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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Do We Need Six Psychology Dictionaries—Or Any?


Seven years ago in PsycCRITIQUES I reviewed the first APA Dictionary of Psychology (Korn, 2007). Since then there have been two shorter editions (concise and college) and three special topic editions, including most recently The APA Dictionary of Statistics and Research Methods. In his review of this volume, Michael Palij provides an interesting history of statistics dictionaries and  an analysis of the purpose of a dictionary, and he points out that all this information is available on the Internet. Even the Oxford English Dictionary is available online, for free.

Do we really need any of these APA volumes? I enjoyed searching through my copy of the Big One when I did my review, but concluded that there was “no significant difference” (Korn, 2007, last para.) between searching it or the Internet. And that was a biased judgment from an older person still in love with hard-copy books. I confess that I have not looked in that dictionary in the past seven years. The need for an APA statistics dictionary seems especially questionable. Palij points out that statistics is a tool used by many disciplines other than psychology and is its own discipline with its own dictionary. He also notes several important missing items and the editor’s “argument that ‘space limitations prevent us from providing certain information’” (last para.). There are no space limitations on the Internet.

Perhaps readers could help me understand the need to sacrifice so many trees in publishing these dictionaries. Why would you use a hard-copy book to find the definition of anything?


Korn, J. (2007). You can look it up. [Review of the book APA dictionary of psychology, by G. R. VandenBos (Ed.)]. PsycCRITIQUES, 52(1). doi 10.1037/a0006301
Read the Review
ReviewNumbers, Words, and Things: Reviewing a Statistics and Methods Dictionary
By Michael Palij
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(25)


Sheri McCurdy-Lightbound

I suppose Korn (2007) gave us the reason to have a hard copy book in his review of the first psychology dictionary by the APA, "The dictionary, however, will give you one brief, reliable answer, and a Google search will give you thousands of answers, 98 percent or more of which are irrelevant. Internet searches require screening of results for reliability" (eleventh para.). Of course, this point is moot if the APA dictionary is put online and available for all to use. Maybe you need it if the power goes out or you have no battery left in your smart phone, tablet, or laptop (and no charger)?

I too love hard copy books, but I have only used a hard copy dictionary recently when playing Scrabble. You need the Scrabble dictionary to see what words are allowed. However, an online dictionary is provided for the online version of Scrabble. This begs the question, "Do we need 'hard copy' board games when you can play just about anything online?" (I would say yes..but what would my son say?..)

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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