There is a need for improving the methodological quality of health research (e.g., Yordanov et al. 2015). For most methodological challenges in health research, appropriate guidance is available – and not seldom has been available for years.
Methods guidance published in journal articles is hard to find. Various journals and research support organizations publish methods guidance. The terminology is inconsistent and biomedical databases such as MEDLINE or EMBASE lack suitable index terms for methods guidance and methodological topics (e.g., Hirt et al. 2022).
The goal of LIGHTS is to help health researchers find appropriate methods guidance for their projects. Therefore, LIGHTS provides
- A large collection of methods guidance articles
- An efficient search engine
- Automated synonym search (enter subgroup effect and also find interaction and effect modification)
- Search filters specifically developed to support the search for methods guidance
Methodology of LIGHTS
LIGHTS included articles that satisfy all of the following criteria:
- Journal article
- Topic relevant for health research
- The article states the aim to provide guidance (or guideline, tutorial, recommendations, or any other alternative expression)
- Free of exclusion criteria (study protocol, research letter, lessons-learned paper, proposal for new method, guidance for content of research such as research priorities, health interventions, diagnostic measures)
Sources of guidance articles
The current collection is a convenience sample based on the following sources:
- A systematic survey of 105 methods guidance articles (Hirt et al. 2022)
- Guidance articles that members of our team or our research network provide
- Regular screening of journal sections, article series, or guidance collections that include, among others, the following:
We are continuously adding new sources. In addition, we are working on a sensitive search strategy for MEDLINE.
Do you think we missed an important source? Thanks for letting us know!
Once an article is included, members of our team assign one or more keywords for each of the following domains:
- Study design or data source addressed in the guidance (e.g., randomized controlled trial or routinely collected data)
- Methodological topic (other than study design or data source, e.g., handling of missing data or sample size calculation)
- Medical context (e.g., psychiatry or public health)
- Type of guidance (e.g., reporting guidelines or quality appraisal tool)
- The process for developing the guidance (e.g., meta-research or expert consensus)
Those domains provide the basis for the search facets offered in LIGHTS.
To organize the index terms, we developed a new taxonomy specifically for LIGHTS. We record each index term and alternative and narrower terms in a hierarchical structure. For each index term, we systematically review related MEDLINE Medical Subject Headings, if available, to identify additional alternative terms. We are using a bottom-up approach to develop the taxonomy, i.e., we are adding new index terms and alternative terms as we include new documents.
Did you spot an error in our indexing? Please let us know and we will fix it.
The search engine is based on the HIBU platform. Vitis the help pages to learn more about the search features that we already implemented.
Roadmap for development
We have a long list of features we are planning to implement in LIGHTS including the following:
- Included guidance from regulatory bodies such as FDA or EMA
- Employ machine learning to augment the (otherwise most challenging) search for guidance documents
- Add connectivity features such as share buttons and export functions
- Facilitate access to the taxonomy underlying LIGHTS
We are continuously refining our eligibility criteria, indexing system, search process, and websites. Click here to provide any feedback.