New Terms & Other Updates to the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms®

We recently released an update to the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms. The Thesaurus provides precise and consistent terminology for searching all APA research databases. We added 305 new “preferred” Index Terms and approximately 70 new non-postable or “use” references*.

Each item in the APA databases – journal articles, books and book chapters, dissertations, and more – is represented by a record that is indexed, or tagged, with Index Terms from the Thesaurus. The use of a controlled vocabulary allows someone searching a database to quickly find all items about a specific concept — such as Animal Behavior, Marginalized Groups, or Prescription Drug Misuse — no matter what terminology or keywords the authors used. 

Reflecting emerging areas, technologies, and social issues as well as changing nomenclature, this updated vocabulary will provide users with more targeted and efficient search and discovery. Additionally, we added new terminology in the expanding areas of psychological assessment, psychometrics, and research methods. You can view more details on our web page, What’s New in the 2019 Update, including a link to the full list of new and updated Index Terms (PDF, 135KB).

The vast majority of these new concepts have been retroactively applied, or back-mapped, to approximately 250,000 historical records in PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PsycBOOKS, PsycEXTRA, and PsycTESTS. Searching with a new Index Term returns the earliest items published up through the present – not just the research that’s been tagged since that Index Term was added to the Thesaurus. This comprehensive process of tagging old records with new Index Terms ensures that anyone using the new Index Terms to search will also find older content indexed before this update.

Here’s a sample list of new Index Terms:

  • Health Psychology – Population Health, Health Care Access, Health Related Quality of Life
  • Digital Technologies – Smartphone Use, Electronic Health Services, Wearable Devices, Mobile Applications
  • Substance Use and Treatment – Opioid Use Disorder, Medication-Assisted Treatment, Addiction Treatment, Prescription Drug Misuse
  • Social Issues – Mental Health Stigma, Minority Stress, School Safety, International Adoption
  • Psychological Testing – Health Psychology Assessment, Mental Health and Illness Assessment, Qualitative Measures

In addition to the 305 new Index Terms and approximately 70 Use references*, this Thesaurus update also includes:

  • More than 300 new or revised scope notes to clarify term usage, and
  • Revised term hierarchies for more efficient discovery of related search terms.

* Note: Use references are Thesaurus entries that are synonyms for Index Terms but are not used to tag records. Use references can be terms used by a layperson (Selfie Use Digital Images), terms that have fallen out of use among researchers (Sex Change Use Gender Reassignment), or acronyms (GPS Use Navigation Technology). Someone who searches for a term that is a Use reference will quickly find the corresponding Index Term in the Thesaurus.

Example of a Use reference on APA PsycNET — Support Animals use: Service Animals

The 2019 Thesaurus update has been released on APA PsycNET, EBSCOhost, and ProQuest platforms; it will soon be available on Ovid, too.

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” on APA PsycNET and other platforms:

Patti Avellanet