PsycINFO® Expert Tip: Searching by Keyword Across Platforms

Keyword searching is a good fit for researchers who are new to a topic and want to get the full scope of the research available. Before you begin searching, you should be aware of the differences between keywords and index terms. Also, note the platform you use to access PsycINFO®, since it may search additional fields alongside keyword.


Keywords (also called Key Concepts or Identifiers) are words or brief phrases that describe the document’s content. The list of keywords for an article is often provided by the author or publisher, though sometimes it is created by APA staff. Keywords can be any word or phrase, and so they are “uncontrolled.”

Index Terms (also called Subjects or Subject Headings) are chosen by APA staff from a pre-exiting list of major topics. This means that Index Terms are a “controlled” vocabulary.


Unlike the other PsycINFO fields, searching by keyword pulls in results from additional fields on some platforms. This means if you run the same PsycINFO keyword search on different platforms, you may get a different set of results. If you notice you are getting results that don’t include the keywords you searched for, check the index terms field or the title field for the terms.


Below are the fields that are included in a PsycINFO keyword search on each platform.

  • On EBSCOhost, select KW keywords to search the keywords, or SU Subjects to search keywords and index terms (DE Subjects [exact])
  • On Ovid, select key concepts to search the keywords
  • On ProQuest, you can select identifier (keyword) to search for keywords, or subject heading (all) to search keywords and index terms (MJSUB)
  • On APA PsycNET, select keywords to search for keywords, index terms, and title



Here is an APA PsycNET record where a keyword search for “big bang theory” led to a record with the phrase in the title, but not in the keyword field.

You can search by keyword to become familiar with a new topic, identify the best journals or authors in an area, or see different perspectives on an issue. However, if you are planning to search on a topic over a long period of time, or revisit a saved search, we recommend using Index Terms instead. Searching by Index Term returns more consistent results because they are assigned from a controlled list and because they return the same records regardless of platform – no additional fields are searched.


You can learn more about keywords and other PsycINFO vocabularies in our previous post on searching with keywords, Index Terms, and more.

Related resource: How & Why to Use the Thesaurus tutorials, a guide to searching with index terms

New Handbooks: APA Handbook of Giftedness and Talent & APA Handbook of Forensic Neuropsychology

The APA Handbooks in Psychology series was launched in 2011 to provide comprehensive overviews and in-depth study of specific subfields within psychology. All of the Handbooks are included in the PsycBOOKS® database, and titles are also available individually.

The series currently contains 26 authoritative titles, including the 2014 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology.

The most recent addition to the series, the APA Handbook of Giftedness and Talent, was published in August 2017. It incorporates the most recent thinking and cutting-edge research from a wide range of fields related to gifted education, including developmental and social psychology, the neurosciences, cognitive science, and education.

Earlier this summer, the APA Handbook of Forensic Neuropsychology, was published in July 2017. This handbook covers the scientific and clinical neuropsychological advances and their application in forensic contexts.

PsycBOOKS users on APA PsycNET® (including subscribers to APA PsycNET Gold, Gold Plus, and Platinum), EBSCOhost, Ovid and ProQuest can access the entire series by browsing PsycBOOKS or by performing a title search for a particular handbook.

Institutions also have the option of purchasing handbooks individually. Print only, Electronic only, or Electronic + Print options are available through APA, with electronic access provided via the APA PsycNET® platform. For more information on pricing and availability, please see the APA website or contact us at

PsycINFO® Expert Tip: Author, Journal, and Test Lookup

On APA PsycNET®’s Advanced Search page, there are three Search Tools that can help you choose the name of an author, a journal, or a test to add to your search. Author Lookup can search for records in all APA Databases, while Journal Lookup works with PsycINFO® and PsycARTICLES®, and Test Lookup (added in 2017) works with  PsycTESTS®.

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Tutorial Thursday: Importing References into Your My References List

It’s Tutorial Thursday! In this series, we explore APA’s library of video tutorials available on the PsycINFO® YouTube channel and the APA Style CENTRAL® YouTube channel. Please feel free to link to or embed our videos in your library websites or LibGuides, course management systems, or other locations where students, faculty, and researchers will find them.

For today’s edition of Tutorial Thursday, we’d like to highlight a video on our APA Style CENTRAL YouTube channel: Importing References into Your My References List.

References can be imported as a .ris file (or compatible .txt file) from a research platform, such as APA PsycNET®, or from a reference manager, such as RefWorks. A .ris file is the standardized format that allows programs to exchange bibliographic records.

This short tutorial will help you use APA Style CENTRAL’s built-in tools to:

  • Import references by uploading an RIS file;
  • Edit these imported references in your My References list.

Please feel free to link to this tutorial in any location where students, faculty, and researchers will find it!

Want to learn more? View related resources:

Webinar Alert: Fall PsycINFO Sessions for Librarians

Our fall semester lineup of webinars for librarians kicks off on September 19. If you’re looking to expand your search skills, or just need a PsycINFO refresher, we hope you’ll join us! We offer two different one-hour sessions, both of which include live search demos.

Behind the Scenes of PsycINFO – In this session, we review the structure of APA Database records, covering the elements of the bibliographic citation, controlled vocabulary and indexing. We also go over value-added fields, such as classification codes and tests and measures. Sample searches demonstrate these fields, as well as the online thesaurus and keyword searching.

Beyond Subject Searching in PsycINFO – This session builds on Behind the Scenes of PsycINFO, and covers a few ways you can use PsycINFO for doing more than just locating articles. Among other things, it includes a review of searching for information on tests and measures, and how to identify the types of research being done at a particular institution. (Taking our Behind the Scenes of PsycINFO webinar first is not required, but this session does assume that you are familiar with the platform you use to access PsycINFO and with the basics of searching the database.)

Sessions run through early December.


Related Training Resources: