Phase-shift keying (PSK) is a digital modulation scheme that conveys data by changing, or modulating, the phase of a reference signal (the carrier wave).
Any digital modulation scheme uses a finite number of distinct signals to represent digital data. PSK uses a finite number of phases, each assigned a unique pattern of binary digits. Usually, each phase encodes an equal number of bits. Each pattern of bits forms the symbol that is represented by the particular phase. The demodulator, which is designed specifically for the symbol-set used by the modulator, determines the phase of the received signal and maps it back to the symbol it represents, thus recovering the original data. This requires the receiver to be able to compare the phase of the received signal to a reference signal — such a system is termed coherent (and referred to as CPSK).
Alternatively, instead of using the bit patterns to set the phase of the wave, it can instead be used to change it by a specified amount. The demodulator then determines the changes in the phase of the received signal rather than the phase itself. Since this scheme depends on the difference between successive phases, it is termed differential phase-shift keying (DPSK). DPSK can be significantly simpler to implement than ordinary PSK since there is no need for the demodulator to have a copy of the reference signal to determine the exact phase of the received signal (it is a non-coherent scheme). In exchange, it produces more erroneous demodulations. The exact requirements of the particular scenario under consideration determine which scheme is used.