The search words you use to search article databases like PsycINFO will yield the best results if the words mirror database terms used to describe the articles or are in the text of the articles.
Key Elements of Successful Searching
Synonyms: use more than one word to describe your topic: for example: teenager or adolescent
Truncation: use * to truncate words to find as many forms as possible for a word: for example: addict* will yield addict, addicts, addiction, addictive, etc.
Logical operators OR and AND: for example: addict* AND adolescents will yield articles that deal with both the topics of addict/addicts/addiction/addictive and adolescents (narrows your search); addict* OR substance abuse will yield articles on either addict/addicts/addiction/addictive or substance abuse (broadens your search)
Phrase searching: use N4 to find terms 4 words apart: for example, drug N4 abus* yields articles where the words drug and abuse/abuser/abusing appear within four words of each other
Clarify Your Concepts by Using a Table
If you are researching for treatment for adolescents struggling with drug addiction, here is one possible set of search terms:
Concept: Drug Abuse
drug N4 abus*
substance N4 abus*
narcotic* (or other specific drug names)
Limit to Full Text, Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals, or to English Language Articles If Applicable
Review your search results and use words from the subjects, titles or abstracts to make your search strategy more effective.