Finding Background Information: Psychology

Books with background info are often called "reference books".

  • Dictionaries can provide a quick definition and often some elaboration on the uses of the term.
  • Encyclopedias provide background information on unfamiliar subjects, leading you quickly to key ideas and sources in developing your topic.
  • Handbooks give an overview of the research that has already been done in a particular area.

Most of these are now available online through one of two platforms:

A couple of important titles that are NOT part of the above online collections:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5

Prepared and published by the American Psychiatric Association, this is the standard reference for the classification of psychological and psychiatric disorders. Indexes by symptoms, diagnoses, and diagnostic terms.  REFERENCE RC455.2.C4 2013

Dictionary of Psychology (Colman, 2008, Oxford Press)

Particularly good at differentiating between closely related concepts, e.g., “anorexia” vs. “anorexia nervosa.” Two useful appendices list phobias and abbreviations and symbols.

Also browse the Reference BF section for other reference print books that may be useful.


Date Revised: 06-September-2016