November 15th, 2007

Using Survey Tests and Measures

When learners get to the point in the dissertation stage where they have to pick their research methodology, we often get a flurry of tests and measures questions.

The biggest misconception I hear is that people think they can just find the survey questions, get IRB approval and start handing the tests out to their study subjects. They don’t realize that tests and surveys fall under intellectual property protections, so getting to the “using” surveys stage is a much longer process than they thought.

There are actually three stages before you can use a test or measure for your dissertation:

1) IDENTIFY the test/survey. That’s where our Mental Measurements database comes in handy. If you type in a simple subject like “stress” it will offer you the names, reviews and contact information for a variety of tests on that topic.

2) LOCATE the complete test/survey. The next step, after you find out the name of potential items, is to locate the full-text of the questions. This can be difficult, since tests might be only published in one obscure book or remain unpublished entirely. Ideally, Mental Measurements should have publisher contact information. However, if it doesn’t, our library guide to Finding Tests and Survey Instruments might help. Inside, the University of Texas link works especially well. Note: if nothing else pans out, you might have to contact the author directly.

3) GET PERMISSION to use or else PURCHASE the tests. This is the step that is most often overlooked, yet can get you in the most trouble if you ignore. If the test/survey you want is formally published, you simply need to work with the publisher to purchase or license the number of items necessary to your study. (Warning: This can add up $ fast.) Otherwise, you need to find out who owns the work, in order to get written permission. See your mentor if you have additional questions. The APA has an excellent website on the proper use of psychological tests. We also have e-books on the same topics, so feel free to ask a librarian for specific resources.

With all of that dry material, I feel like I should include something fun. This was from the PsycGRAD listserv today, so if you know anybody like this, pass along the alert:

gradPSYCH magazine is looking for newlywed students and early career psychologists who pulled off the tremendous feat of planning their wedding/commitment ceremony and managing their graduate school work simultaneously! We want to hear how you did it and whether you would do it again. Or maybe you considered it and decided to wait. Also, how did you deal with name changes on your degree and licensure documentation?

E-mail gradPSYCH reporter Amy Cynkar at if you’re willing to share your story.

— Erika

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