PsycINFO is a database maintained by the American Psychological Association. It consists of abstracts covering psychological literature from 1887 to the present. It contains more than1.5 million references to journal articles, books, and book chapters. While all the abstracts in PsycINFO are written in English, the covered literature includes material published in over 45 countries and written in more than 30 languages.

The services offered by PsycINFO are similar to those provided by ERIC. In general, PsycINFO indexes and abstracts the more formal pieces of information in the field of psychology, including journal articles, books, doctoral dissertations, and convention proceedings. It does not include less formal pieces of information as unpublished reports and curriculum guidelines, as would ERIC's RIE.

Psychological Abstracts is the hardcopy version of PsycINFO. It is published monthly, with semiannual cumulative indexes. An example of an abstract is shown in Figure 3.4.

Insert Figure 3.4 about here.

As you can see, the information provided by PsycINFO is much like that found in CIJE or RIE. One difference is that PsycINFO does indicate the institutional affiliation of the first author of the publication. When using the hardcopy version, just as with ERIC sources, information is found in Psychological Abstracts by first referring to a subject or author index and then looking up the abstract.

Like other services, Psychological Abstracts can be accessed by computer (that is, through PsycINFO) for more rapid recovery of information. The output from the computer is slightly different from the hardcopy information. Figure 3.5 shows a computerized version of the entry cited in Figure 3.4. An important addition is that the computerized version contains a list of descriptors (next to MJ in the twelfth through fourteenth lines). With this information, we would know that we could find related articles under such descriptors as "Reading Skills," "Remedial Reading," and so forth.

Insert Figure 3.5 about here.

Although PsycINFO focuses on psychology rather than on education, most researchers find that there is a large amount of overlap between education and psychology. Those researchers working at a theoretical level will find PsycINFO to be an especially valuable source of information. The American Psychological Association provides many additional information dissemination services, and these can be identified by examining an issue of Psychological Abstracts or by visiting the APA web site.

An additional service offered by the American Psychological Association is the PsychCrawler search engine. This is supposed to function like any other search engine on the World Wide Web, but with a focus on psychology. It is currently available for free, but I suspect that's because it's still in its developmental stages. My experience is that it works reasonably well for single terms (e.g., "thinking skills"), but not for combinations of terms (e.g., "thinking skills" and "motivation").


Online Links:



Frequently Asked Questions about PsycINFO

This site answers twelve common questions about this service.


PsycINFO Direct

At this web site, individuals can purchase access to over 1.5 million abstracts for a 24-hour period for $9.95.

You can run a useful demo of PsycINFO Direct by going to this address:

This is actually a pretty good introduction (at no cost) to PsycINFO in general.


Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms

This site contains a description of a hardcopy book. Although this book is not necessary for using PsycINFO, you can use it to plan your searches of PsycINFO more productively.



PsychCrawler is a search engine for finding high quality information on the Internet. It is currently under development, but it promises to be an excellent resource. My experience is that it works reasonably well for single terms (e.g., "thinking skills"), but not for combinations of terms (e.g., "thinking skills" and "motivation").


After reading this section, you can either

Click here to continue. (A discussion of the Education Index Database System comes next.)

Go to a Walkthrough that gives an example of the use of the PsycINFO system to look up some specific information.

Click here to return to the beginning of this chapter.

Or click on a specific topic listed on this page.