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Provides guidance on information resources and search strategies on conducting library research in psychology.

About the PsycINFO Thesaurus

The PsycINFO Thesaurus, or the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, is a list of controlled vocabulary terms. These terms function as authoritative subject classifications for psychological concepts.

The object is to simplify access – all related entries in the database can be located by using the right standardized term. Identifying the right subject terms used in the database can help to focus a search to find the articles that are the best fit for your research.

Accessing the Thesaurus

1. Open the PsycINFO database in a new window:

2.  Click on the "Thesaurus" link in the blue banner at the top of the PsycINFO search screen.

3.  In the Browse box, type in a search term.

4.  Click on the Browse button and select from the results list.

Tutorials from APA PsycINFO

Watch a video tutorial:


Information from the APA Search Help and Training Center page on the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms®:

What Are Index Terms?

Index terms are controlled vocabulary terms used in database records to make searching easier and more successful. 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.

Why is a Controlled Vocabulary Essential for Searching?

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").

Other PsycINFO Videos

APA Training has created dozens of videos.  This is is a playlist of all the videos for APA products on the EBSCO platform.  See below for a few highlighted items.

Thesauri in Other Databases

Not all databases use a formal controlled vocabulary thesaurus, but many do. Terms used in one database may not transfer to another. Be sure to modify your terminology and search strategy depending on the database you are using.

Examples of other databases with individual thesauruses:

PubMed uses the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) thesaurus from the National Library of Medicine.

ERIC uses the ERIC Thesaurus for topics in the field of education. Access in ERIC on ProQuest by going to the Advanced Search to find the Thesaurus link.

Sociological Abstracts and Social Services Abstracts use the Thesaurus of Sociological Indexing Terms. Access to these databases is through ProQuest, where the Thesaurus can be found by going to the Advanced Search screen to find the Thesaurus link.