A searchable database for methods guidance.

Here you can find information about how to cite LIGHTS, the scientific background, our methods, and plans for development.

How to cite LIGHTS

Hirt J, Schönenberger CM, Ewald H, Lawson DO, Papola D, Rohner R, Suter K, Lin S, Germini F, Zeng L, Shahabinezhad A, Chowdhury SR, Gao Y, Bhattacharjee A, Lima JP, Marusic A, Buljan I, Agarwal A, Guyatt GH, Briel M, Schandelmaier S. Introducing the Library of Guidance for Health Scientists (LIGHTS): A Living Database for Methods Guidance. JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Feb 1;6(2):e2253198.


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.

Various journals and research support organizations publish methods guidance. Methods guidance is not easy to find. The terminology is inconsistent and the indexing of methods guidance and methodological topics in biomedical databases is insufficient (e.g., Hirt et al. 2022).

The goal of LIGHTS is to help health researchers find appropriate methods guidance for their projects. LIGHTS provides

  • A large collection of methods guidance articles; not perfect yet but steadily improving
  • An intuitive 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

Eligibility criteria

LIGHTS included articles that satisfy all of the following criteria:

  1. Journal article
  2. Topic relevant for health research
  3. Article states the aim to provide guidance (or guideline, tutorial, recommendation, or any other alternative expression)
  4. Free of exclusion criteria (guidance protocol, research letter, proposal for new method, guidance fo research content)
Search for guidance articles

Last search update: January 2023

The current collection is mainly based on the following sources:

We will gradually add additional sources. Also, we are working on a sensitive yet feasible search strategy for MEDLINE.

Do you think we should add 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 and Embase Emtree terms, 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.

Search interface

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.