APA offers new PsycTESTS database

Researchers can access comprehensive repository of psychological tests and measures.

By Linda Beebe

Finding a measure that suits your research—and has proven to be valid and reliable—has always been a difficult task.  Everyone knows there are multiple tests for almost every construct a psychologist might study; however, actually finding them is complicated.  For commercial tests used in clinical practice, there are several finding tools, but researchers and graduate students are generally seeking so-called unpublished tests, those they can use without paying a fee.  Even seeking permission is a barrier, although most researchers are pleased to see someone else use a test or measure they have developed.

To solve the problem, the American Psychological Association (APA) has developed a new database that is a repository for the actual tests and measures and a rich source of structured information about them.  Three types of tests are included:

  • Unpublished tests, those developed by researchers for use in their work, but not made commercially available.  These constitute the majority of the records in the database, and the records for them are based on published accounts of test development or reviews of the test.

  • Tests from the Archives of the History of American Psychology, some of which date to the beginning of the 20th century and may not be literature based.  (We welcome donations from other scholarly repositories.)

  • Commercially available tests.  APA has negotiated agreements with more than 100 commercial publishers to include records about their tests and, in some cases, instructions or sample reports and questions.

Although the database is new and still growing, every effort has been made to include a wide diversity of test types across a range of specialties.

Database Development

Three years of extensive research went into the database design and the collection of content.  Throughout the process, PsycINFO staff consulted with the APA Office of Testing and Assessment, librarians, and end users.  They did usability testing at both APA and library meetings.  The goal was to learn as much as possible about how people look for tests and what information they need to have about the measures.  The record structure was refined in an iterative process to facilitate search and retrieval.

Each measure in the database has a master record that includes the name, author(s), and year of development, as well as a summary that succinctly describes the development.  Purpose, construct measured, and administration method are also included.  In addition, there is a “child” record that includes more specific information about the test:  source document citation, language, format, number of items, validity and reliability data when available, permissions, populations details, and so on.  The record also provides details such as affiliations, correspondence address, and email for the authors.  If the record is not literature based (as may be the case for a commercial test or one from the Archives), there is a record labeled “Test Primary Data.”

Sources for the Tests and Measures

Researchers have responded enthusiastically to our requests for complete tests as well as the articles reporting how the tests were developed.  These currently constitute about 25% of the tests in the database.  APA staff and consultants have combed APA journals and selected journals from other publishers to find both full-text tests and clues to others.  For example, the searchers will trace a citation for a measure discussed in a Methods section to the original development article.  The second part of the search involves getting permission either from the test author or the publisher to use the test, if it is not in a journal owned by APA.  Even then, there may be permission issues, as the test may have been reprinted with permission or the author may have retained copyright.

Tests supplied by authors are presented exactly as APA receives them. Tests retrieved from articles, chapter, or dissertations are delivered in a stylized PsycTESTS presentation with any surrounding material (such as factor loadings) removed.  The content of the test items is never changed, nor are any words or symbols added.  Sometimes test items have been abbreviated for publication in the article.  If an opening stem is included in the text, it will be added, not as a part of each item, but as a note following the items.  Every test is accompanied by a cover sheet that includes a citation for the test record, an indication of whether the test is full, partial, or sample, the source citation, and a clear permissions statement.  All measures presented in text or flat images are delivered as PDFs; however, not all are textual.  Some are multimedia or computer software.

Searching PsycTESTS

On APA PsycNET, users can search PsycTESTS only or in a cross-database search with APA’s other 6 databases.  The database has been indexed with Thesaurus terms, and users can also search using fields such as construct, administration time, test name, population, setting, and so on.  They can also set limits such as no fee (non-commercial) or permissions (no permissions required for research and teaching).  Users can also browse by test name or acronym, author, construct, test author, or year.

PsycTESTS was released for site licenses on APA PsycNET on September 12th, and it will be included in APA member packages as of January 1, 2012.  APA has signed distribution contracts with EBSCO and Ovid Technologies, and they will make it available on their own platforms within a few months.  As of the October 2011 release, the database will contain more than 2,500 test names with approximately 2,000 actual tests.

Call for Tests

APA’s goal is to have at least 10,000 tests in the database by the end of 2012.  As staff continue the intensive searches and we identify tests from documents covered in PsycINFO, we invite authors to contribute their tests.  Based on responses throughout the development process and on release, we expect PsycTESTS to be very well used.  Consequently, having your tests in the database should bring greater recognition for your work and higher citations.  If you are interested, please see our Call for Tests or contact us by email.   For more information on the database, please go to the PsycTESTS webpage.

Linda Beebe is Senior Director for PsycINFO at the American Psychological Association.