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Research Design GSE80300: Home


This guide collects some helpful resources to assist you with completing your assignments for the Research Design course. If you have questions not addressed here, just contact us at or via our chat reference service.

Finding a published instrument

We are talking about "published instruments" that appear in journals that can be used to measure variables for their data (e.g., school environment). Part of research design is collecting information that will help you answer your research question(s). Many studies use an instrument such as a survey or questionnaire in order to gather information from participants in the study. It can be difficult to just come up with a list of questions out of thin air, so it is helpful to find a published instrument that some other researcher has come up with, and either use it as-is, or adapt it for your study.

It can be challenging to find an instrument that fits well with your needs. There are lots of places where the instrument might be published, so you will need to search in more than one place. In addition, it often happens that an article describing a study does not include a complete copy of the instrument that was used to gather data.

We suggest the following workflow when trying to locate published instruments:

  1. Search PsycTESTS
  2. Search EBSCO databases
  3. Search Proquest Dissertations and Theses
  4. Try contacting the author(s) of the instrument to ask for a copy

1. PsycTESTS

PsycTESTS is an APA database that specializes in indexing instruments that appear in journal articles. It does not cover commercially available tests like the WISC, WAIS, etc.

PsycTESTS will sometimes include a copy of the instrument's questions that you can download. It usually does not include psychometric information about the instrument, such as its validity and reliability.

What PsycTESTS is good at is pointing you toward the article where an instrument was first used or developed. You can then use other library resources to locate that article and see if it includes the instrument as an appendix. In PsycTESTS, look for references to the "source" for a particular instrument. This will usually be a citation to an article.

To access PsycTESTS at Alliant, start at the library home page and click Research | Databases | P | PsycTESTS

2. EBSCO Databases

Option A: Search EBSCO broadly

One approach is to search by subject terms that describe the topic the instrument covers, and to include keywords such as survey, questionnaire, instrument. The screenshot below shows an example of a search for articles that mention an instrument usable for assessing anxiety:

The brief video below goes into greater detail about how to conduct searches in EBSCO.

Option B: Search PsycINFO through EBSCO, using the Tests & Measurements field

Instead of trying broad searches across multiple EBSCO databases, you can instead opt for a more narrowly focused search. To do this, start at the library home page and click Research | Databases | P | PsycINFO.

At the EBSCO search page for PsycINFO, change the Select A Field option next to the first box so that it says TM Tests & Measures. Then, type keywords describing the subject about which you are interested in finding instruments. The search might look like this:

3. Proquest Dissertations & Theses

Many dissertations use instruments - whether previously published or newly developed - to gather data, and these instruments are often included in their entirety, as an appendix. Searching Proquest Dissertations & Theses is a good way to locate a copy of an assessment that you know exists; it is less helpful if you are still at the stage of finding out what instruments on your topic are out there.

When searching Proquest Dissertations & Theses, use the first search box to enter your subject terms, and in the second box enter terms related to instruments, tests, etc. IMPORTANT: Next to each search box, be sure to change "Anywhere" to "Anywhere except full text." Failing to do this will bring up lots of irrelevant material, since the search will be looking at the full text of all dissertations.

The screenshot below shows an example.

4. Contact the author

What can you do when you find out about an instrument that sounds like just what you need, but you can't locate a copy of it? There are still a couple of options.

First, try a simple Google search of the name of the instrument, in quotes. So, if you are looking for the Inventory of Stress Sources (ISS), you would search for "inventory of stress sources."

Second, if you know the name of a test and you have found an article discussing how it was developed, you can contact the author(s) of the article to ask them to send you a copy of the instrument. Contact information for at least one of the authors (called the "corresponding author") is usually included in the footer of the first page of the article, or at the very end of the article, just before the bibliography. The screenshot below illustrates this.


Finally, remember that the information in this guide is here to empower you to conduct a specialized type of research on your own. However, this does not mean that you cannot ask for help along the way. Alliant's library staff are ready to assist you at any time, so if you are unclear about anything, or just feel overwhelmed, reach out to us using the information at the Ask-A-Librarian link in the upper right corner of the library home page. Good luck!