New Terms Added to the PsycINFO Thesaurus

By Ian Galloway, Senior Vocabulary Development Specialist

We recently released an update to The Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, the source of the controlled vocabulary used in indexing PsycINFO and the other APA databases. All of the items included in APA databases – journal articles, books and book chapters, dissertations, and more – are represented by a record that is indexed, or tagged, with Index Terms from the Thesaurus. This allows someone searching a database to quickly find all of the items about a particular concept, such as Affirmative Therapy, Playfulness, or Transactional Leadership, no matter what terminology the authors used.

Keywords, Index Terms, and PsycINFO Classification Codes from a record in the PsycARTICLES database.

Keywords, Index Terms, and PsycINFO Classification Codes from a record in the PsycARTICLES database.

This is the first update to the vocabulary in over three years, and as such, is significantly larger than previous vocabulary updates. Many of the new concepts in this update represent an attempt to bring our vocabulary in line with the recent publication of the DSM-V. The update includes:

  • 227 new Index Terms
  • 173 new Use references
  • New scope notes, or definitions, for 340 existing Index Terms
  • A change in status for 3 Index Terms

Use references are Thesaurus entries that are not used to tag records, but are synonyms for Index Terms. Use references can be terms used by a layperson (Shopaholism Use Compulsive Shopping), terms that have fallen out of use among researchers (Shell Shock Use Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), or acronyms (DTI Use Diffusion Tensor Imaging). Someone who searches for a term that is a Use reference will quickly find the Index Term used by APA.

Screenshot of Thesaurus entry for Diffusion Tensor Imaging.

Searching the Thesaurus (on APA PsycNET) for DTI. The Use reference that’s displayed tells us that the term used to tag records in APA databases is Diffusion Tensor Imaging.

One of the most significant changes included in this update is the new status of the entries associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism Spectrum Disorders is now an Index Term, replacing the previously used terms Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, all of which have become Use references.

Screenshot of Thesaurus entry for Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Thesaurus entry for Autism Spectrum Disorders includes a Scope Note. The Scope Note explains how the term has been applied in indexing. There is also a “Used For” list – these are related terms that are not used to tag records. This lets the user know that if they’re interested in Asperger’s Syndrome, the term used to tag records is Autism Spectrum Disorders.

In addition to adding the new terms and scope notes, the vast majority of these new concepts have been added to approximately 250,000 historical records in PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PsycBOOKS, PsycCRITIQUES, PsycEXTRA, and PsycTESTS. For example, searching PsycINFO for a new Index Term, Playfulness, returns items published from 1959 onward – not just the research that’s been tagged since this Index Term was added to the Thesaurus. This process of tagging old records with new Index Terms ensures that people searching with new Index Terms can find older records as well.

At this time, the update has been completed on the APA PsycNET, EBSCOhost, and ProQuest platforms; it will be complete on Ovid soon. The full list of Index Terms included in this update is available here.

Related Resources:

Need a refresher on how to search the Thesaurus and use Index Terms in your search? View our tutorial “How and Why to Use the APA Thesaurus When Searching PsycINFO:”

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Staff from the APA Databases & Electronic Resources Customer Relations Group


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