the DOI or digital
object identifier (Figure 16). This is a powerful feature for browsing; furthermore,
there are additional options for specific searches using the Citation Finder and
Cited References tabs.
(Figure 16 – Exceptional features for citation based searching)
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With the options above, a researcher has many desirable features at their
fingertips. However, there is something that would make it even more useful
when culling articles and that is to add a line with the total cited references and
total cited by numbers under each result. (Figure 17)
(Figure 17 – Recommendation: insert total number of citations and times cited
into results list)
There are several nice features in PsycINFO. When the database is
opened, it defaults to the Advanced Search over Easy Search. Quotes around the
terms are helpful when phrase searching, but make no difference when using
individual terms in the preset field searches which facilitate Boolean searching. It
is simple to expand the number of search results per page from 25 to 100 or 250
by checking a box at the bottom of the search page. The sort option defaults to
“year;” while “relevance,” very helpful “author” and “title” are also available.
Results are easy to browse and will highlight search terms if logged into MY
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PsycNET. There are many helpful options for extracting selected items such as
save, email, print, etc. (Figure 18)
(Figure 18 – Highlighted matching search terms plus variety of functions for
saving individual search results are nice features)
The results list includes several useful facets down the left side of the
screen. (Figure 19) It is easy to narrow by any of the facets by clicking the item.
Unfortunately, the Age Group facet does not suit this particular query’s needs.
There is already a group for Childhood (birth to 12 yrs) that would be useful if
there were another group for Teens (13-19 yrs).
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(Figure 19 – Efficient use of space on results screen)
One of the best features is the variety of options in the My List section.
(Figure 20) The final best result list was most attractive utilizing the Display
feature as an output option. The Save function defaulted to a text file format
which did not produce a well formatted list. The Export function generates a list
using citation software; in this case Zotero was tested. The Email function is an
excellent feature, but for the purposes of generating a nicely formatted list of
citations with just the abstract, the Display feature is best. The Print function
produces the same format as Display, but it’s nice to preview first. The Add to
My List feature is outstanding for selecting and saving individual or batches of
results for later consideration.
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(Figure 20 – My List features)
Worst Features
The most surprising find using the PsycINFO database was located after
creating an account and browsing the MyPsycNET tabs. The new account was
created in November to analyze this database for the first time, but the purchase
history indicates an item was purchased in February. This is not related to the
scope of the assignment, other than discrediting the accuracy of the database.
(Figure 21)
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(Figure 21 – Inaccurate data in purchase history)
The Saved Searches function is frustrating. The page layout is inefficient
if utilizing a complex query. Once all terms were input and tested using the
various fields, the computer monitor could only display 2 or 3 searches. The
Action area on the right column should be shrunk to expand the Query column. It
is easy to login and return to execute or revise prior saved searches, but the saved
searches lack a result count for easy browsing and comparison. (Figure 22) The
Recent Searches has only a slightly better format with the larger Query column,
but the searches must be saved individually, printed or captured as screenshots
which again may only fit 2 or 3 searches, depending on the complexity of the
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(Figure 22 – Saved Searches screen layout is inefficient)
Navigating back and forth between searching and consulting the help file
should be improved with a jump to search function. It was very frustrating to hit
the back button repeatedly before returning to a search screen. Through repeated
visits to the help file, the issue was resolved by opening the help file in a new tab.
PsycINFO has many outstanding software features and only a few areas
that need improvement. Based on the patron’s needs for results in the range of 1012 articles or books on the topic, the query was easily modified until the final
results list was below 40 pertinent articles. (Figure 22)
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(Figure 22 – Final best query)
PsycINFO has outstanding bells and whistles for researchers. The
strongest points are citation based searching and the ease and variety of options
for output formatting once items are saved to My List. The addition of citation
numbers in the individual results would be a powerful addition for researchers to
quickly analyze which results to save and discard. The format for Saved Searches
and navigating back and forth between searching and help files need the most
Gale Virtual Reference Library: Encyclopedia of Mental Health, “Post-traumatic
stress disorder” 2012, p. 1186.
Gale Virtual Reference Library: Stress Related Disorders Sourcebook, Chapter
25: Anxiety Disorders: “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” 2011, p. 236.
APA PsycNET Help Files (http://help.psycnet.org/psycnet/getting-started/)
Primo / One Search Manoa resource discovery tool
Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection
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