PsycINFO is a abstracting service provided by the APA dedicated to research in the behavioural sciences to which many universities subscribe. Google Scholar provides a free abstracting service that covers seemingly all areas of research.

  • What are the pros and cons of using PsychINFO versus Google Scholar?
  • Under what conditions should someone use one or the other service?
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    $\begingroup$ I hate being critical about it, as both of these are good questions, but this might be better off with an emphasis on the latter question, as the first is a bit listy, IMO. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2012 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ChuckSherrington Feel free to edit. I'm not sure exactly how to change it. I'm hoping that someone will post an overall analysis rather than piecemeal points. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2012 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think if you give a condition for the first question, it would be stronger -- (something like) "given that I have a paper and I want to find works that cite it". My Stack Brain rails against "pros and cons" but it's probably okay. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2012 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ do we really need all these new tags? research-process, literature-review, publication-process, and university-training. I think this is far too many tags about doing research. There should be just one tag for that. Also, the lit-review tag is too easy to confuse with the much more established reference-request. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2012 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ Agreed with @Chuck, I don't like pros/cons, IMO something like "When should I use PsychINFO over Google Scholar" would be more constructive $\endgroup$
    – Ben Brocka
    May 23, 2012 at 21:35

2 Answers 2


At the rate the literature grows and journals proliferate, it is often hard to keep up with current trends. I find one of the best way to do this is to follow specific researchers that have research interested similar to me. Google Scholar allows authors to create profiles that collect their papers automatically.

Researchers on Google Scholar: Psychology, Neuroscience, and Psychiatry.

If you go to one of the authors' profiles, then you can click Follow new articles and Google will send you an email when they publish; I've found this incredibly useful.

In a similar vein, you can select Follow new citations, this is not as useful for other authors (unless your research interests are really similar) but you can do it for your own account to get email notifications when someone publishes something extending your previous work.

If you want some breadth, then Google Scholar recently introduced a feature of personal suggestions. This does some basic machine learning on your publications and their position in the citation graph to suggest papers you might be interested in. I have tested this feature out, and it is pretty interesting. It suggested a number of papers (mostly experimental biology) that are relevant to my research but I would not have found otherwise.


Benefits of PsychInfo

  • PsychInfo has more accurate metadata.
  • PsychInfo permits more controlled search terms over that metadata.
  • PsycInfo makes it easy to download a set of references. Without using third party tools Google Scholar only exports one reference at a time (as far as I am aware).
  • PsycInfo contains abstracts for quick browsing. Google scholar requires you to follow a link to the publisher to get the abstract.
  • PsycInfo lists references and cited-by whereas Google Scholar only has cited-by.
  • The version of PsycInfo that I use through ProQuest has an option to export formatted references in a range of bibliographic styles.
  • Both support full text integration. I've often found more one-click access to PDFs in PsycInfo. However, Google Scholar will let you know if a PDF is freely available on the Internet.

Benefits of Google Scholar

  • Google Scholar is free to use. So naturally if you don't have access to PsychInfo, then it is there.
  • Google scholar includes more content from more disciplines. But PsycInfo has great coverage of psychology.
  • Google Scholar does not require a password to access.
  • Google Scholar is quicker to start. For example, at my university, you need to go to find and go to the library site, find the page that allows you to search for databases, search for 'psycinfo', log-in. This can typically take 10 to 20 seconds. Bookmarks and saved passwords speed up the process considerably. Nonetheless, with Google Scholar I can get started with a search in 2 seconds. And the search flows naturally from a regular Google search. If all I want to do is get a single article or get a quick sense of what research has been done on a topic, that speed is important. Of course, for longer sessions, this time is no big deal.
  • Google Scholar has efficient BibTeX citation export.
  • Google Scholar has "related articles" that generates interesting suggestions.
  • Google Scholar sessions don't time out. PsycInfo sessions do time out. Thus, if you are moving between searching, reading, and other activities, this time-out on PsycInfo is a nuisance.
  • Google Scholar makes it easy to obtain an APA formatted citation for a given reference.

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