How to do Research on Psychology

Psychology Research Guide 1How to do research on psychology? In a field as vast and rapidly changing as psychology, many leading authorities, scholars, researchers, and psychological professionals have chronicled everything about the history, technique, and applications of psychiatry for further study and research paper writing. Whether you want to find up-to-date information about difficult psychological terms or concepts, thousands of psychological conditions, psychological drugs, or prominent specialists in the fields of psychiatry and psychology, every possible source on these and countless other subjects await you.

Credible published research, facts, and evidence, including case studies, family histories, journal articles, popular references, and print and electronic sources can provide answers. This article summarizes selected references and resources.

Selected Subject Headings

Listed below is a sample of a few broad Library of Congress subject headings—made up of one word or more representing concepts under which all library holdings are divided and subdivided by subject—which you can search under and use as subject terms as well when searching online library catalogs for preliminary and/or additional research, such as books, audio and video recordings, and other references, related to your research paper topic. When researching materials on your topic, subject heading searching may be more productive than searching using simple keywords. However, keyword searching when using the right search method (Boolean, etc.) and combination of words can be equally effective in finding materials more closely relevant to the topic of your research paper.

Suggested Research Topics in Psychology

  • Adolescent Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Cognition
  • Counseling
  • Death
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Emotions
  • Group Psychology
  • Human Behavior
  • Industrial Psychology
  • Methodology and Research
  • Neuropsychology
  • Parapsychology, Occult Science
  • Perception
  • Personality
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Psychology
  • Psychology, Applied
  • Psychology, Pathological
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social Psychology
  • Suicide
  • Theories and Systems

Selected Keyword Search Strategies and Guides

Psychology Research Guide 2Most online library indexes and abstracts and full-text article databases offer basic and advanced “keyword” searching. In this case, combine your keyword terms of your thesis question or topic with relevant subject headings using the Boolean search method (employing “and” or “or”) to find research appropriate to your research paper topic.

If your topic is “the national rise of obsession compulsive disorder among adults,” for example, enter “obsessive compulsive disorder” and “adults” with “and” on the same line to locate sources directly compatible with the primary focus of your research paper. To find research on more specific aspects of your topic, alternate with one new keyword at a time with “and” in between (for example, “obsessive compulsive disorder and advancements,” “obsessive compulsive disorder and behavior,” “obsessive compulsive disorder and genetics,” “obsessive compulsive disorder and symptoms,” “obsessive compulsive disorder and treatment,” etc.).

For additional help with keyword searching, navigation or user guides for online indexes and databases by many leading providers—including Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, EBSCO, H.W. Wilson, OCLC, Ovid Technologies, ProQuest, and Thomson Gale—are posted with direct links on library Web sites to guides providing specific instruction to using whichever database you want to search. They provide additional guidance on how to customize and maximize your searching, including advanced searching techniques and grouping of words and phrases using the Boolean search method—of your topic, of bibliographic records, and of full-text articles, and other documents related to the subject of your research paper.

Selected Source and Subject Guides

As part of your preliminary research to find appropriate resources for your research paper, information source and research guides are available at most public and academic libraries and are keyword searchable through your library’s online catalog (to search and locate guides, enter your “subject” followed by these keywords one search at a time: “information sources,” “reference sources,” and “research guide”). Printed guides available for this subject area include

A Guide to Information Sources for Social Work and the Human Services, by Henry N. Mendelsohn, 136 pages (Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1987)

Psychology: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, by Pam M. Baxter, 219 pages (Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1993)

In addition to these sources of research, most college and university libraries offer online subject guides arranged by subject on the library’s Web page; others also list searchable course-related “LibGuides” by subject. Each guide lists more recommended published and Web sources—including books and references, journal, newspaper and magazines indexes, full-text article databases, Web sites, and even research tutorials—that you can access to expand your research on more specific issues and relevant to your research paper.

Selected Books and References


A Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd ed., edited by Andrew M. Colman, 896 pages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Edited by the author of What is Psychology? this fully revised and updated dictionary includes more than 11,000 entries detailing all aspects and areas of psychology. Explained in simple language are definitions of countless terms and concepts in the field of psychology, plus relevant technical words from related disciplines used by many psychologists. Further coverage is provided on psychoanalysis and terms introduced into the profession by Freud, Jung, Adler, Erikson, Kohut, Lacan, Reich, and many others. Likewise highlighted are phobias, phobic stimuli, and mental disorders, in addition to more than 700 commonly used abbreviations and symbols in psychology.


The Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science, 3rd ed., edited by W. Edward Craighead and Charles B. Nemeroff, 1,112 pages (New York: Wiley, 2004)

This revised third edition, written by contributing experts, researchers, and practitioners in the field of psychology and related disciplines, covers more than 500 topical entries on all aspects of psychology and behavioral science.

Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology, edited by Charles Spielberger, 3 vols. (Boston: Academic Press, 2004)

This three-volume set, a collaboration of members of the International Association of Applied Psychology, is a general guide to applied psychology, containing more than 300 authoritatively written articles, listed in alphabetical order, that review the application of theory and research to practical psychology problems.

Encyclopedia of Behavior Modification and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, edited by Michael Hersen, 3 vols., 1,856 pages (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications, 2005)

This popular reference provides the most comprehensive “treatment of behavior modification-history, biography, theory, and application” by examining various issues and methods related to behavior modification, behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and applied behavior for all age groups.

Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, edited by V. S. Ramachandran,4 vols., 2,765 pages (San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 1994)

Overseen by a six-member editorial board of experts in the field, this definitive four-volume set offers 250 detailed overviews of the major disciplines in the study of human behavior. Each article is cross-referenced in an extensive 15,000-entry index for easy use and includes a bibliography of sources.

Encyclopedia of Mental Health, edited by Howard Friedman, 3 vols., 2,398 (San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 1998)

Using “current research to demonstrate the intricate relationship between mind and body,” this three-volume reference features lengthy articles—ranging from 10 to 20 pages—by experts in their fields on the area of mental health. Each article is alphabetically arranged and accompanied by a detailed bibliography of scholarly and professional sources. Volume 3 serves as the index to the series.

Encyclopedia of the Neurological Sciences, edited by Michael Aminoff and Robert B. Daroff, 4 vols., 4,000 pages (Boston: Academic Press, 2003)

This four-volume encyclopedia features more than 1,000 expertly written entries that definitively explore all areas of this discipline providing a greater understanding of neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, and related neurosciences.

Encyclopedia of Psychology, edited by Allan E. Kazdin, 8 vols., 4,160 pages (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2000)

An exceptional A-to-Z source on psychology, this eight-volume set, eight years in the making under the editorial direction of Alan Karzin and the American Psychological Association, contains some 400 biographies and more than 1,500 authored articles in the psychology and allied fields and other disciplines. Each major topic includes a lengthy essay and much smaller articles about each subject, along with a list of sources. An online version is available through Elsevier’s ScienceDirect database.

International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, 26 vols., 17,500 pages (Amsterdam and New York: Elsevier, 2001)

This outstanding reference set—called “the single largest social and behavioral sciences reference set ever published”—features about 4,000 well-written articles on everything related to social and behavioral sciences. The set includes a comprehensive name index and subject index.

Magill’s Encyclopedia of Social Science: Psychology, edited by Nancy A. Piotrowski, 4 vols., 1,200 pages (Hackensack, N.J.: Salem, 2003)

Based on Frank N. Magill’s six-volume Survey of Social Science: Psychology Series (1993), this revised four-volume set features 452 comprehensive overviews, including 177 newly commissioned and 103 updated entries, covering disorders, popular concepts, tests, theories, treatment, key figures, and issues in the field of psychology. Each ranges from one to eight pages in length, and all are cross-referenced in the fourth volume, which includes an index to entries in the entire series.


Beginning Research in Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods and Statistics, by Colin Dyer, 482 pages (Oxford, U.K., and Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1995, 1999)

Republished in 1999, this introductory volume covers research methods and statistics for beginning students of psychology and related disciplines. In examining its subject, this 482-page handbook features interviews and case studies, survey methods, observational research, working with numerical data and statistics, hypothesis testing, and much more.

Handbook of Child Psychology, 6th ed., edited by Richard M. Lerner, 4 vols., 1,250 pages (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2006)

Fully updated and revised, this sixth edition four-volume set discusses a broad range of important topics and issues spanning the entire field of child development.


Comprehensive Clinical Psychology, edited by Alan S. Bellack and Michel Hersen, 11 vols. (Amsterdam and New York: Pergamon, 1998)

Also published online, this 11-volume reference set covers all aspects of clinical psychology. Each volume is dedicated to a single subject area, including, foundations, professional issues, research methods, assessment, children and adolescents, adults, clinical geropsychology, health psychology, applications in diverse populations, and sociocultural and individual differences in people with clinical psychology disorders. The final volume serves as an index to the entire series.

Learning & Memory, 2nd ed., by John H. Byrne, 716 pages (Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 2002)

This largely reworked second edition details the history and progress of learning and memory through 212 articles on a variety of key issues, among them, brain anatomy, conditioning, dementia, and hypnosis.

Selected Full-Text Article Databases

ProQuest Research Library (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest, 1986– /Ovid Technologies SilverPlatter, 1990– )

Covers periodical abstracts with some full-text articles from some 2,500 academic journals, popular magazines, and general-interest publications, including 635 periodicals related to the social sciences and 169 in the general sciences. Full-text articles are available on both the Web and CD-ROM from approximately 600 of the indexed titles.

PsycARTICLES (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association/EBSCO/Elsevier Science Direct/OCLC Ovid Technologies, Inc./ProQuest, 1894– )

Comprehensive database of full-text articles from 66 journals published by the American Psychological Association and other selected publishers such as the APA Educational Publishing Foundation, the Canadian Psychological Association, and Hogrefe and Huber. Full-text coverage begins in 1894 with the first issue of Psychological Review; titles include American Psychologist, Behavioral Neuroscience, Journal of Comparative Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Prevention and Treatment, and many more. Articles can be viewed and printed from any Web browser.

Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, 1990– )

Worldwide database providing access to nearly 515 full-text titles, including 490 peer-reviewed journals and full text to citations from the PsycINFO database covering such topics as anthropology, emotional and behavioral issues, mental health, observational and experimental methods, and psychiatry and psychology.

Psychology eCollection (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 1985– )

This online database offers full-text of 200 periodicals and references, covering all aspects of psychology, including the study of the mind, emotions, and development of the human mind.

ProQuest Psychology Journals (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest, 1992– )

Contains full-text articles with all photographs, illustrations, charts, and other graphic material from more than 450 leading psychological and psychiatric journals and publications from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, including the American Journal of Psychiatry, Annual Review of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, and The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Social Sciences Full Text (Bronx, N.Y.: H.W. Wilson Co., WilsonWeb/Ovid Technologies, Inc., indexing: February 1983– , abstracting: January 1994– , full text: January 1995– )

This online resource extensively indexes citations with abstracts of more than 415 English-language journals plus some full text, in such fields as anthropology, criminal justice, economics, family studies, geography, international relations, policy sciences, political science, psychiatry, psychology, social work and public welfare, sociology, urban studies, and women’s studies. Indexed are a wide array of journals including Addictive Behaviors (1994– ), Ageing and Society (1987– ), The American Journal of Psychiatry (1982– ), The British Journal of Psychology (1982– ), Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (1982– ), and many more. Also available in print form as Social Sciences Index (1974– ).

Selected Periodicals

The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1974– , quarterly)

This interdisciplinary journal serves researchers and other professionals for timely discussions of “the pre-clinical, clinical, pharmacological, administrative, and social aspects” of substance abuse. Topics are wide ranging in nature but focus on ideas and modalities in the study and treatment of drug abuse and alcoholism. The publisher offers access to a fully searchable database of the tables of contents of recent and previous issues from 1989 to date. To view or search, visit

American Psychologist (Washington: American Psychological Association, 1946– , monthly)

First published in January 1946, this official monthly journal of the American Psychological Association covers all aspects of psychology. Issues contain articles about the practice of psychology, public policy, surveys of membership, and events. Abstracts and citations of articles from current and past issues are referenced in several leading print and electronic indexes, including PsycINFO, Social Sciences Citation Index, Social Sciences Index, and Social Work Research and Abstracts.

Community Mental Health Journal (New York: Human Sciences Press; Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1965– , bimonthly)

This bimonthly journal is the only periodical devoted exclusively to community mental health. Sponsored by the American Association of Community Psychiatrists, this publication distinguishes itself from others by publishing specific and relevant articles on the research, theory, and practice of this specialty. Subjects covered include crisis intervention, planned change, suicide prevention, social system analysis, early case finding, family therapy, milieu therapy, human ecology, high-risk groups, and social welfare. Tables of contents of past issues are accessible at Ingenta (1997). To view PDF files of back issues, from the first in March 1965 to the present, visit the publisher’s Web page at

Journal of Counseling Psychology (Arlington, Va.: American Psychological Association, 1954– , quarterly)

This quarterly scholarly journal publishes empirical research on counseling activities, career development and vocational psychology, the development of new measures used in counseling, and professional issues in counseling psychology. Past issues and articles are indexed and abstracted in such online databases as Current Contents, ProQuest Psychology Journals, PsycINFO, Social Sciences Index, and many others.

Journal of Drug Issues (Tallahassee, Fla.: Journal of Drug Issues, 1971– , quarterly)

Offers professional and scholarly discussion of national and international problems directly related to drugs, particularly illicit drugs. The content of this peer-reviewed publication is aimed at research scholars, public policy analysts, and others dealing with the widespread problem of drug abuse. Selected samples of past articles from the journal can be read online at

Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education (Lansing, Mich.: Education Section of the North American Association of Alcoholism Programs, 1955– , three times a year)

Published three times a year by the American Alcohol and Drug Information Foundation, this educational journal covers different philosophies and viewpoints about alcohol and drugs. Issues usually contain case studies, empirical studies, original research, review and theoretical articles, and some educational and ecological intervention studies discussing teacher experiences, experiments, techniques, procedures, and programs. The journal and its contents are indexed by CINAHL (Cumulative Index in Nursing and Allied Health Literature).

Psychology Today (New York: Sussex Publishers, 1967– , monthly)

Written from a clinical and an academic perspective, this widely respected print journal features articles on popular psychology and psychological research. Articles in each issue contain timely and helpful information on many related subjects, including family issues, relationship difficulties, and psychological conditions. Also available in electronic form, the contents of current and past issues can be accessed and searched online at

Selected Web Sites

All About Depression (

Launched in July 2000 as part of a doctoral dissertation by Dr. Prentice Price, this Web page features a great deal of current and relevant information about clinical depression. Subjects covered include causes, diagnosis, treatment, antidepressant medications, special topics, and resources, including a list of national mental health organizations.

American Psychological Association (

The official home page of the largest association of psychologists worldwide, this site offers free access to an assortment of psychology materials and information. Contents include topical overviews on such subjects as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, emotional health, obesity, personality disorders, stress, and trauma, plus countless publications for students and its members. Also featured is information about the association’s journals and databases, including PsycARTICLES, PsycBOOKS, and PsycINFO.

American Psychological Society (

Founded in 1988, this nonprofit organization is dedicated to promoting “the interests of scientifically oriented psychology in research, application, teaching, and the improvement of human welfare.” Its Web site offers an extensive list of leading psychology journals and resources for students interested in psychology.

Classics in the History of Psychology (

Developed by Christopher D. Green of York University, Toronto, Ontario, this electronic resource offers unfettered access to the full texts of a large inventory of public domain documents, including more than 25 books, 200 articles and chapters, and other scholarly literature online.

The Encyclopedia of Psychology (

Created and maintained by William Palya of the Department of Psychology at Jacksonville State University, this browsable online encyclopedia covers every area of psychology, featuring original information provided by various researchers and practitioners, with links to credible Web sites offering additional information about scientific psychology.

Mental Help Net (

First developed in 1995, this information network bills itself as “the most comprehensive source of online mental health information.” A winner of numerous awards for design and content, Mental Help Net features news, articles, features, advice columns, editorials, topical overviews on mental health subjects, and links to many other behavioral science Web sites.

Positive Psychology Center (

Under the guidance of Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., this not-for-profit organization, based on the University of Pennsylvania campus, conducts scientific research to “solve real-world problems, alleviate suffering, and help individuals and institutions achieve a high quality of life.” The alliance’s Web site features articles, columns, research, archived materials, and links on positive psychology.

Psychology Journals, Books, Textbooks and Reference Works (

A Web site of Elsevier Science, one of the world’s leading publishers of scientific periodicals, this Internet resource offers access to journal abstracts, full-text journal articles, books, news, and links to many resources of interest to researchers and psychology professionals.

PsychWeb (

Designed for psychology practitioners and students, this comprehensive directory offers access to a bevy of psychology resources on the Web, including full-text classic books online, brochures, scholarly resources by topic, self-help resources with information about psychology disorders, and sports psychology resources.

Social Psychology Network (

Maintained by Scott Plous of Wesleyan University, this online network, which calls itself “the largest social psychology database on the Internet”— features more than 5,000 links related to psychology.

Careers Related to Psychology

Health Science Career Cluster (

The health science field has become one of the largest of the career clusters. Approximately 14 million people were employed in some aspect of the U.S. health care system in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Health care workers are employed as physicians, nurses, nursing aides, technicians, technologists, therapists, and in a host of other occupations.

Human Services Career Cluster (

The human services career cluster contains jobs that deal with families and human needs. Human services workers help people manage the many mental, emotional, and practical demands of everyday life, such as finding a home, securing child care, deciding on a career, or arranging funeral services for loved ones. They also help people deal with the unexpected, such as terminal illness, natural disasters, or addiction and recovery. Work in this area can also involve physical improvements and needs, such as helping someone achieve weight loss or providing massage therapy for health and relaxation. Regardless of the specific area in which they work, all human services share a genuine interest in helping people.

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