Skip to main content
Original Article

How to Identify Hot Topics in Psychology Using Topic Modeling

Published Online:

Abstract. Latent topics and trends in psychological publications were examined to identify hotspots in psychology. Topic modeling was contrasted with a classification-based scientometric approach in order to demonstrate the benefits of the former. Specifically, the psychological publication output in the German-speaking countries containing German- and English-language publications from 1980 to 2016 documented in the PSYNDEX database was analyzed. Topic modeling based on latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) was applied to a corpus of 314,573 publications. Input for topic modeling was the controlled terms of the publications, that is, a standardized vocabulary of keywords in psychology. Based on these controlled terms, 500 topics were determined and trending topics were identified. Hot topics, indicated by the highest increasing trends in this data, were facets of neuropsychology, online therapy, cross-cultural aspects, traumatization, and visual attention. In conclusion, the findings indicate that topics can reveal more detailed insights into research trends than standardized classifications. Possible applications of this method, limitations, and implications for research synthesis are discussed.