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EDUC 623 Research Design and Methodology: Reliability, Validity, and Ethics

Reliability and Validity

How do you know whether you've found a “good” or “bad” test? Is the test well-designed?

Researchers often discuss the “validity” of tests, rather than whether tests are “good” or “bad.” According to the Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods, validity is “the extent to which any measuring instrument measures what it is intended to measure.” Validity is an important indication of whether a test will be useful. 

Validity and reliability information can sometimes be found in the Mental Measurements Yearbook and other resources listed in this guide.

However, as the Sage Encyclopedia also explains, validity not only depends on the instrument itself, but how you use the instrument. Even if a test is generally considered to be “valid,” it might not be applicable to the particular group, behavior, or situation you are trying to study (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004, p. 1171).

At this point, the library doesn’t have staff with expertise to recommend or evaluate tests. It really depends on your project. So, contact your professor.

Use Tests Ethically

If you find a copy of a test, can you just go ahead and use it?

No. some tests can only be purchased, administered, or interpreted by a licensed or certified professional.

Even if you are qualified to administer the test, there are a lot of other things you may need to do first. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Talking with your professor about whether the instrument is appropriate for your project.
  2. Getting the author’s/publisher’s permission to use the test.
  3. Getting any training or certification that is required to administer the test properly.
  4. Recruiting test subjects in a proper and ethical manner.
  5. Finding an appropriate environment to test them.
  6. Making arrangements for storing and analyzing your data.
  7. And more!!

Always consult with your professor about the design of your research project, before you undertake it!

Regulations, Policies, and Guidelines

CAUTION: A variety of government regulations, professional codes, and institutional policies determine how psychological testing must be conducted. These listed below were borrowed from a guide published by a librarian at Penn State.