Finding Assessment Tools Online

by Shawn Thomas, MSLIS


Table of Contents

I. I need to find a relevant assessment tool. Where do I begin?

First, you will want to define your problem.  Clearly defining your goal can help you to find the best possible assessment tool for your work.  Do you want to use the tool to make diagnoses? Will it be used to track outcomes? Will the tool be used to assess the stage or severity of a disease?  Do you need to check for the presence of multiple conditions? Should assessments be performed by highly trained professionals, by graduate students who have received little training, by clients themselves, or by parents/guardians?  What assessment tools are commonly cited in the literature related to your subject of interest?  Answering these questions and formulating others can improve the likelihood that you will find the right tool for the right job. 

Be sure to take advantage of the library resources that are available to you along with any other online or print resources that might be useful.  PubMed, the National Library of Medicine's biomedical citation database, is often a great place to begin.  You may want to improve the precision of your PubMed search results by using the associated MeSH database to find subject headings such as "Psychiatric Status Rating Scales"[Mesh].  You can also find MeSH terms by locating a relevant record, changing PubMed's drop down display menu to "Citation," and then scrolling down.  

II. How can I find information about a specific assessment tool? 

If the only information that you have about an assessment tool is its name, you may want to begin your search by using a relevant database. A list of assessment tool resources from the Blessing Health Professions Library includes links to several databases.  For example, Tests and Measures in the Social Sciences from the University of Texas, Arlington offers a RefWorks RefShare database with over 21,000 assessment tool citations.  The ETS Test Collection Database is another good place to start. It includes details about more than 20,000 tests and other measurement tools from the early 1900s to the present. More general citation databases such as PubMed, Ebsco, and Ovid  are also good ways to find articles about assessment tools. If you are specifically looking for a comprehensive review of a mental measurement device, the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements sells a number of high quality test reviews online. 

If the above options do not help you with your problem, you may want to use a web search engine such as Google or Yahoo to find information about an assessment tool. If your search query yields a large number of irrelevant results, you'll want to refine your search. Placing quotations marks around a tool's title is typically a good idea (e.g., "Beck Depression Inventory"). You may also want to try adding the name of an assessment tool's author or publication date to the search query. Results from your initial searches that yield small amounts of information can be used to refine subsequent searches. For example, you might learn from a search result that an assessment tool is published by a certain company. You could then search the web for the company's name.  After locating the publisher's web site, you could use its search interface to find information about the assessment tool. You can try contacting a representative from the company if their web site does not include the information that you need.

III. I've tried searching a number of databases but still cannot information about an assessment tool. What do I do now? 

If you are looking for copyright information about an assessment tool that was first published in a journal, you can try contacting the journal's permissions department. Assessment tools created by the US government automatically enter the public domain. See Copyright Basics by the US Copyright Office, When Works Pass into the Public Domain by Lolly Gasaway, and Stanford's Copyright & Fair Use Overview for more information about the public domain. 

Another useful tactic is to try to contact one of an assessment tool's authors. A lead author is often the best person to ask for information about a tool, so do not hesitate to ask this person any questions you may have. If you do not know who authored an assessment tool, you will have to devise a plan for acquiring this information. If you know about a paper in which a tool was referenced, you can either use it to obtain citation details or try to contact one of the paper's authors for help. The paper may include a citation for the article or book in which the tool was first published. Once you have some information about the article in which an assessment tool was published, you can search a database of citations such as PubMed for the article's title and author(s). Often, the citation will include an e-mail address for the lead author or the person in charge of public relations related to the tool. Older articles may include expired e-mail addresses, so keep that in mind if you receive a reply that says "Returned mail: User unknown" or a related message. 

If you know the names of an assessment tool's authors but are having trouble finding their e-mail addresses, you should plan to find a way to determine the institutions that the authors are associated with. Recently published articles by a certain author are an excellent source of information about the identity of his or her primary affiliation. Older articles may list affiliations that are no longer applicable, so you will usually want to find more recent papers by the author. You can also try searching a web search engine like Google or Yahoo for an author's name. Be careful if you take this step, because multiple authors may have the same name. You may want to refine your search by adding keywords that describe the author's work to your search query. Once you have determined an author's institution, you can access the institution's web site to search for the author's e-mail address. Many universities have a faculty directory that the public is free to search. If you can't find a directory, try finding the contact information for someone at the institution that is responsible for answering users' questions.  Should additional questions remain, ask for help from a librarian, professor, colleague, or anyone else who has experience with assessment tools.

IV. Assessment Tool Web Sites

Online Resource Description
Tests and Measures in the Social Sciences The University of Texas, Arlington has created a massive database of over 21,000 assessment tool citations using RefWorks Refshare.  Although the database does not include any assessment tools, it offers information about where to acquire them.  
ADAI Substance Use Assessment Instrument Library The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) at the University of Washington maintains this database, which offers information on over 275 questionnaires and interviews.
American Thoracic Society: Quality of Life Instruments This site offers information about instruments used to assess quality of life in people with respiratory diseases.
Assessment of Suicidal Risk in Adults and Older Adults offers information about suicidal risk scales' reliability, validity, and more.
Association of Test Publishers (ATP): Member Products & Services The ATP is a non-profit organization that represents publishers of assessment tools related to clinical uses, education, employment, and certification/licensing.
Buros Institute of Mental Measurements - Instructional Resources The Buros Institute of Mental Measurements offers this helpful collection of lessons, articles, guides to tools from Buros, and links to APA Online resources.  The most outstanding resource available on this web site is a lesson about Questions to Ask When Evaluating Tests.
Buros Test Reviews Online This resource from the Buros Institute of Mental Measurement offers information on over 4,000 tests, and over 2,500 reviews are available for visitors to purchase.
CART: Compendium of Assessment and Research Tools CART offers information about instruments used for measuring education and youth development outcomes.
Child Care & Early Education Research Connections Research Connections indexes data collection instruments and measures that are relevant to child care and early education research. 
CINAHL (from Ovid)
CINAHL Plus (from Ebsco)
The CINAHL database indexes nursing and allied health literature from 1982 to the present.  These subscription resources are available to Blessing users and can be accessed by people at other subscribing institutions as well.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)

This online edition of the commonly used DSM-IV-TR manual does not include statistical data.


ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) The free ERIC database offers over 1.2 million bibliographic records for journal articles and other educational materials.  ERIC is a useful source of information about assessment tools for educators.
ETS Test Collection ETS (Educational Testing Service) Test Collection database indexes over 25,000 tests and other measurement devices.
Evaluation Instruments Bank (EIB) The EIB is a collection of instruments maintained by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
FAQ/Finding Information About Psychological Tests from the APA This is a helpful resource maintained by the American Psychological Association (APA).
The Medical Algorithms Project This visionary project offers more than 8000 medical algorithms in Excel spreadsheet format and HTML.  Registration is required for access.
National Quality Measures Clearinghouse (NQMC) A service of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the NQMC includes information about evidence-based quality measures and measure sets for a wide range of conditions.
Pain Assessment Tools The City of Hope Pain Resource Center offers twelve pain assessment tools as well as thirty-one pain-related research instruments.
Patient-reported Health Instruments (PHI) The PHI web site includes a bibliographic database, selection criteria, published reports, and relevant links.
PROQOLID PROQOLID, the Patient-Reported Outcome and Quality of Life Instruments Database, seeks to offer information about instruments and to facilitate access to them.
Psychiatric Assessment Tools for Schizophrenia & Other Psychiatric Disorders This resource from AstraZeneca Neuroscience offers a collection of information and citation details related to various scales for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.
PubMed/MEDLINE PubMed includes over 17 million citations drawn mostly from MEDLINE, the National Library of Medicine's online bibliographic citation database for biomedical literature.  PubMed is a key source of citation data for articles related to assessment tools.  Tip: to improve the precision of your PubMed searches, use the associated MeSH database to find subject headings such as "Psychiatric Status Rating Scales"[Mesh]
Screening Tools & Rating Scales This web site is a service from the School Psychiatry Program and Mood & Anxiety Disorders Institute Resource Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
SDSU Test Finder This outstanding database from San Diego State University provides information about where to find assessment tools online, from books, or from journal articles.
Tests and Testing Information Michigan State University maintains this useful collection of links to testing resources.
The University of Adelaide Library: Psychiatric Rating Scales and Diagnostic Aids This page includes references for both online and print resources related to psychiatric rating scales.