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PSY 211 Psychology Research Methods

How (and Why) to Use the APA Thesaurus When Searching PsycINFO via ProQuest

PsycINFO Thesaurus

With the wide variety of concepts and vocabulary used in the psychological literature, search and retrieval of records about specific concepts is virtually impossible without the controlled vocabulary of a thesaurus. This controlled vocabulary 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").

By standardizing the words or phrases used to represent concepts, you don't need to try and figure out all the ways different authors could refer to the same concept. Each record in APA's databases contains controlled vocabulary terms from the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms®.

APA staff index records according to the source document's level of specificity. For example, an experimental population labeled "high school students" will be indexed with the term "High School Students", not the broader and less specific term "Students". Therefore, any relevant narrower terms should be included in the list of index terms in your search. Related terms may also closely match a search topic, and should be considered as well.

  • Includes more than 9,600 standard and cross-referenced terms.
  • New terms are mapped back to all relevant records in APA's databases spanning all years.
  • Scope notes define the terms.
  • Historical notes include information about the historical usage of terms since their introduction.
  • Term hierarchies show the relationship to other terms.
  • The year indicates when the term was added to the Thesaurus.

The thesaurus allows you to find subject terms to narrow or broaden your search and is available from the Advanced and Command Line Search. If you want to run a search on a subject, but you do not know what term to use, use the thesaurus to search the controlled vocabulary. A hierarchical display is available and will give suggestions on the appropriate subject terms to add to your search.

To use the thesaurus, select the Thesaurus link from the Advanced or Command Line, then browse or search for subjects containing the word or beginning with the word. Mark the items that you would like to search and then select the appropriate Boolean operator to combine your items. Click the Add to search button and your terms will be placed into the search form. From there, run your search to include the subject terms (adding additional search fields and terms if needed).

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