Welcome everyone to our webinar on Researching Tests and Measures in the Walden Library. This webinar is focused on dissertation research but has helpful search strategies for anyone researching tests and measures.
Let’s get started with an overview of what we’ll be covering in this session.
We’ll begin by discussing the types of tests that you’ll encounter in your research. Then we’ll talk about the ways you’ll be looking for tests: searching by topic and searching by test name.
Then we’ll cover how to gather all the information you’ll need about any tests you identify, including: finding the full test; reliability and validity information; and how to obtain permission to use and reproduce part or all of the test. Lastly, we’ll wrap up with where to get help if you get stuck anywhere in this process.
If you would like to navigate directly to any of these particular sections, you can use the markers on the video timeline at the bottom or the table of contents on the YouTube page.
There’s a lot of pieces to put together when researching tests and measures so here’s a short checklist to make sure you’ve collected all the information you’ll need.
First, is locating a test that measures what you want to measure. When you’ve found a test that you think will do that, you’ll need to obtain the full test along with validity and reliability information and then permission to use the test if it’s for dissertation research. At any point in the process, it’s good to investigate how other researchers have used this test which we’ll also talk about.
Linked in the PowerPoint slides for this presentation is our Library Guide to Tests and Measures. Make sure to refer to that for more details on what we’ll be covering in this session.
Before we dive into search strategies and databases for researching tests and measures, it’s important to understand the two broad categories tests fall into. This is important to understand because it will influence your search strategy and help you determine how and where to get all the needed information about the test you’ve identified.
To simplify things during this webinar, I’m going to use the term “tests” to refer generally to all the instruments available to researchers such as surveys, questionnaires, or scales.
The two categories that those and other tests fall into are published tests and unpublished tests.
Published tests, which are also referred to as commercial tests, are those that are owned and available through commercial publishers. For these types of tests, the publisher supplies all the testing materials needed to administer the test which can save a lot of research time. However, you’ll need to pay for those materials and there are often specific qualifications you must meet to purchase and administer them.
One published test you’re likely familiar with is the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. On their website, you can see that the testing materials must be purchased, but you’ll need to be certified through their foundation to do so. This is a little unusual. For most published tests, such as the Beck Depression Inventory, qualifications typically consist of a particular degree level, certification, or license.
The other type of test is what we call unpublished or noncommercial tests. This is a bit of a misnomer because these tests are published and available in the general research literature, but not through a commercial publisher.
Their advantages and disadvantages are the opposite of published tests. They’re free to use and don’t require specific qualifications to administer. However, some additional research is often needed to locate the full test, validity and reliability information, and permissions.
Let’s look at the test record for the Work-Family Conflict Sale in the Library. We can quickly see what this test measures and its reliability, but we’ll need to look more closely at the attached PDF to see if the full test is included there then do some additional work to request permission to use the test.
Now that we’ve covered the two types of tests you’ll be encountering, let’s talk about how you would go about finding a test for your research or coursework.
One of the main ways you’ll be searching for a test is by topic. There are a couple different approaches you can take to do this.
As you research your topic in the literature, you’ll want to keep an eye out for any tests that you might be able to use for your research.
However, you can do this more purposefully by searching your topic in the psychology database APA PsycInfo and using their Tests & Measures limiter to browse and identify possible tests more quickly.
Let’s look at how to do this.
On the Library homepage, click the Databases A-Z button, then click A for APA PsycInfo, then scroll down and click on the database name.
We’ll search our topic as we normally would and enter one idea or concept per search box combining similar ideas in the same search box separated by OR.
In the first box we’ll enter: high school students OR adolescen* OR teen* and you’ll see I put an asterisk at the root word for both adolescent and teen to search all variations of those words.
In the second box we’ll enter: alcohol* (again with the asterisk to search all forms of that word) OR drinking.
Since I’m specifically interested in risk factors related to alcohol consumption, I’ll enter risk in the third search box.
We’ll scroll down and uncheck full text which is standard practice for all dissertation research since we can always get you the full text later. We’ll check peer review, then scroll back up and click search.
Now that we’re on the results page, we want to look first at the Tests & Measures limiter at the bottom of the left-side menu. The more reliable and valid a test the more likely it will be used in the field. Here you’ll see a list of tests and how often they were used in the research articles in your results list. We can click “Show more” to see the full list. If we check any of these boxes, such as the “youth risk behavior survey,” we’ll see only the articles that have used this particular test.
By using this limiter and browsing your results you should be able to come up with a few test names you want to learn more about which we’ll talk about how to do shortly.
Remember, you can always go back and revise your search as you normally would, if needed, by trying less, more, or different keywords and keyword combinations.
The other way to search for tests by topic is by searching the Library’s test databases. These databases allow you to specifically search tests by what it is you want to measure.
To access these databases, on the Library homepage click “Start Your Research” in the top menu. Under “Search by Type” on the right, select “Tests & Measures.” This is the Library research guide I mentioned at the being of the presentation.
On the landing page, you’ll see a list of the Library’s three test databases. The first two databases listed, APA PsycTests and Health and Psychosocial Instruments (which we call HaPI for short), contain information about mostly unpublished tests. The test information available in each database varies slightly, but one thing to note is that PsycTests has the full text for about half the tests in its database. For the other tests, you’ll have to look at the research articles themselves to see if the full test is available there.
The third database, Mental Measurements Yearbook, or MMY for short, contains reviews of published tests. There are no full tests in this database because, remember, you must purchase them from the publisher.
If you want to search only unpublished tests or only published tests, you can always search these databases separately. Your ultimate goal for dissertation is to find a test that best measures what you want to measure. The most efficient way to do this is to search all three databases at the same time using our Tests & Measures Combined Search.
Let’s try the combined search and see what information is available in each of these databases.
Now we’re on the landing page for the combined search, let’s set up the same search we’ve been working with.
At the top of the results list, we can see there are 528 results. What you’ll find in the results list are test records – information about tests that match your search criteria. Typically, you’ll simply browse the list and look at potentially relevant tests by clicking on the test name.
For illustrative purposes, we’re going to take a look at a test record from each database. At the bottom of the left-side menu under Databases, you can see most results are from the HaPI database, then PsycTests, and the least from the MMY. This is not uncommon as you’ll generally find many more unpublished than published tests on most topics, so again, it’s important to search all tests since you will often not have a choice as to what type of test best measures what you’re looking to measure.
Let’s take a look at a test from the HaPI database by checking the box beside it. This result looks promising, so let’s see what’s available in this test record by clicking on the test title. The best strategy for reading test records is too simply read through the record and see what’s there and what’s not based on the checklist I shared earlier.
We can see the authors listed, a source from 2017, what the test measures, the populations that were sampled, another source from 2002, and the full text of the 2017 article.
The next step is to read this article closely and see if it has the full validity and reliability information you need and the full test. It’s best to use the PDF instead of the embedded HTML article. Make sure to look for the full test in both the article text and the appendix. You should also obtain and read closely any articles that are cited in the test record but may not be linked. The 2002 article that is cited looks like it has additional reliability information that you’ll likely want to review.
To find the full text of the 2002 article, we’ll go back to the Library homepage. We’ll search the article title in Thoreau, the search box at the top of the homepage, which searches most of the Library databases simultaneously. Looking closely at the results list, we can see our article listed here.
As of yet, we haven’t found clear permissions information. We’ll talk more about what to do in these circumstances shortly.
Let’s head back to our original results list and take a look at a test record in PsycTests. We’ll uncheck HaPI and check PsycTests. Let’s take a closer look at this test.
This record is extremely detailed. We have a wealth of test details, author details, permissions information, validity and reliability, and source information. When we scroll back up and take a look at the attached PDF, we can see that this has the full test. However, it doesn’t have the full research article, so again, you’ll want to find and closely read any source that is cited but not linked in the test record.
Lastly, let’s take a look at a Mental Measurements test record. We’ll uncheck PsycTests and check MMY.
Let’s take a look at this one.
Remember, the MMY only has reviews of published tests. You’ll see some of the test information broken out at the beginning, including publisher contact information, price, and other test details. As you scroll down, you’ll see two test reviews and the reviewers’ credentials. Reviews will include a description of the test, information on the development of the test, technical information including reliability and validity, and conclude with a general analysis of the test.
Now that we’ve looked at how to search for a test by topic, let’s take a look at what to do if you already have the name of a test.
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for tests as you read your textbooks, assigned readings, and do your own research in the Library. So you’ve found a test name, now what?
First, you’ll want to search the test name in the Tests & Measures Combined Search and see if there is a test record for your test.
Remember, you’ll find the test databases under Start Your Research and Tests & Measures.
Let’s say we came across this test in a research article we used for a course assignment: Substance Use Risk Profile Scale. All we need to do is search the test name in the first search box.
Looks like we’re in luck! There are 8 records. This is a pretty common results list. This test is popular enough that it’s been translated into multiple languages. You’ll often see abbreviated versions of a test and what looks like duplicate results but are actually the same test that was cited in different articles. This looks to be our test.
We can see this record is from PsycTests, so hopefully the attached PDF will be the full text of the test. The next steps would be to read through the test record, read the attached PDF, find and read any other articles cited but not linked in the test record, and determine what other information about the test you still need to gather.
If the test is not in any of the Library test databases, there are a few other places you can look for information about the test. We’ll discuss this more in the next section when we talk about how to see how a test was used in other studies. But keep in mind, if you need to go to great lengths to research a specific test, you may run into problems trying to locate reliability and validity information as well the full test.
Let’s review all the necessary information you’ll need about a test if using it for dissertation research.
We’ve talked in some detail about how to obtain the full text of a test.
Remember, if it’s a published test, it will be available through the publisher.
If it’s an unpublished test, you’ll want to see if there is a test record for it in one of the Library’s test databases. The test may be linked directly in the test record, may be in the text or appendix of an attached research article, or may be in the text or appendix of an article that is cited but not linked in the test record.
You can also search the test name in Thoreau, our multidatabase search tool on the Library homepage, to see if other research articles that have used the test also reprinted the full test in their article. You can do the same by searching completed dissertations.
If you’re going to the extent of contacting the author who developed the test, again, you may have trouble finding other important test information such as a reliability and validity which we’ll talk about next.
Validity and reliability tells us how well an instrument measures what it’s supposed to measure and how consistently it does this over time.
For published tests, you can search the test name in the Tests & Measures Combined Search to see if there is a test review in the Mental Measurements Yearbook or in the small collection of test records of published tests available in HaPI and PsycTests. And of course, this information will also be provided by the publisher when the test is purchased.
As you may have guessed, for unpublished tests, you can simply search the test name, again, in the Tests & Measures Combined Search. You can also search the test name in Thoreau, our multidatabase search tool. For more popular tests, you’ll often find research articles that have reviewed a test for its psychometric properties.
Let’s move on to permissions for using and reproducing part or all of the test.
Generally, you will need to determine the copyright holder for the test. The two documents linked in the presentation slides will detail Walden’s permissions requirements and what you need to include in your dissertation.
For published tests, the publisher will provide you with permissions when you purchase the test.
For unpublished tests, you can search the test name in the Tests & Measures Combined Search to see if there is an explicit permissions statement. The test record is also a good place to look for contact information of the test developer and the name of the journal where the test was published. If you need to contact the journal publisher, most can be contacted through the Copyright Clearance Center by searching the journal title which will then link you to the publisher’s request form.
Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, it’s always a good idea to see how the test you’re interested in was used in other studies. You can do this by searching Thoreau, our multidatabase search tool that searches most of the Library’s databases simultaneously.
Let’s see what a search like this looks like.
On the Library homepage, click the Advanced search under the search box at the top. This will bring you to the Thoreau search landing page with all your search options.
In the first search box, we’ll enter the test name we’re interested in. If you’re sure you have the exact name and correct spelling you can search the test using quotation marks to search it as an exact phrase. We’ll scroll down and uncheck full text, check peer review, and scroll back up and click “Search.”
If you end up with quite a few results, you can always narrow your search by adding in additional search terms. For example, if we were interested in binge drinking, we could enter that in the second search box, and click “Search” to update our results. You can see that reduced our results quite a bit.
Now that you have what you need to get started exploring tests and measures, let’s talk about where to get help if you get stuck in any part of the process.
On all of the Library webpages, you’ll see a blue Ask a Librarian button on the top right. This is where you can go to find answers to your questions or ask for research help.
Since researching tests and measures is relatively complex, they’re best suited for email or a research appointment if you’re a doctoral student.
Here in the Library, we can help with researching tests, however, all other questions should be directed to Walden’s Office of Research and Doctoral Services. You can email them or attend their open office hours.
That wraps it up for this session. Keep an eye out for future webinars including researching theories, identifying a gap in the literature, and the literature review for dissertation.
Created April 2021 by Walden University Library