Skip to Main Content

Psychology: 85-356: Expertise: The Cognitive (Neuro)Science of Mastering Almost Any Skill: Finding Research Articles

A guide on how on finding literature and using library resources

Interlibrary Loan Service

You never need to pay for an article! If we do not have access to an article, you can use our Interlibrary Loan Service (ILLiad). A free PDF of the article will be emailed to you.

Useful Resource for Accessing Articles

The LibKey Nomad browser extension provides one-click access to the Libraries' full text resources as you find research on the web and in databases. Find information on how to install here

Types of Scholarly Information

You will encounter many types of articles and it is important to distinguish between these different categories of scholarly literature.  Keep in mind the following definitions.

PRIMARY RESEARCH ARTICLE:  A primary research article describes an empirical study that aims to gain new knowledge on a topic through direct or indirect observation and research.  These include quantitative or qualitative data and analysis. In science, a primary article will often include the following sections:  Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.

REVIEW ARTICLEIn the scientific literature, this is a type of article that provides a synthesis of existing research on a particular topic.  These are useful when you want to get an idea of a body of research that you are not yet familiar with.

PEER-REVIEWEDRefers to articles that have undergone a rigorous review process by peers in their discipline, often including revisions to the original manuscript, before publication in a scholarly journal. Primary research articles in reputable psychology journals are always peer-reviewed. Reviews are often peer-reviewed as well. 

Finding Full-Text Articles

Most research articles are not publicly available and require an institutional subscription to access them. If you have citations for specific articles, search for the article in the Library Catalog to see if have access to it. The Catalog will show whether or not we have access to the electronic version and/or the print version. If the CMU library collection doesn't have what you're looking for, you can request an article scan via Interlibrary Loan.

You can also search for specific articles by putting the article title in the Title field of the Web of Science database or in Google Scholar.

Hint: Install the LibKey Nomad browser extension to have easier access to the full-text.

If you need help accessing articles, please contact a librarian by filling out the form on this page.

Search Tips for Finding Relevant Articles

  • START WITH A REVIEW ARTICLE. Review articles are excellent resources for finding a lot of primary research articles on a given topic. For example, if I'm interested in the development of visual cortical neurons, I could start my search by reading a recent review article on that topic and then look at the references section of the paper to find primary research articles.
  • FIND ONE OR A FEW RELEVANT PRIMARY RESEARCH ARTICLES. Having even a single relevant article of interest can be very useful in performing a literature search. You can look at the References section of that paper to find older related articles or the Cited References link in the Citation Network tab in Web of Science. But how do you find more recent articles that have used and cited the article of interest in their work? You can find all of the more recent articles that have cited your article of interest by clicking on the Times Cited in the Citation Network tab in Web of Science. This is a great way to understand how your article of interest has built on prior research and how it has influenced more recent research. 


Therefore, by finding a single relevant paper, we can easily find many more relevant articles by looking at the Cited References and Times Cited links. Together, all of these articles will help us understand how this article has contributed to the collective body of knowledge on this topic.