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University of Portland Clark Library

Tests & Measures: Requesting Permissions

Requesting Permission

Every instrument is protected by copyright or by a license agreement.  If you want to use instruments such as surveys, questionnaires, interview questions, or tests created by people other than yourself, you must obtain the permission of the copyright holder or follow usage terms of the instrument license. Remember that permission is not the same as attribution.  It is still necessary to cite the author of the instrument you use.

Obtaining Permission

In general, the permissions process involves five steps:

  1. Is usage information available?
    • Determine if information is available about the usage terms for the instrument. If the instrument is licensed review the terms of usage contained in the license.
  2. Who is the copyright holder?
    • If no information about usage is available, then identify the copyright holder. This could be an individual, a company, or an organization.
  3.  What rights do you need for your project?
    • Identify the rights that you will be asking for from the copyright holder. You will want to specify how you intend to use the instrument.
  4. How do you contact the copyright holder?
    • Email the company, individual, or organization that owns the copyright for the instrument.  Negotiate payment if necessary. Be specific in your request.
  5. How do you document received permissions?
    • Ask for permissions in writing; save copies of the emails and granted permissions.

1. Determine if usage information is clearly noted.

All instruments are copyrighted. Sometimes you will see clear instructions to obtain permission to use the instrument. For example, the image below shows that in the APA PsycTESTS database the instructions are found under "Permissions." Other instruments are licensed and the license accompanying the instrument will indicate the manner in which the instrument may be used. Some instruments do not clearly state usage permissions.

Link to the above record: https://login.uportland.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pst&AN=9999-36090-000&site=ehost-live&scope=site

2. Determine the Copyright Holder

Locating the copyright holder can sometimes be difficult.

If you located the instrument in a dissertation, contact the author of the dissertation to find out if they are the copyright holder or if they obtained permission elsewhere.   

If you located the instrument in a database such as APA PsycTests, check the permissions section for each instrument.  Some options include: Contact Publisher, May use for Research/Teaching, and Contact Publisher and Corresponding Author.

If you located the instrument on a company website, contact the company.

In each case, you will need to locate the person/entity holding the copyright in order to ask for the permissions you need.

3. Identify the rights you need to request from the copyright holder

Determine which rights you wish to request from the copyright holder:

  • Do you want to duplicate and distribute the survey?
  • Do you want to add additional questions to a survey or change some of the questions (e.g., create a derivative work)?
  • Do you want to publish the survey in your dissertation?

Be specific about what you will be doing with the copyright holder's work. The answers to these questions will determine the rights for which you will want to obtain permission. 

4. Request Permission

Here are two sample letters for requesting permission to use an instrument.  These are just samples, use them to create your own email to request the permissions you need.

5. Keep track of permissions

Save copies of your emails in your project file.  You will want to document that you have received permission to use the work. 

If the instrument you will be using indicates terms of usage, save a copy of that information as well and use the instrument in the manner designated. 

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