Introduction to Finding and Using Measurement Instruments
Consider whether you need a specific test that has been used before with your population. Do you have flexibility in your choice, as there are many different tests that measure the same constructs such as stress, anxiety, pain and you may want to compare various factors of the test to make a selection.
Test Characteristics to Consider:
- Previous Use in Relevant Populations
- Length/Ease of Use
These characteristics would be addressed in a test review resource or in the literature describing the development of the test. For a overview, see the American Psychological Association's FAQ on "Finding Information about Psychological Tests."
As a researcher who may potentially publish your findings, you are responsible for ensuring that you have permission to use a test for your research. You will need to contact the author or publisher, identifying yourself and how you plan to use the test. While some tests may be used with permission at no charge, most psychological and educational tests must be purchased directly from the publisher -- in part this is so the publisher can first determine if the purchaser is qualified and competent to administer and interpret the test. If you have questions about permissions and copyright on instruments, contact the NC State University Libraries' Copyright & Digital Scholarship Center.
I need to know if there is an existing test for a particular issue I want to study.
A starting place is the online and print resource Mental Measurements Yearbook with Tests in Print (MMY).
- Produced by the Buros Institute at the University of Nebraska, this resource provides basic information (date of publication, publisher information, etc.) as well as full-text reviews of many tests.
- Look for Publication Date, Population, Time to Administer, Cost, Reviews discuss validity, reliability, usefulness.
- MMY is also available in paper format in the D. H. Hill Jr. Library at the call number BF431 .M435.
- Most test instruments referenced in MMY will have to be purchased from the publisher.
Another searchable online resource is Test Link: the Test Collection of the Educational Testing Service.
- This resource offers the publisher and cost information as well as some indication of whether the test has been published in the literature, but does not offer the in-depth reviews.
- One subset of this collection is the Tests in Microfiche Collection (TIM is 1000+ tests out of over 20,000 in the whole ETS collection). The TIM collection is available in full text, in microfiche format to academic institutions, such as NC State. To search for a Test in Microfiche record in ETS, use Advanced search and type TIM in the TitleSearch field along with your keyword (e.g., self-efficacy) in the TitleSearch field. Availability will show as downloadable (for a fee), but NC State University Libraries has the Microfiche so you should be able request the Microform you need from Satellite Shelving. When you make the request, remember to note the set (alphabetical - set A, B, etc.) and call/ID number (i.e. TC012345).
You may visit other Triangle Research Libraries Network libraries to use subject-specific test identification databases such as Health and Psychosocial Instruments (1985-present) available at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Health Sciences Library.
Searching the research literature of your discipline or the PsycINFO database and/or the ERIC database. These databases include references to journal articles in psychological measurement and education that touch many disciplines, and an article on your topic might refer you to a particular test. Access these databases through the Libraries Database list. Journal articles may include the actual test instrument being discussed, particularly the article in which the initial creation and validation of the instrument is reported. Other articles in which use of the instrument is reported will likely only reference the test, but that can lead you to the test source or publication.
Databases WITH Test Limit:
- Search the PsycINFO and ERIC databases for your topic and check the article information to see if the actual instrument is included in the article. In PsycINFO, it is helpful to make use of the TM (Tests & Measures) search field to see what tests were used in the study.
- In ERIC, it is helpful to make use of the Tests/Questionnaires search limiter. To do this, go to the Advanced search - then for the Publication Type, specify Tests/Questionnaires (most of the results will be ERIC Documents).
Databases WITHOUT Test Limit:
- Combine your topic search with a cluster of the following assessment keywords to locate a test on a specific topic (be sure to truncate or use both singular and plural forms):
- e.g., in the PubMed database: osteoarthritis AND dogs AND (assessment OR interview OR inventory OR measur* OR questionnaire OR rating OR scale OR survey OR test OR tool)
- Another option is to search with subject headings. Searching databases using subject heading means you will have greater precision in you searches for instance, the use of subject headings to retrieve information means that you will get all the information on that topic regardless of the different terminology authors may have used. Each database uses slightly different subject headings. See the Finding Measurement Instruments Workshop Handout (p.3) for a list of useful keywords and subject headings in various databases.
Because instruments are challenging to find and compare, there are books compiling instruments in certain disciplines. In other cases, individual instruments are included in books and dissertations.
- One source to check for this is Tests and Measures in the Social Sciences: Tests available in compilation volumes.
- Search the Libraries or TRLN catalog to see if we have the item you are interested in - if we don't have it, request it free through Tripsaver Interlibrary Loan.
Learn More at NC State
If you are planning to develop your own instrument, search the NC State University Libraries catalog or the literature for resources. NC State offers courses on psychometrics. There is also the Psychometrics Lab.
Those taking courses in educational psychology may wish to consult the College of Education Media and Educational Technology Resource Center (METRC) at Poe Hall. The METRC has a collection of about 650 full-length tests (in the areas of education and psychology - i.e. intelligence, personality, memory, skill mastery, etc.). Items from this test collection are now listed in the online catalog, and have the location "Learning Resources Library - Test Collection." For a known item, try searching by Title Keyword. For topic/subject searching, try a Keywords search and limit the location to the LRL. You can also add in the word 'test' to the search and that should help focus the results as well. Due to publisher restrictions, tests in the METRC collection are not available for anyone to use to administer, to assess, or to provide feedback to anyone. For additional information about this collection, contact the METRC.
There are also many helpful university-based websites on instruments.
- e.g., Social-Personality Psychology Questionnaire Instrument Compendium - Dr. Alan Reifman, Texas Tech University.
If you would like assistance searching for relevant instruments, request a consultation with a subject specialist librarian.