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Social Work: Instruments and Measures

Libguide for the School of Social Work

Instruments & Measures

In the field of social work, instruments (sometimes called tests) and measures (sometimes called measurements) are used for examining common psychosocial outcomes, such as stress, family functioning, or self-efficacy.  For example, if you were studying stress levels in people who are caretakers of the elderly, you might assign each caretaker a Caregiving Stress Summary Score.  These instruments address very specific topics and must be applied in specific ways.  They generally have very clear names, such as:

  • Cystic Fibrosis Self-Efficacy Scale
  • Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale: Short Version
  • Alcohol Use Measure

As a student, you will likely read articles and books in which researchers discuss how they applied or used these instruments and measures.  Later, you may end up doing your own studies that also make use of these instruments and measures.

What kinds of instruments and measures are out there?

In many cases, it helps to know which instruments and measures exist and what they're called before you go looking for them.  Try these resources:

How do I find articles that include instruments and measures?

Once you know which instrument you're looking for, search for articles that mention or use that instrument.  Try these databases:

Subject Guide

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