How to find a quantitative survey instrument for your dissertation study

Posted May 26, 2017

If you are conducting a quantitative survey study for your dissertation, you will need to identify instruments that measure the variables you are studying. It is worth noting that not all quantitative variables require special instruments. Many demographic variables, such as age, can be measured by asking participants directly (e.g., “What is your age in years?”). However, your study may also involve less concrete variables or constructs (such as “stress” or “job satisfaction”) that need to be operationalized with a valid instrument. Below are some points to consider as you search for quantitative instruments to use for your study.

First, and perhaps most importantly, the instruments you choose need to be tested and validated by previous researchers. For many schools, this is a strict requirement. In other words, your reviewers will not allow you to use instruments unless they have been previously validated. In some special cases, namely when instruments that measure your variable(s) do not already exist, you may have no choice but to develop an instrument yourself. However, developing and validating your own instrument is a very involved process. In fact, the development and validation of a new instrument could be a dissertation in and of itself! Creating your own instrument should generally be considered as a last resort if absolutely no other options exist.

Second, you should search for instruments from scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. This means searching for peer-reviewed journal articles (either through your school library’s databases or Google Scholar) on your variables of interest. Look for articles on the variables that you are studying to see what instruments past researchers have used. You will usually find this information in the method section of the article (specifically under “instrumentation” or “materials”). You should use simple Google searches with caution, as these may lead you to things such as informal online personality tests; these are not acceptable instruments to use in scholarly david

Finally, make sure you can identify the original source of your instrument. You may find a study that has used a particular instrument, but that does not necessarily mean that the authors of that study created that instrument. There will be a citation and reference in the article for the original instrument. The original source article will most often contain all of the information that you need to report about the validity and reliability of the instrument. The original article should also contain the information you need to obtain permission to use the instrument for your study.

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