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Psychology

Guide to library research in Psychology

Getting started with psychology research

If you are new to conducting research:
Consider reviewing the Starting Your Research tutorial to learn the phases and processes of doing research.

To locate or browse books on psychology in the library:

  • We use the Library of Congress Classification System to organize physical books in the library. The classification system uses letters at the beginning of the call number to organize books by topic
    • Psychology: BF - 3rd floor Honnold
    • Social Psychology: HM1001-1281 - 1st floor Mudd

Start your psychology research with these key resources:

Primary v. Secondary Sources

1. Introduction

Whether conducting research in the social sciences, humanities (especially history), arts, or natural sciences, the ability to distinguish between primary and secondary source material is essential. Basically, this distinction illustrates the degree to which the author of a piece is removed from the actual event being described, informing the reader as to whether the author is reporting impressions first hand (or is first to record these immediately following an event), or conveying the experiences and opinions of others—that is, second hand.
 

2. Primary sources

These are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents (i.e., they are not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews and other such unpublished works. They may also include published pieces such as newspaper or magazine articles (as long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, or original literary or theatrical works.
 

3. Secondary sources

The function of these is to interpret primary sources, and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event or phenomenon under review. Secondary source materials, then, interpret, assign value to, conjecture upon, and draw conclusions about the events reported in primary sources. These are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles or books, but may include radio or television documentaries, or conference proceedings.
 

4. Defining questions

When evaluating primary or secondary sources, the following questions might be asked to help ascertain the nature and value of material being considered:

  • How does the author know these details (names, dates, times)? Was the author present at the event or soon on the scene?
  • Where does this information come from—personal experience, eyewitness accounts, or reports written by others?
  • Are the author's conclusions based on a single piece of evidence, or have many sources been taken into account (e.g., diary entries, along with third-party eyewitness accounts, impressions of contemporaries, newspaper accounts)?

Ultimately, all source materials of whatever type must be assessed critically and even the most scrupulous and thorough work is viewed through the eyes of the writer/interpreter. This must be taken into account when one is attempting to arrive at the 'truth' of an event.

Find Books in The Claremont Colleges Library and Beyond

Use the Library Search on the Library's Homepage to find books.

Finding Papers: use

SSRN (Social Science Research Network)

SSRN is a searchable online library that enables authors to post their papers and abstracts easily and free of charge. The vast majority of papers can be downloaded free of charge as well. The only exceptions are papers whose copyright is held by third parties that request a download fee. SSRN provides a space for a variety of content types to be accessed beyond the traditional research article, including gray literature, book reviews, multimedia files, and datasets.

ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) ICPSR maintains and provides access to a vast archive of social science data for research and instruction (over 14,000 discrete studies/surveys with more than 65,000 datasets). Since 1963, ICPSR has offered training in quantitative methods to facilitate effective data use.

Social Sciences Librarian

Mary Martin's picture
Mary Martin
Contact:
909-621-8923