Library Research in Psychology

Resources in Psychology

"I'm interested in the topic of dreaming, and I'd like to find an article on it. I'm not a psychologist, so I don't want anything that is too technical. Where can I find some easy-to-read articles that discuss research and topics in this area of psychology?"

APA receives many requests from individuals looking for general information on psychological topics. These topics include a wide range of issues, from ability tests for employees to research on drugs and the brain, school violence, the impact of AIDS on family members and the ways in which children learn. A variety of resources about psychology are available on the Internet or at any library, including books, journals, newspapers, pamphlets and electronic resources.

Many library resources may be available without leaving your home or office. Your topic can be easily located using the online catalog and Web-based indexes or subject guides and databases. The databases are generally listed by subject category and will help you find resources in a wide array of fields, including psychology.

You may want to review the following consumer health resources to familiarize yourself with the topic including Health and Wellness Resource Center, Health Source: Consumer Edition, WebMD. To consult the resources used by the medical research community, you will be able to access Medline, an abstracts database or PubMED, a database of publicly funded articles. These authoritative sources are produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Indexes such as the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature may also be available to point you to popular sources of information such as magazines and newspapers. A number of electronic resources may be available to you through your school or public library website; consult your reference librarian for step-by-step instruction.

Most large newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal are searchable on the Internet. Access to an archive of previously published articles may be available for a nominal fee.

A topic search using one of the well-known Internet search engines, such as Google, Yahoo or Bing may also provide access to information from a variety of resources. Specific organizations that publish information on your topic area generally make information available on their website.

The American Psychological Association website is also a source for authoritative information and research tools in psychology. It also includes topics of interest to a wide audience such as ADHDbipolar disorder, eating disorders, learning and memory, PTSDviolence and more.

Note: Just because you find information does not mean that it is accurate. Be sure to consider the source of the information and its currency before using it for research.

APA Resources

APA often receives calls from students preparing for their first research assignment. Often instructors will suggest that classes visit the APA website, which is an excellent starting point and provides authoritative information on current topics and issuespress releases, reports and brochures, and position papers that can be helpful in selecting your topic. You can access both free and paid resources at the APA website.

Most major university libraries provide electronic access to bibliographic and full-text databases produced by APA. These resources include PsycINFO®, an abstracts database; PsycARTICLES®, full text of APA journal articles; PsycBOOKS®, full-text books, book chapters and entries from the Encyclopedia of Psychology; PsycEXTRA®, research from outside the peer-reviewed publication; PsycCRITIQUES®, a full-text book and film review database; PsycTESTS®, psychological tests, measures, scales, surveys and other assessments; and PsycTHERAPY®, videos featuring therapy demonstration. APA also publishes a series of handbooks that provide in-depth information on a number of topics such as research methodologies, and PsycSCAN offers subsets of PsycINFO that provide focused coverage of specific topics. These authoritative sources are used by research professionals, clinicians and mental health professionals worldwide. Some library catalogs also provide links to the full-text journal articles, and books or book chapters in the databases.

The databases let you search by general topics or keywords. You can consult the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms® to find the most current terms in the literature. Consult your librarian for more information.

To become more familiar with the APA database products, visit the product pages to learn more about the publications covered, search tools and information on additional research products that may be of interest.

Which database is most appropriate for your search? The following descriptions will help you decide.


PsycINFO is an electronic bibliographic database that provides citations and abstracts to the scholarly literature in the behavioral sciences and mental health from the early 1800s to the present. Material of relevance to psychologists and professionals in related fields such as psychiatry, nursing, business, education, social science, neuroscience, law, medicine and social work is included in the database. PsycINFO covers journal titles, doctoral dissertations, authored and edited books, and chapters from edited books. Start your research by using PsycINFO.


PsycARTICLES is a database of full-text articles from journals published by APA, the APA Educational Publishing Foundation, the Canadian Psychological Association and Hogrefe Publishing Group. The database includes all material from the print journals with the exception of ads and editorial board lists. PsycARTICLES currently covers peer-reviewed journals from 1894 to the present.


PsycEXTRA, a companion to the scholarly PsycINFO database, supplies clinicians, information professionals, policymakers, researchers and consumers with a wide variety of credible information in psychology, behavioral science and health. Most of the coverage is material written for professionals and disseminated outside of peer-reviewed journals. Documents include newsletters, magazines, newspapers, technical and annual reports, government reports, consumer brochures and more. PsycEXTRA is different from PsycINFO in its coverage, and also in its format, because it includes abstracts and citations plus full text for a major portion of the records. There is no overlap with PsycINFO.


PsycBOOKS is a full text database of scholarly titles published by APA Books. It includes current books published by APA and classic and out-of-print books. The database also provides access to the APA/Oxford University Press Encyclopedia of Psychology. PsycBOOKS contains the PsycINFO abstract and bibliographic records for books and chapters and the full text of the book, tables of contents and all introductory material.


PsycCRITIQUES is a database of book and film reviews. In 2005, the database replaced APA's respected print journal Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, adding major enhancements, very current reviews, reviewer bibliographies, point-counterpoint and much more. In each weekly release, PsycCRITIQUES delivers nine to 12 reviews of psychological books, most from the current copyright year.


PsycTESTS is a research database that provides access to psychological tests, measures, scales, surveys and other assessments as well as descriptive information about the test and its development and administration. PsycTESTS focuses primarily on unpublished tests, those developed by researchers but not made commercially available. Most records link to a variety of materials describing the test in peer-reviewed literature, technical reports or dissertations as well as links to related peer-reviewed literature describing test development, review or use. All records include a summary that describes the test, with its purpose and some history of its development. Most records include the actual test instrument.


PsycTHERAPY is a database containing more than 300 videos featuring therapy demonstrations showing clinicians working with individuals, couples and families. PsycTHERAPY features more than 200 different topics covered throughout hundreds of hours of filmed demonstrations utilizing a wide range of approaches. The database contains only unscripted, spontaneous therapy sessions taped in the last 10 years. PsycTHERAPY is a highly flexible tool with synchronized, searchable transcripts that enhance user navigation and access and provides users the ability to tag segments of each therapy demonstration to create, save or share personal playlists.

APA Handbooks in Psychology®

Titles within the APA Handbooks in Psychology Series are ideal resources for libraries and institutions — these reference books provide a one-stop shop for both overviews and in-depth analyses of a variety of subfields within psychology. Different purchase options for electronic and print versions are available to institutions looking to provide their users with these comprehensive publications.


APA offers 8 electronic-only PsycSCANs, subsets of PsycINFO in specific topic areas. These current awareness tools make it easy to search for content in your specific content area.

Accessing APA Databases

The APA databases are widely available at colleges and universities. If you are a student, faculty member or researcher at a college or other institution, check with your library to see which APA database are available. If the library subscribes, you can access the databases online from your home, office or dorm room. Check with your library for more information.

If you are an APA member, you can purchase access to the databases and search from your home or office. APA offers the databases in a number of packages designed to suit your research and budget needs. A package of databases is also available for professionals who need on-going access. To learn more about the databases, pricing options and how to sign up online, visit APA Databases Access for Individuals. 

If you are not an APA member or need occasional access to the databases, you can search PsycINFO, PsycEXTRA, PsycCRITIQUES, PsycARTICLES, and PsycBOOKS on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Search Help

Contact APA staff to discuss search questions or to get information about APA's databases and services. Telephone help is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST, (800) 374-2722. You can also request help by sending an email.

The Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms®

Users will find all of the index terms that are used in APA's databases in the The Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms. Using the thesaurus before beginning a search will save a lot of time in finding articles. The thesaurus provides standardized index terms used for each record in APA's databases. Definitions and information about how the terms are used; and information about related terms and concepts are also provided to ensure that one is able to find all available material on a subject.

The thesaurus is generally updated annually — APA makes the most recent updates to the thesaurus (PDF, 26KB) available online. An interactive online version of the thesaurus is also provided with most all PsycINFO vendor systems.

Training Guides

Users can find a wide variety of essential tools to search APA's databases in APA's Training Center. APA provides print and online versions of search guides for most vendor search systems. The system-specific search guides help users with basic system navigation. A free field guide with information about the content of and conventions for use of PsycINFO record fields is also available.

PsycINFO News®

The award-winning newsletter PsycINFO News keeps you up-to-date on enhancements to APA's databases, new features, sample searches, and articles on research applications. PsycINFO News is available free online.

You can also sign up for the PsycINFO electronic mailing list, PsycALERT, to receive a message when PsycINFO News is posted online so you can read it on the Web. You may also receive occasional messages about database enhancements and other news.