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Behavioral Science Guide

This guide contains resources and information relevant to behavioral science courses


Finding Resources

When you are working on your assignment, it can be daunting at first to find sources to use.  However, it is not as difficult as you might think!  On this page, we will go over the different between different publication types, searching databases for articles, looking through the Library's catalog for books and ebooks, and evaluating websites to determine if they are trustworthy.

Peer-Reviewed Resources

Peer-Reviewed and Scholarly Publications

Your instructors will often ask you to use "peer-reviewed," "scholarly,' or "refereed" sources for your assignments.  The three terms all refer to the same types of articles, which go through something called the peer review process. 

These articles are preferred by your instructors and the scholarly community in general because the peer review process makes them more trustworthy than articles from non-scholarly journals and magazines.  Authors can print anything they want in non-peer-reviewed journals and magazines, and their articles can contain bias, factual errors, or even outright lies!

Bias and errors in scholarly articles will be caught and fixed during the peer review process.  The process is very rigorous.  Here is how it works:

  1. The author sends the draft of the article to the journal's editor.
  2. The editor sends the draft to several experts, who read it and look for bias and errors.
  3. The editor sends the draft back to the author with notes on what needs to be fixed.
  4. The author resubmits a new draft to the editor.
  5. The editor ends the new draft to the experts, who look for more bias and errors.
  6. The editor sends the draft back to the author with notes on what needs to be fixed.
  7. The author submits a new draft.
  8. This process repeats until the editor and the experts are happy with the draft, and find no more problems.  It can take months.


Finding Peer Reviewed and Scholarly Articles

The easiest way to find scholarly articles is to look in the Library's databases.  On the search page of the database, there will be an option to limit the search results to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles.  Check that box, and all of your results will be scholarly.  It's just that easy!

If you are trying to determine if a journal in print is peer reviewed, there are several clues.  First, check the publication information.  It is usually an entire page in the front or back of the journal, and has the publisher, editor, and other information printed on it.  It will sometimes state that the journal is peer reviewed, but not always.  If the journal has over a dozen editors listed, this is another clue that the journal is peer reviewed.

Other clues are that peer reviewed journals typically have no advertisements and have few or no full-color pictures.  They usually have a lot of charts and tables, and are written in a very academic, formal style.

If you ever have any trouble finding a scholarly article or trying to determine if a journal is peer reviewed, contact a librarian!

Searching Database Gallery

Start at the SPC Library Home Page

You can access links to a variety of library resources by clicking on the "Hours of Operation, Technology Requests, and Other Library Services" button, including links to library databases. To navigate to the databases, simply click on this button and you will be directed to the Library Services and Policies page.

Select Databases

Once you have found the Library Services and Policies page, explore the side navigation menu. Towards the bottom, you'll find a dropdown menu under "Library Resources," featuring the databases link. Click on this "Databases" option in the dropdown to access the databases page.

Select Your Database

When you land on the database page, you will discover a well-organized array of databases categorized by subject or in an A-Z list. To find resources for your course, simply click on one of the subjects located on the screen under “Subject Databases.” We also have a short list of general databases that are useful for any subject. For this exercise, select Academic Search Complete, which is a general database with resources on a wide variety of topics, near the center of the screen.

Academic Search Complete

The Search Screen

While every database has a slightly different search screen, there are a few key features to remember for all of them. If you have the option to select "full text" make certain that this is selected. If your professor requires that your references be scholarly or peer-reviewed, click on that check box so that everything in your results will fit that requirement. Academic Search Complete has its search bar at the top. I used "video games" as a keyword search, which is the default if you do not select an option next to the search term such as title, author or subject.

Too Many Search Results

Too Many Results

With such a broad search term and only a key word search, most databases will give too many results to look through for a student with a research paper. This particular search gave over 30,000 results.

Narrow Search

Narrow Your Terms

The easiest way to reduce the number of results is to narrow your topic. Rather than searching for "video games," look for "video games and senior citizens" or "video games and women." You can also limit the search by selecting a field that "video games must appear in such as "TI Title" which would limit the search to about 2,000 results rather than 30,000.

Publication Limiter

Limit Your Results

Another way to decrease the size of your results list is to look at the Refine Results area of Academic Search Complete. This portion may look different in other databases, but should have a similar function. Some professors will require that your articles or other references be recent. The best way to ensure that an article is current is to set the Publication Date range of your search to about 5-10 years.

Other Limiters

Limit Your Results Further

You can also limit your results by a variety of other factors. The most useful tend to be: Source Types, Subject, and Language. Subject: Thesaurus Term and Subject often serve the same function when limiting your search result. Use whichever you feel works the best for you.

Article Parts

View an Article

When you have a reasonable number of articles to look through, no more than one hundred is usually my limit, you can finally start selecting an article from them. Once you have chosen an article, click on the title to pull up a page with an abstract of the article. This contains the article summary, links to the full text, and a variety of ways to use the article. In the image below, the full text options are surrounded by an orange rectangle. The ways to print, e-mail, and save the article are in a blue circle. I have also highlighted search terms for other articles with similar topics in red stars. These search terms are how you can go from one article you find that is useful to another one.


Article Citation

The article abstract also contains a link to a citation for the article. It will show the citation for the article in a variety of formats including ALA and MLA. Make certain that you check the citation that you are given because the one provided will most likely have errors.

Full Text

Read the Full Text

This particular article has both a HTML and a PDF full text option. The HTML option will pull up the full text underneath the abstract that you are looking at. The PDF will open another page with the PDF. If you want to print the PDF use the print link from within the PDF as shown in the picture below. You can also cite the article on this page with the icon shown in the blue circle. 

Searching the Library Catalog

Search for books using the catalog search bar.

Searching the Catalog

You can search for books and other items using the Library's online catalog.  Simply type in the title, author, or subject of the item in the search bar.

Results Page

On this page, you see the results of a search for "Dune."  On the left side are options to limit the search results.  For example, you can limit the results to only show available, to items by one author, to one subject, to one format (books, ebooks, or DVDs), or any combination of the above.

This is a catalog record.

A Catalog Record

From this screen, you may see the catalog's record. To access it, click on the title of one of the search results on the right. To check availability, you will need to click into the record.

A detailed look at a catalog record.

Item Description

If you click the title you can see detailed information on the item.  Bibliographic information, subjects that the item is about, and even a summary or description may be found here.  This page is very useful when deciding if this is an item you wish to check out.

The book's call number.

Checking Out An Item

Item availability is listed at the bottom of the record. The number of copies available for checkout is indicated in the availability heading.

If you decide you want to check out an item, write down the entire call number. You will need this to find the item in the library.  If you are not familiar with finding books in a library, ask a librarian for assistance.  We are happy to help!

If you want an item from another campus, or if you would like to reserve items for yourself, click the "Place Hold" button  on the right hand side of the page and follow the prompts. The items will be pulled from the shelves and held for you. You can pick them up at the Library's circulation desk.

Evaluating Websites

Evaluating and Selecting Websites


The internet is full of useful information, but it is also full of false, outdated, and inaccurate information.  When selecting websites to use in your research, you must evaluate the websites to make sure that they are good sources to use.  An effective method of evaluating websites is called the CRAAP Test.  This was developed by Sarah Blakeslee, a librarian at California State University.  (More information and a citation for the test can be found at

CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.  As part of the test, you consider each of those aspects while evaluating the website.  It sounds like a lot, but becomes easy and natural after you do it a few times.

Currency: How current is the website?  In other words, is it out of date?  This will depend on what you're researching.  If you are researching medical information or science, you want websites that are at most only a few years old.  On the other hand, information on subjects like English and art that is a little older may still be useful.  In short, the faster a field changes and grows, the newer you need your information to be.

Relevance: Does this site really apply to your research?  It might appear to at first glance, but be careful.  You'll need to read over the site to make that decision, as the site may cover your overall topic, but may not support the argument you are making in your paper.

Authority: Who is the author of the website, and are they an expert on the subject?  The nature of the internet is that anyone can make a website on any subject they want.  Some convincing-looking webpages may be written by people who are not really experts on the subject, or they may be biased.  A good place to check is "About the author" sections on websites.  They usually list the author's experience and credentials.

Accuracy: How trustworthy is the site?  Do the authors give evidence for their arguments?  Are their arguments one-sided or biased, or based on old information?  The "About the author" is again a good place to check, and it may help to google the author's name to see if they are experts on the subject, or if they belong to any groups that support a one-sided agenda.

Purpose: What is the point of the website?  Is it to inform, entertain, or persuade readers of a certain viewpoint?  Or is the site trying to sell something?  Ideally, for an assignment, you would want to use websites that inform.  Although you cannot rely on it exclusively, one tip for evaluating the purpose of a website would be to look at its web domain type.  Websites that end in ".com" or ".biz" are commercial sites that are more likely to sell you something or entertain you.  Websites ending in ".org" are more likely to be informative, but they may be persuasive.  And, finally, ".gov" and ".edu" sites are most likely to be informative, but you still need to evaluate them.

Using the CRAAP method to evaluate websites is a good way to ensure that you are getting good information.  If you are still unsure about a site, however, feel free to contact a librarian.  We are experts at evaluating information, and can help you to determine the appropriateness of a source.