How to Find Sources for Psychology Research Papers

Using Databases and Finding References

How to Find Sources for Psychology Research Papers

The process of writing a research paper commonly involves searching for and referring to prior research in the text of the paper and in a separate References section.

  Relevant peer-reviewed journal articles should be the primary sources that you use when writing research papers (for more information, please see the Appropriate References for Research Papers section of this website).

  Here we discuss how to find peer-reviewed journal articles via database searches.  

For more information on reading, evaluating, and using references, please see the Evaluating References and Taking Notes page; for information on citing sources in APA style, please see the Citing References page.

Searching Databases for References

Peer-reviewed journal articles can be identified and obtained through database access and journal subscriptions provided by the UCSD library system.  Depending on your topic of interest, you may wish to use any of a variety of databases to search for articles.

  If you are off campus, you may need to connect remotely to the UCSD computer network via VPN.  Perhaps the most commonly used database in the psychological sciences is the American Psychological Association’s PsycINFO database.

  When using that or similar databases, tips for best results include:

  • Search using a variety of keywords. For many topics, there may be a number of database search terms that yield relevant research.  For example, if you are researching the role of sleep in memory, you might consider using the keyword sleep in combination with the keywords learning, memory, and other terms (across multiple searches).
  • Search using Boolean operators. Including the words and or or in your searches can help you obtain more directly relevant results.  For instance, a search for genetics AND parenting will yield results that mention both of those terms rather than results that only mention one (as would occur if you simply typed in both terms without the Boolean operator).
  • Search using quoted keywords, terms, or phrases. If you are looking for an exact match to a particular set of words in a specific order, then enter those words into the database search box surrounded by quotes (for example, instead of contextual fear conditioning, type “contextual fear conditioning”).  As a result, you will only obtain results that include that exact set of words. 

Obtaining References from Databases and Libraries

After you have located the sources that you wish to examine, you will need to obtain and read them.  In most cases, when using a university database, the search results include full text journal article links.  There are a variety of methods for obtaining references, including:

  • In most PsycINFO search results there are links to “Full text” and “Full text – PDF” downloads. Similar links can be found in other databases that have full text access, such as the EBSCOhost database system.
  • Many databases accessible through UCSD have “UC-eLinks” buttons that appear next to search results. Clicking on that button reveals a list all the different ways that an article can be obtained through the UCSD library system or other means.
  • Specifying the database to provide only results where “full text is available” (there is often a checkbox to select that option) can guarantee that you will be able to access the whole article in most cases. Please note that this capability is only offered by some databases.
  • In cases where an article is not available through the UCSD Library or UC System Libraries, you may have to request the article through a different library. The subject librarian for Psychology at UCSD, Tamara Rhodes, will be able to assist you.  If you wish to use that method, please visit this webpage.

The UCSD library and the UC system libraries have subscriptions to thousands of peer-reviewed journals.  Accordingly, in most cases you will be able to access the full text of the articles that you are seeking through university library sources.  If you encounter difficulty accessing articles, then consulting a librarian may be helpful.

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [PDF]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [PDF]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos

Databases and Search Engines (some may require connection to UCSD network)

  • PsycINFO
  • Google Scholar
  • PubMed (NIH/NLM)
  • Web of Science

UCSD Resources

External Resources  

Prepared by S. C. Pan for UCSD Psychology

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Library Research in Psychology: Finding it Easily

How to Find Sources for Psychology Research Papers

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 issues, press releases, reports, 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 APA PsycInfo®, an abstracts database; APA PsycArticles®, full text of APA journal articles; APA PsycBooks®, full-text books, book chapters and entries from the Encyclopedia of Psychology; APA PsycExtra®, research from outside the peer-reviewed publication; APA PsycTests®, psychological tests, measures, scales, surveys and other assessments; and APA 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. 

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.

  • APA Databases
  • The Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms

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

APA PsycInfo

APA 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.

APA PsycInfo covers journal titles, doctoral dissertations, authored and edited books, and chapters from edited books. Start your research by using APA PsycInfo.

  • APA PsycInfo Facts
  • APA PsycInfo Journal Coverage List

APA PsycArticles

APA 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. APA PsycArticles currently covers peer-reviewed journals from 1894 to the present.

  • APA PsycArticles Facts
  • APA PsycArticles Journal Coverage List  

APA PsycExtra

APA PsycExtra, a companion to the scholarly APA 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.

APA PsycExtra is different from APA 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 APA PsycInfo.

  • APA PsycExtra Facts  
  • APA PsycExtra Content Providers List  

APA PsycBooks

APA 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.

APA PsycBooks contains the APA PsycInfo abstract and bibliographic records for books and chapters and the full text of the book, tables of contents and all introductory material.

  • APA PsycBooks Facts  
  • APA PsycBooks Coverage List   

APA PsycTests

APA 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. APA 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.

  • APA PsycTests Facts  
  • APA PsycTests FAQ  

APA PsycTherapy

APA PsycTherapy is a database containing more than 300 videos featuring therapy demonstrations showing clinicians working with individuals, couples and families. APA 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.

APA 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 PsycTherapy Facts  
  • APA PsycTherapy FAQs  

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.

  • Browse Books in the APA Handbooks in Psychology Series       

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 Subscription Packages.


If you are not an APA member or need occasional access to the databases, you can search APA PsycInfo, APA PsycExtra, APA PsycArticles, and APA 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 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 available online. An interactive online version of the thesaurus is also provided with most all APA 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 APA PsycInfo record fields is also available.

  • APA's Training Center  
  • APA PsycInfo Field Guide  

APA Databases & Electronic Resources Blog 

This blog is your source for training materials and information about the American Psychological Association’s Databases & Electronic Resources.

It includes updates on web-based and in-person training sessions, as well as highlights from our video tutorials, handouts and other materials.

You will also find announcements about new publications that are being added to the databases, new features being added to the APA PsycNet platform, and about new resources as they become available. 


Library and Psychology Research Guide | Department of Psychology

How to Find Sources for Psychology Research Papers

This guide is your one-stop library resource for scholarly and non-scholarly books and eBooks, databases and journals, and web resources! In this guide you'll also find information on library services, tools, and other web resources to help you write your papers, do your presentations, cite your sources, and more. Often, you'll find that the core resources below contain the information you need for your research.

Click here to learn more about the Psychological Resources at the UNT Libraries

For more information on research methods and strategies check out these links:

For additional assistance, ask our department's subject librarian, John Martin, by emailing or calling (940) 565-3980

To learn more about the services provided by the UNT library visit

Types of psychology sources

There are many sources you will encounter as you research in psychology. These sources have different characteristics. Take care to match the sources you use to your projects.

Core psychology sources and databases

For many topics and research questions in Psychology, you'll find the resources below helpful.

Helpful Databases for Psychological Research

Visit for a list of databases

You may need to log in with your EUID and password for access to certain databases

Academic search complete This opens a pop-up window to share the URL for this database

***You may be redirected to a page where you will need to click «EBSCOhost Web- Basic Search», then select «Academic search complete»***

Academic Search Complete provides a scholarly collection providing full text coverage for over 10,500 journals for nearly all academic areas of study — including social sciences, humanities, education, computer sciences, engineering, language and linguistics, arts & literature, medical sciences, and ethnic studies, etc. Dates of Coverage: 1975 — Current


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Alternative Name(s) & Keywords: APA PsycARTICLES

PsycARTICLES via Ebscohost indexes journals from the American Psychological Association, the APA Educational Publishing Foundation, the Canadian Psychological Association and Hogrege Publishing Group. Full Text coverage is from 1987 to present. Nearly all APA journals go back to Volume 1, Issue 1. Dates of Coverage: 1984 — current.


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Alternative Name(s) & Keywords: APA PsycINFO

PsycInfo via Ebscohost peer-reviewed literature in behavioral science and mental health.

Includes information about the psychological aspects of related fields such as medicine, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, education, pharmacology, technology, linguistics, anthropology, business, law, and others.

Contains citations and summaries dating as far back as the 1600s. Dates of Coverage: Journal coverage is 1872 to current. Chapter and book coverage is 1987 to current

PsycTESTS via EBSCOhost

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Alternative Name(s) & Keywords: APA PsycTESTS

PsycTESTS via EBSCOhost Produced by the American Psychological Association (APA), the database serves as a repository for a growing selection of psychological tests and measures, including actual test instruments and test items that are available for immediate download and use in research and teaching.

PsycTESTS is an authoritative source of structured information about tests of relevance to psychologists and professionals in related fields such as psychiatry, management, business, education, social science, neuroscience, law, medicine, and social work.

While focused on contemporary instances of test use, coverage spans more than a century. Dates of Coverage: Varies

Sage Knowledge

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Sage Knowledge contains SAGE eBook and eReference content in the social sciences, including scholarly monographs, reference works, handbooks, series, professional development titles, and more. Also contains suggestions for relevant content in other books and SAGE Journals.

Sage Research Methods

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SAGE Research Methods is a research methods tool created to help researchers, faculty and students with their research projects. SAGE Research Methods links over 175,000 pages of SAGE's renowned books, journals and reference content.

Researchers can explore methods concepts to help them design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct their research, and write up their findings. Since SAGE Research Methods focuses on methodology rather than disciplines, it can be used across the social sciences, health sciences, and more.

Subject coverage includes sociology, health, criminology, education, anthropology, psychology, business, political science, history, economics, among others.

For research tips and more information on psychology databases and journals visit

Other Helpful Resources for Psychological Research


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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines and classifies mental disorders in order to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research. It is the standard reference for clinical practice in the mental health field.

American Psychiatric Association (APA)

The American Psychiatric Association is an organization of psychiatrists working together to ensure humane care and effective treatment for all persons with mental illness, including substance use disorders. It is the voice and conscience of modern psychiatry. Its vision is a society that has available, accessible quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

American Psychological Association (APA)

APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 121,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members. This site includes a search box to find books and articles as well as a page to explore topics within Psychology.

Association for Psychological Science (APS)

APS is the leading international organization dedicated to advancing scientific psychology across disciplinary and geographic borders. Members provide a richer understanding of the world through their research, teaching, and application of psychological science.

For more reference sources visit

How to research using google scholar

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts, and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other web sites.

Each result in a Google Search has options beneath it including: Citation for the article in 5 formats & export to various citation managers; «Cited by» lists all the articles written more recently that cite the article; and related articles. If the full text is available, it will appear as a link to the right of the citation. Google Scholar searches may be narrowed down by date in the left margin of the results list.

To link the UNT library to your Google Scholar search go to Settings —> Library Links —> Type in University of North Texas —> Save

Tools for writing, apa style, and citations

Check out this Scholarly Writing Guide

For writing & style guides, advice, and online writing communities visit Style & Editing page

For information on getting published in a psychological journal check out the Getting Published page

Check out the basics of citing research, research tools for citations, and how to cite according to the APA Style by visiting the library's Citations & Style Guide page


To learn more about Plagiarism and how to avoid it please visit this helpful link,


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