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PSYCH 104 - Introduction to Social Psychology

This guide is intended to help students complete their research projects in Psychology 104

Start With Background Reading

It's important to begin your research by learning something about your subject; in fact, you won't be able to create a focused, manageable thesis unless you already know something about your topic.

This step is important so that you will:

  • Begin building your core knowledge about your topic
  • Be able to put your topic in context
  • Create research questions that drive your search for information
  • Create a list of search terms that will help you find relevant information
  • Know if the information you’re finding is relevant and useful

Reference sources are scholarly sources filled with thorough yet concise discussions that let you know the “who, what, when, why, and where” information on your topic right at the start of your research. You'll find reference sources in the library and online.

Top Picks for Background Reading:

Develop Research Questions

Why Research Questions?

Research questions help you focus your topic and give you a series of questions that you'll spend your research time answering. You'll create your questions based on the background reading that you do.

Watch the brief video below for more information on how and why you create research questions.




Here's an example of questions that I would use to define and focus my research on interpersonal communication and social media.

Broad Topic: The effect of social media on self esteem and behavior

Research Questions to Define Your Topic

  1. Why do people engage through social media?
  2. Has social media changed the way people interact with each other?
  3. How does involvement with social media change the way people perceive themselves?
  4. What major psychological theories relate to my topic?
  5. What scholars are conducting research currently on my topic?
  6. What are the major findings being developed by the current research?

Brainstorm Search Terms

To find information that is relevant to your topic you need to know what words to use for searching.

How Do You Find The Search Terms You Need?

The discipline of psychology has a great tool called, the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms that you can use in MJC's east campus library. The thesaurus shows you words that different search engines and research tools use to organize their information to make it searchable. You can also use it to discover terms that are related to your topic in case you need to broaden or narrow your search.


In addition, Library catalogs and many other search tools use Library of Congress Subject Headings to describe the content of all of their books, eBooks, CDs, DVDs, etc.  Useful subject headings for psychology are:

psychology pathological
psychology, applied
developmental psychology
social psychology
human behavior
interpersonal communication
mental health (you can also use specific conditions as a subject, i.e., schizophrenia)