Tutorial Tuesday: How (and Why) to use the APA Thesaurus on APA PsycNET

It’s Tutorial Tuesday! 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.

We recently updated one of our tutorials: How (and Why) to Use the APA Thesaurus on APA PsycNET®.""

How can you be sure you are finding the best results for your search?

By using the best search terms! The APA Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms (“APA Thesaurus”) contains the controlled vocabulary that APA uses to describe and categorize all content indexed in PsycINFO. This resource is regularly updated to include new and changing terminology for topics in the behavioral sciences, and you can put it to work for you!

Using the APA Thesaurus helps you eliminate “noise” from your search and retrieve the most relevant results by revealing the best search terms for your topic. The APA Thesaurus is a valuable tool for students new to research or any researcher who is new to a topic area and may not yet know the best terminology for searching.

This brief video (2:40 minutes) demonstrates the benefits of using the APA Thesaurus when searching databases on the APA PsycNET platform, and includes:

  • Examples of recent terminology updates to the APA Thesaurus;
  • How to access the APA Thesaurus when crafting a search;
  • Using the APA Thesaurus to find related terms for narrowing or expanding your search;
  • Discovering index terms for broader concepts that encompass your research topic and make searching more efficient; and
  • Uncovering additional search terms you may not have considered.

This tutorial is a great resource to link from a LibGuide or course module for any class working with APA Databases on APA PsycNET, and can be helpful in answering email or chat reference questions.

The previous version of this tutorial will remain available, but if you have embedded or linked to it anywhere, we encourage you to update your materials with the link to this new version.

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Tutorial Thursday – Using the APA Thesaurus When Searching PsycINFO

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.

Searching “All fields” or “keywords” in a database such as PsycINFO® is a simple way to get started with research. Using the indexed subject headings found in APA’s Thesaurus is a more effective way to hone in on the resources you need.

A new version of the tutorial for using the APA Thesaurus on ProQuest is now available. This three minute video has demo searches that show how using the Thesaurus’ subject headings helps you research PsycINFO with depth and efficiency.

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PsycINFO Expert Tip: Searching by Keyword, Index Term and More

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a keyword and an index term, and how they can aid your search? What are classification codes, and how does this all relate to MeSH terms? This post will demystify the four types of vocabulary you see in PsycINFO®.

Keyboard with rainbow colors reflecting off of it

Keywords (also called Key Concepts or Identifiers) – Individual words, key concepts, 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. There is no pre-existing list of keywords that authors, publishers, or APA staff choose from.

Keyword searching is a good fit for researchers who are new to a topic, and want to get the full scope of what is available. Keyword searching is most similar to the searching you may do on the internet, because keywords are often in natural language or layman’s terms. In addition, you do not need to select or know terms from a pre-existing list, as you do for the following three types of vocabulary.

Index Terms (also called Subjects or Subject Headings) – Index terms are also single words or brief phrases that describe the document’s content, but they are chosen from a pre-existing list (also called a controlled vocabulary). For the APA databases, that list is the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms®, which includes more than 8,400 terms. APA staff typically choose about six index terms for each document. You can use the thesaurus tool, linked from the PsycINFO search page, to search or browse index terms alphabetically or by topic.

Index term searching is a good fit for the focused researcher, who has identified their best term(s) and now wants to quickly find all of the items about a particular concept. With the wide variety of concepts and vocabulary used in the psychological literature, searching for and retrieving records about specific concepts is virtually impossible without the controlled vocabulary of a thesaurus. It provides a way of structuring the subject matter in a way that is consistent among users (e.g., searching for Dysphoria, Melancholia, and Depression can all be achieved by searching the term “Major Depression”).

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