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PSYC 01B Engelke: Prepare for Lit. Review

Introduction to Psychological Research Methods library guide.

Start With Background Reading

It's important to begin your research by learning something about your subject; in fact, you won't be able to create a focused, manageable thesis unless you already know something about your topic.

This step is important so that you will:

  • Begin building your core knowledge about your topic
  • Be able to put your topic in context
  • Create research questions that drive your search for information
  • Create a list of search terms that will help you find relevant information
  • Know if the information you’re finding is relevant and useful

Reference sources are scholarly sources filled with thorough yet concise discussions that let you know the “who, what, when, why, and where” information on your topic right at the start of your research.  

Top Picks for Background Reading:

Develop Research Questions

Why Research Questions?

Research questions help you focus your topic and give you a series of questions that you'll spend your research time answering. You'll create your questions based on the background reading that you do.

Watch the video below for more information on the benefits of created research questions.


Here's an example of questions that I would use to define and focus my research on interpersonal communication and social media.

Broad Topic: The effect of social media on self esteem and behavior

Research Questions to Define Your Topic

  1. Why do people engage through social media?
  2. Has social media changed the way people interact with each other?
  3. How does involvement with social media change the way people perceive themselves?
  4. What major psychological theories relate to my topic?
  5. What scholars are conducting research currently on my topic?
  6. What are the major findings being developed by the current research?

Why Research Questions?

MJC Librarian, Kathleen Ennis, explains why you should always begin your search for relevant, credible information by creating a list of research questions that will drive your research quest.

Search Terms

Searching can be more successful if you find a variety of words to describe what you are researching.  For example, the APA uses a Thesaurus specific to psychological published research.  This is in print, and is also available on the EbscoHOST database called PscyINFO under Thesaurus.

PscyINFO - Search for abstracts of Journal articles and use the Thesaurus.

CQ Researcher

CQ Researcher provides articles researched on a wide variety of current topics, such as "traumatic brain injury" and "autism"  You can read the articles to gain an overview on the issues related to that topic. The Bibliography and Next Steps sections provide information on other sources you can go to.