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SPCE 630: Finding Articles in the Field of Applied Behavior Analysis

Use this guide for tips on getting started doing research in Applied Behavior Analysis.

About this guide

This guide is meant to accompany SPCE 630 assignments where you need to find journal articles on a topic in applied behavior analysis.

While searching the Internet may prove somewhat useful to you, you'll be better served using library databases to find reliable, authoritative research in your field.  As a Ball State student, you are entitled to use the University Libraries, whether in the building or from afar.  This guide should give you some tools you can use for finding the research you need.

Choosing a database

When you're doing academic research:

There are two principle research databases in the field of applied behavior analysis:

OneSearch is our discovery layer, helping you to discover titles in a wide variety of formats and topics.  It will also be a useful tool for you, especially when you're searching for a title you know.  OneSearch includes works about applied behavior analysis.

Constructing and revising database searches: An example

Try using the CHOP, DROP, and OR method for constructing your search.  It allows you to cast your net wide, so you bring up literature which might be related to your topic -- closely or tangentially -- so that you can consider it.

Here is an example of how that might work:

If my topic is "What are some ABA interventions for dealing with rumination?"  PsycINFO will be a good database to use.

  • I'd first chop my topic up into these three areas:
    • ABA
    • intervention
    • rumination
  • Then I'd drop each into a search box, like this:

Put aba, intervention, and rumination in separate search boxes.

  • And then I'd use or between synonyms and related words.  So my search would look like this:

  • I could improve my results further by looking at the records of articles I pull up which seem on-topic, such as this one:

  • The highlighted terms above can be worked into a revised search like this below, putting related terms in the same box with OR in between:


  • Looking at my results, I may determine that I need to remove some of my search terms or add in others.  This can take some time. 
  • Bear in mind that you're unlikely to come up with a list of records where every single title is useful. 
  • Also, unlike in Google searching, the articles that work for you may not be on the first page of results.  Be willing to dig down!

Need an empirical study?

The database PsycINFO includes a nice way in which you can limit your search by the methodology used in the research article.

The place to look for the "Methodology" limiter is way at the bottom of the Advanced Search page.  Choose "EMPIRICAL STUDY" from the drop-down menu, and all of your results should be empirical in nature.