From the Deck of… ALA Midwinter 2018

Welcome to “From the Deck of . . .” an irregular series in which we highlight search demos and other information from the slide decks we create for our live training sessions. You can view and download these materials from the PsycINFO SlideShare account.

At the recent American Library Association Midwinter conference, APA hosted a Lunch & Learn training session, which covered searchable vocabularies in PsycINFO®.

  • Keywords are searched using natural language, and are good for current research and new concepts.
  • Index Terms (also called Subject Headings) are found in the thesaurus tool, and help the focused researcher quickly find all records about a concept.
  • PsycINFO Classification Codes® describe broad areas of psychology, and are good to pair with a keyword or an index term search.
  • MeSH, or Medical Subject Headings, are assigned by National Library of Medicine, and are good for searching neuroscience and health topics, especially for researchers familiar with PubMed.

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In Case You Missed It – Searching By Keyword, Index Term, and More

In January of 2017, we posted about searching APA PsycInfo® by different vocabularies – keywords, index terms, classification codes, and MeSH.

In case you missed it, start the new semester off with a better understanding of which vocabulary will suit your needs.

Keywords (also called Key Concepts or Identifiers) – individual words, key concepts, or brief phrases that describe the document’s content; usually provided by the author or publisher.

Good for researchers who are new to a topic.

Index Terms (also called Subjects or Subject Headings) – are chosen by APA staff from Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms®.

Good for the focused researcher. 

Classification Codes (also called APA PsycInfo Classifications) – a descriptive term plus a corresponding numerical code; like the index terms, there is a pre-existing list, or controlled vocabulary.

Good to pair with keywords or index terms.

MeSH – Medical Subject Headings are a controlled vocabulary maintained by the National Library of Medicine for their PubMed database.

Good for medical or neuroscience topics.

To learn more about any of these search vocabularies, review our post on them from January 2017.

Related Resources:

APA PsycInfo Expert Tip – Searching by Keywords Across Platforms

APA PsycInfo Expert Tip – Classification Codes

Tutorial – Using APA PsycInfo Classification Codes on EBSCOhost

APA 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 APA 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 APA 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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