Psychology Resources: Online Databases

Key Databases for Psychological Research

For research in psychology, the following databases may be of especial use. They are listed in rough descending order of usefulness.

PsycINFO
PsycINFO is the premier database for articles and other resources in the psychological sciences; it is the place where most students in psychology will begin their research. Maintained by the American Psychological Association, PsycINFO contains more than 4 million articles from more than 2,500 journals and other resources covering the full breadth of psychological science.

PubMed
PubMed is the first stop for medical research, including in psychology and neuroscience. You will likely want to search it using the Medical Subject Headings.

Psychology Database 
Proquest’s database of psychology articles. It has many journals not indexed by PsycINFO.

Oxford Psychology Handbooks
Vanderbilt has access to Oxford Handbooks in Psychology published since 2013—more than 100 handbooks in all. Each handbook  has about 20 to 30 articles by experts on a single small or large area of psychology. The database is a good place to browse for research ideas. Note that we also have many other psychology handbooks, listed here.

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts and Linguistics Database

Science Direct, OVID, and Web of Science
Three excellent science- and medicine-focused databases.

Mental Measurements Yearbook with Tests in Print and Health and Psychosocial Instruments (HaPI)
Two comprehensive sources of information about psychological tests, going back many decades. See this page for more information on tests and measurements.

ERIC, Education Database, and Education Full-Text

Sociological Abstracts, Applied Social Sciences Index & Abstracts (ASSIA), and Social Services Abstracts

PTSDpubs

JSTOR
JSTOR has a wide variety of material, mainly on the humanities, but touching on the behavioral sciences as well.

Psychiatry Online
Psychiatric reference titles, including DSM-5.

Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global

Proquest Ebook Central
Many of Vanderbilt’s ebooks are on the Ebook Central platform.

Ebsco eBook Collection and eBook Academic
Another large, searchable collection of ebooks.

Our book catalog
For goodness' sake, don't forget about actual books.

Tips for Database Searching

Vanderbilt Libraries subscribes to many databases (to see a list of them, go to the main library page and look under the “Databases” tab). Although each database has its own search features, there are principles of searching that are common to many of them, especially to databases of journal articles. The following “tips” are meant to make it easier for you to make a productive search of these databases.

Collect key words and phrases for your research question. The essence of electronic database searching is matching your words to the database’s words. This is not always as easy as it sounds. Take the following research question: “What illusions are attributable to our ability to perceive depth or distance?” The question suggests a couple of keywords: “illusion” and “depth perception.” But as you begin your search, you might consider related or narrower or broader terms, such as “visual perception,” “perspective,” “frame of reference,” or “spatial organization/perception.” Use them in different combinations. And, as you do your research, continue to refresh your store of key words and phrases.

Use, and collect, the database’s subject terms. Most subject-specific databases assign subject terms to the articles they index. These terms are taken from an approved list, which is often unique to each database. If you search one database at a time (that is, you don’t do a combined search of two or more databases), you can make use of these terms. Using them presents some advantages over using keywords, in that subject terms can a) eliminate irrelevant results that touch only tangentially on your topic, and b) collect under one term a topic that is given many names in the literature.
       In PsycINFO, the thesaurus of terms is maintained by the APA and is found in the “Advanced Search” section, under the “Thesaurus” tab. For example, if you search for the term “flashback,” the thesaurus directs you to the approved term “hallucinations” and also presents narrower and broader terms to search on. Clicking the small box to the right of any of the terms discloses a list of related terms. You can choose to search for any terms as a “major” subject, meaning that the search will return articles where the subject is a major focus. You can also “explode” terms, meaning that the database searches for the term in question, as well as any narrower terms. Doing so can help broaden a search for a narrow topic.
        In PubMed, the subject thesaurus is called Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and is a very thorough, hierarchical index of medical terms. Each term can further be limited by MESH-provided subheadings. So a search term might be "Schizophrenia/statistics and numerical data,” where “statistics and numerical data” is the subheading.

Try searching only in the title or abstract of journal articles. If searching subject terms doesn’t get you useful results, try limiting your search to words that are only in the title and/or abstract of the article. In PsycINFO, that would mean AB(“binocular rivalry”) for the abstract, or TI(“binocular rivalry”) for the title. There is also an “ALL” code that lets you search everywhere except full text—ALL(“binocular rivalry”). Remember, in these cases you are searching not for “subject terms” assigned by the database, but for words or phrases in the article record.

Use the limiters that databases allow. Almost every searchable database will let you limit your search results. It is most common to limit the search by date. But PsycINFO allows many other limiters, including for the age of the study population and (very usefully) for research method.  

Use the “Cited by” features to peer into the future. You likely know that a good way to find relevant articles is to look at the references within an article that addresses your topic. But many databases allow you to “peer forward” at articles that have cited an article of interest, letting you find more recent material on the same topic. PsycINFO has a “Cited by” link under the article record. This is a particular strength of Google Scholar, which also has a “Cited By” button under each article record. Google Scholar gives great weight to the number of citations an article has received in determining the order to list search results, giving you a good sense of the articles on a particular topic that have been heavily cited in the literature.

Use the library catalog. Don’t forget to expand your literature searches to include books, both print and electronic. Just as when you search for articles, you can search for books using subject terms. In the Vanderbilt library catalog, select “Advanced Search” amd then "VU Collections" to search only for books, ebooks, and other physical media (e.g. CDs, DVDs). Many (but by no means all) of our ebooks are on the Proquest Ebook Central platform, and you may find it useful to go directly there and make a search.