I have just discovered that the (psychological) instrument I've been reading up on for my research team has never been, itself, published, though research into its validity and reliability etc has been; one of these research papers says in a footnote that the instrument and the manual are available from the author.
In writing the author, how should I phrase my request?
Issues I am wondering include:
- Should I assume that he charges money for these and ask the price he charges? Should I simply ask if he would be willing to send them to me electronically, and allow him to indicate if there is a fee?
- Is requesting soft copy vs hard copy more or less polite?
- I don't know the author's title; he is not at an academic institution, but a government agency. Should I address him as "Dear Dr. Authorname" by default?
- Is there anything else I should know about the etiquette of this sort of request that it might not have occurred to me to ask about?
In case it matters: what I really want is to see the instrument itself, to start. Some of the example items included in one of the research papers I read suggest they may be phrased in a way which, alas, makes the instrument inappropriate for our project, but I gather that since then the instrument has been revised. Obviously, I don't want to sink money into resources that we won't be able to use. Is asking for a review copy a thing that is done in this field?
Edited to add: Ah, we've moved! Hello, Academics.stackexchange.com! This question was migrated from CogSci.stackexchange.com, which is why it was as cryptic as several of you found it. It lacked the explanatory context you needed, because it's reasonable to assume the original audience of cognitive scientists know, e.g. what a psychological instrument is.
The answers posted here so far have been from people who have said they're unfamiliar with psychological instruments, but proceed to answer anyways. "What's the big deal? It's some sort of questionnaire, right?"
If you're not familiar with psychology and cognitive science – if you don't know what a psychological instrument is – you probably don't know about the intellectual property status of psychological instruments.
In research psychology, it is a reasonably common practice to commodify instruments. That means sell them for money. In this sense, they are less like research articles, and more like textbooks: made by academics, but sold as products.
For instance, if you want to administer the Beck Hopelessness Scale, you would need to buy the manual at $83.00, a pack of 25 forms (the actual questionnaire) at $58.00, and the scoring key at $10.50, or buy the whole package for $131.
As you can see from those prices, instruments can be big business. Publishers can be pretty fierce about protecting their intellectual property. In 2012, Pearson got the entirety of Edublogs shut down by serving a DMCA takedown notice to the Edublogs' host, because one of those 1.5 million bloggers posted the Beck Hopelessness Scale.
In other instruments-as-big-business news, there was the conflict-of-interest scandal, where the head of the APA’s DSM-5 task force, who had driven the adoption of dimensional scale measures in the DSM-5, was discovered not to have disclosed that he was involved in a business preparing to sell a computerized dimensional assessment instrument.
Contrariwise, very many instruments are made widely available, essentially for free. Usually that is done by either just including the instrument as an appendix to the article when the substantiating research is published, or it's slapped on a website somewhere (e.g.). In this era of trivial self-publishing, it struck me as a little odd that the author requires direct personal contact to source his instrument and manual, and is one of the things which makes me wonder if that is because he is selling it.
In any event, now that I've explained to you how psychological instruments are situated as intellectual property in psychology, perhaps you can see my confusion.
It may be that in asking him for a copy of the instrument and manual, I would be doing the equivalent, as I think some of the answerers to date have assumed, of asking for a copy of a research article, or data. But it also may be that asking for a copy of the instrument and manual, I am doing something much more like asking for a digital copy of a textbook, in that it may be a product priced equivalently, and as zealously guarded. I suspect that most academics here would not consider asking for a copy of a textbook a "reasonable request", but would consider it more reasonable to ask how one might buy one.
That was why I was hoping researchers in psychology would answer my question, based on their direct knowledge of the occupational-cultural norms around the "reasonableness" of requesting instruments.