Library: Using Copyrighted Research Materials with PsychData

When conducting online survey research, social science researchers often want to use an existing questionnaire (a.k.a. measure, instrument, or inventory) in order to assess an existing construct such as depression, anxiety, personality features, etc.

These measures may be freely available in the social science literature or they may be copyrighted by an individual or corporation. In either case, the copyright holder can stipulate standards for the use of their research materials. In many cases the owner simply wants to ensure that the most current version is being used, in others the copyright holder will charge a small fee for use, and in other cases (particularly commercialized measures) the copyright holder will exert strict control over how the measure is used and charge for each use of the measure.

Because PsychData enables researchers to conduct online surveys containing many questionnaires within one survey, the researcher will need to recreate each measure being used within their online survey. This process makes it possible for all measures to be administered at the same time and for the resulting data to be placed in the same data file. Accordingly, each researcher is responsible for understanding and adhering to the copyright expectations of each measure they intend to use. Since these expectations can vary widely, we offer the following information to help the researcher communicate with the copyright holder about the use and protection of their product:

  • Online surveys with PsychData are not indexed by search engines because every instance of a survey is dynamically generated from our database. Therefore, because the surveys are not static HTML pages, their contents are not freely available to any search engine.
  • Online surveys with PsychData are encrypted using SSL technology. Thus, the contents of a survey are secure during transit to and from the participant's computer. Read our security statement.
  • Each online survey with PsychData can be password protected, thus limiting access to only those who are intended to see it. This provides another layer of protection to copyright holders. See more PsychData features.
  • PsychData makes it possible to insert text and images within its online surveys. Therefore, a researcher can insert a copyright statement and or image, if requested by a copyright holder. View sample questions.
  • Each researcher has full control over the contents of their online survey, meaning that when a research project is complete, the researcher can delete the survey (and its contents) thus further ensuring the security of copyrighted materials.
  • PsychData makes it very easy to track the number of participants any survey has used. In addition, we are willing to track this for a researcher and provide a usage report to copyright holders who charge on a per-use basis.
  • We are willing to talk with any copyright holder regarding their concerns.

In some cases a researcher will initially identify one measure for their project only to find that the copyright holder is unwilling to permit use in an online survey or that they will only permit use via their proprietary online system, which means that the data from that measure cannot be linked to the data collected via PsychData. In our experience, these researchers have always been able to quickly identify an equivalent or better alternative that was free or less restrictive. If you have more questions, please email us: [email protected].


"I was extremely pleased with the service and staff of PsychData... could not have been more competent, professional, efficient, and supportive..."

—Judith L. Huber, Ph.D.,
   Counseling and Health Education,
   College of Saint Benedict

"PsychData was a wonderful... Everyone was very helpful and prompt in responding to questions and concerns... I would definitely recommend PsychData... Thanks!"

—Jean Poland McCusker, M.A.,
   Ed.D. Student