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Tests and Instruments in the Behavioral and Social Sciences

Information about finding tests, scales, and other measurement instruments.

Obtaining permission to use an instrument

As mentioned in other places on these pages, the rights to tests and other instruments are covered by copyright law. Using an instrument improperly and without permission is a violation of copyright and the intellectual rights of the author or publisher. Be sure to obtain permission to use an instrument.

Fair Use

Use of all tests and assessment instruments is covered under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. The Fair Use clause of the copyright law allows for limited use of copyrighted materials. In the case of instruments, it can be all right to make a copy of a test for personal use, to show in class or in a PowerPoint, or for other classroom use. It may even be acceptable to use a question from a test (giving credit to the source and citing it properly, of course). It is not acceptable to use a test in research that will be published or otherwise distributed unless permission has been obtained.


Who owns the copyright?

Tests are generally the property of the author(s) who devised them. Frequently, copyright has been sold or transferred to a publisher. It may also be the case that a test author will have signed copyright for an article to the publisher, but retained copyright for the test. In this case, permission will be required from both the author and the journal or book publisher.

How do I get permission?

Contact information for obtaining permission can be difficult to obtain.

Sometimes a publisher will charge a fee for copyright permission and scoring info. It is not acceptable to alter the test in any way as it may affect the reliability and/or validity of the test instrument.

Always ask for permission in writing, and keep a copy for your records.

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