Smith College Psychology Majors Research Skills

What Should Psychology Majors Know?

By the time they graduate all majors in Psychology should have a clear understanding of how to navigate the system of information resources available at Smith. At the very least they should graduate from Smith with the ability to recognize and evaluate high quality research. We want to provide majors with the skills to track down relevant information on any topic of interest to them. Ideally this should include (1) the ability to locate information from professional data bases that abstract knowledge in psychology (such as PSYCINFO), (2) the ability to evaluate the quality of this information, and (3) the ability to effectively use this information for answering questions that might pertain to their own life-long learning or their ability to initiate independent research.

Writing Intensive Classes

Students who have taken writing intensive classes should already have the learned the following skills:

  • to define and articulate the need for information and identify a variety of
    types and formats of potential sources for information beyond the web search engine. (AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to identify and locate the two most appropriate types of information needed to complete their assignment.)
  • to articulate and apply initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources. (AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to distinguish between popular and scholarly materials in a variety of formats such as books, periodical literature, and web sites.)
  • to acknowledge and cite the sources used in conducting research for an assignment using an acceptable style guide. (AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to locate the appropriate style guide & emergency online help).
    These skills may be regarded by all students as a base for further study.

These skills may be regarded by all students as a base for further study. Help is available through the Neilson Library Reference Department's Ask a Librarian options.

Beginning Psychology Majors

First and second year psychology students will be introduced to basic information literacy skills.

  • Beginning students will learn how information sources in psychology are accessed through standard psychological data bases (such as PSYCARTICLES and PSYCINFO), and including secondary data bases such as Education Abstracts);
  • Beginning students will be taught how to evaluate the merits of the research they are citing as well as the credentials of the investigators;
  • Beginning students need to understand that they belong to a specific discipline with many different types of professional organizations and identifiable bodies of literature;
  • The importance of journals for advancing knowledge in psychology will be emphasized;
  • The following journals cover a broad range of psychological research each year:

Psychology Journals - Located in the Science Library

Call Number
(The) American Psychologist BF 1 .C87
Annual Review of Psychology (book) BF 30 .A56
Current Directions in Psychological Science BF 1 .A55
Psychological Bulletin BF 1 .P75
Psychological Review BF 1 .P7
  • The following represent important specialty journals in the field:

Specialty Journals for Research Tracks in Psychology - Science Library

Mind and Brain: Cognition; Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience; Journal of Neuroscience; Brain Research; Physiology and Behavior
Health and Illness: Health Psychology; Psychosomatic Medicine; Annals of Behavioral Medicine; Behaviour Research and Therapy; Behavior Therapy; Cognitive Therapy and Research; Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Person and Society: Journal of Personality; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Social issues; Political Psychology; Psychology of Women Quarterly; Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology; Developmental Psychology; Journal of Early Adolescence; Journal of Research on Adolescence

Advanced Psychology Majors

  • Advanced students should be able to apply their skills in an autonomous way to conduct a comprehensive literature search on a psychological topic of interest to them.
  • Advanced students should be able to apply their skills to lay the groundwork for independent research with faculty guidance.

In Which Classes Should Students Learn These Skills?

The Psychology Department incorporates information literacy into courses across levels; a sampling is below.

Breadth Courses
Foundational Psychology 100: Introduction to Psychology
Psychology 120: Human Cognition
Psychology 140: Health Psychology
Psychology 150: Abnormal Psychology
Psychology 165: Adult Development
Intermediate Psychology 201: Statistical Methods for Undergraduate Research
Psychology 202: Introduction to Research Methods
Psychology 213: Language Acquisition
Psychology 215: Brain States
Psychology 253: Developmental Psychopathology
Psychology 266: Psychology of Women and Gender
Advanced Psychology 301: Advanced Research Design and Analysis
Psychology 315: Autism Spectrum Disorders
Psychology 326: Topics in Biopyschology - Behavioral Epigenetics
Psychology 355: Seminar in the Scientific Basis of Psychotherapy
Psychology 374: Research Seminar on Categorization and Intergroup Behavior

In addition, as a scientific discipline, the psychology department works closely with students in conducting original empirical research. Students may work in faculty labs or, with faculty approval, initiate an independent research project. In both of these instances students are routinely asked to conduct literature searches in order to contribute to the research enterprise. Students who work with faculty on research often enroll in Psychology 400 (Special Studies) or Psychology 432d (Honors Thesis). In recent years approximately 70 psychology students a year work with faculty in their labs. Finally, many of our other introductory (100-level) and intermediate (200-level) courses require a review of some part of the psychology literature to complete written assignments (e.g., a scientific literature review on a topic relevant for each particular course).

Ethical Issues

Students must learn how to make clear distinctions between received knowledge and the production of new knowledge. The ethical use of information means that students must be able to acknowledge when they incorporate the work of others into their own work. Therefore, every written or oral production in the discipline must clearly state its sources. This ethical issue will be enforced in all psychology courses at Smith College.

June 10, 2014