Finding Research Tools

About This Guide

You may need to find a tool to help you carry out your research. Finding a verified tool is challenging. Often, tools are owned by the authors who created them for use in a study and are not provided in the articles reporting on the study or in books that provide tools. Regardless of where you find a tool, you will most likely need to contact the authors to request written permission to use it in your work and possibly obtain a copy of it. The author(s) may request payment. If the author(s) do provide permission, keep that documentation. This guide offers suggestions on finding tools in the library databases, eBooks, and government websites.

Find a Tool in the Library

Scholarly Literature

  1. Search the library literature to find researchers who have developed a tool on your topic. Sometimes, the tool will be included in appendices of an article.
  2. Use the references of articles that mention the tool to trace back to the original document that describes the tool.
  3. Add terms such as tool, toolkitquestionnaire, survey, screening, assessment, or instrument to your search in the databases.
    • Narrow example: "smoking cessation" AND toolkit.
    • Broad example: "smoking cessation" AND (tool OR toolkit OR questionnaire OR survey OR screening OR assessment OR instrument).
  4. Look to see if the database you are using has a filter for publication type, and select items such as surveys, questionnaires, etc., like in the image below from CINAHL.

Systematic Reviews

Another possibility that may help you find a tool is to search for systematic reviews on your topic. You can look at the information within the systematic review to identify the names of tools and information about them that the researchers used in the included studies.

Database Search

The Health and Psychological Instruments (HaPI) database allows you to search your topic, and the database will pull up names of different measurement tools. However, you won't get the actual tool. Instead, you are directed to articles that use or describe the tool. You can then work on finding access to the tool.

Tip! Even if you find a free tool or a tool is provided in an article, you may need to get permission to use it. Read websites carefully for permissions needed. With the scholarly literature, be sure to contact the author(s) for a copy of the tool and permission to use. Make sure to keep a record of these interactions.

Determine Reliability and Validity

You may need to determine the reliability and validity of the tool you want to use. This can be challenging, but there are a few things you can do.  

  • Use them as keywords in your search. One way to try to get information about the reliability and validity of your selected tool is to use reliability and validity as keywords in your search. Example: [Name of tool] AND (reliability OR validity).

Tip! Most reliability and validity studies are done as the tool is being developed. Depending on when the tool was created, these studies may fall outside of the 5-year limit that is often required, so it is best not to add date filters when doing this type of search.   

  • Check organization websites. If your tool is produced by an organization or company, their website is often a good place to see if they address the reliability and validity of the tool. One thing to be aware of is that if the tool is translated in another language, there will be separate reliability and validity studies that will need to be done on the translated tool. Be sure to look at the same version of the tool when determining information about reliability and validity.