G Searching literature - a very brief intro

Note that the below is my personal view. Other people might recommend other approaches.

  • For behavioural studies, I search Web of Science.
  • For neuroimaging studies, I search PubMed.
  • If NUsearch does the job for you, use it.
  • I use Google (or Google Scholar) to search for PDFs we don’t have access to.

A bit more detail: To be honest, the Web of Science search isn’t great in many respects. My main gripe is that it’s very unforgiving. Mistype a single word in a title search? 0 hits. Forgot a space between two words in the title? 0 hits. However, it is a very comprehensive database for behavioural psychological research and has a powerful advanced search (which doesn’t have the most intuitive syntax though).

PubMed on the other hand is much more forgiving. If you get things slightly wrong, PubMed is still likely to find an article. However, while the database does index some behavioural psychological research, its focus is—as its name suggests—on medical (incl. neuroimaging) research.

Please note that both search engines have an extremely useful feature: forward citation searching. This means that these search engines can show you which articles cited a given article after it was published. On Web of Science, this feature is called “Times Cited” and you have to click on the number next to “Times Cited” to see which articles cited a given article. On PubMed, this is called “Cited by” and you can either scroll down to the “Cited by” section or click on “Cited by” under “Page navigation”.

I haven’t used NUsearch much, to be honest, mainly because it was only introduced relatively recently. If it does the job for you, by all means, use it.

If we don’t have access to a PDF via the library, I tend to search Google or Google Scholar. These days, many authors put their articles or manuscripts online and search engines can find them on their personal websites or on preprint sites such as PsyArXiv.