A Review of PTSDpubs 
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Cindy Gruwell, MLS, MEd 
Associate Librarian & Coordinator of Scholarly Communication 
John C. Pace Library 
University of West Florida 


PTSDpubs database (formerly known as PILOTS) is an openly accessible online resource that offers a gateway to the global literature on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the mental health impacts resulting from exposure to traumatic events, with focused attention on veterans. Produced by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, this database serves as a valuable platform for accessing information on these crucial topics. 


PTSDpubs is the most comprehensive database for information on PTSD. This invaluable platform offers up-to-date and retrospective global coverage, not only on PTSD, but also on other critical mental health matters. Its vast index comprises an array of sources such as journals, books, newsletters, reports, and dissertations. Although its primary focus is on veterans, the database also houses abundant information concerning individuals who have experienced trauma. One of its standout features is the seamless access to citations covering sought-after topics like DSM-5 criteria and evidence-based treatments, including cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure, and EMDR. It caters to diverse aspects, ranging from assessment, description, prevention, and treatment of various disorders to in-depth discussions on mental health services and related issues. 

It is important to highlight that PTSDpubs grants access to two major U.S. government publications: Clinician’s Trauma Update and PTSD Research Quarterly. By providing these authoritative resources alongside material aggregated from diverse sources beyond select journals, PTSDpubs represents an expansive and invaluable tool for professionals seeking current information on PTSD and its evidence-based treatment. 

PTSDpubs is offered free of charge by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and powered by ProQuest, a recognized scholarly database provider. The basic search interface includes a summary of topical coverage and access to a specialized PTSD and trauma thesaurus. Beyond extensive publications, the resource features detailed tests and measures, as well as cross-disciplinary PTSD-related subjects. PTSDpubs thus provides professionals with complementary access to a customized index of diverse literature and tools relevant to PTSD and psychological trauma, supported by an experienced database host. 

PTSDpubs serves a broad audience spanning mental health professionals, health workers, social workers, researchers, and the general public. Despite free access to the database itself, fully utilizing many journal articles and resources often requires paid subscriptions, unavailable to those without institutional affiliations or library access. This poses the greatest barrier for members of the public whose only option may be resources at local public libraries. Expanding open access content or summarizing key findings could help increase accessibility for general readers seeking mental health and PTSD information. Overall, while the database provides invaluable access to indexed literature, leveraging the full text requires financial means, potentially limiting its reach to certain audience segments. 


The PTSDpubs search interface defaults to a basic mode that can be limited to peer-reviewed sources. It provides minimal instructions on effective searching. Users enter query terms into a single search box, which retrieves results listed by relevance. Search keywords are highlighted within each result. 

The results page offers commonly-used limits in the left panel, including sort options, source types, publications, and subjects. Initial results display abbreviated citation information, the source genre, and links to abstracts, full-text availability, and references. 

An advanced search enables complex multi-line queries across multiple fields like abstracts, titles, authors, summaries, and subjects. Full records provide additional details, suggested related sources, and limits such as dates, tests/measures, spelling variants, and sort options. 

In summary, PTSDpubs offers both basic keyword and advanced field-based search options with available limits to aid professionals in retrieving relevant peer-reviewed PTSD literature efficiently. 

The defining strength of PTSDpubs is its extensive compilation of literature focused on veterans and PTSD — an unmatched scope compared to other research databases. Given the audience, PTSDpubs does a good job of providing diverse information in an easy-to-use format. Additional limits such as types of journals and research would be beneficial, but not vital. The singular hurdle to using the database will be access to full text resources. While there are limited freely available resources, many will be behind paywalls, preventing public access. Suggesting alternative means for the general public to obtain full texts could partially address this limitation. 

Business Model  

PTSDpubs, similar to PubMed, is easily accessible without any cost, setting it apart from various subscription-based databases. The distinction between the two becomes apparent when examining citations and attempting to access resources. Libraries and institutions utilizing ProQuest products can seamlessly access these materials, while others may need to explore alternative sources to obtain them. 


Libraries should strongly consider adding PTSDpubs to their database lists, not only because it offers free access, but also for its comprehensive coverage of peer-reviewed literature specifically relevant to PTSD and mental health sought by researchers, clinicians, and other patrons. Given the database’s unique value for accessing PTSD-related knowledge at no cost, libraries would benefit their users by making this content readily discoverable and available through their collections. 

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