Quality of Life Research

, Volume 18, Issue 7, pp 881-888

First online:

Building PROMIS item banks: librarians as co-investigators

  • Mary KlemAffiliated with Email author 
  • , Ester SaghafiAffiliated with
  • , Rebecca AbromitisAffiliated with
  • , Angela StoverAffiliated with
  • , Mary Amanda DewAffiliated with
  • , Paul PilkonisAffiliated with

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There is growing interest in the use of item response theory (IRT) for creation of measures of health-related quality of life (HRQOL). A first step in IRT modeling is development of item banks. Our aim is to describe the value of including librarians and to describe processes used by librarians, in the creation of such banks.


Working collaboratively with PROMIS researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, a team of librarians designed and implemented comprehensive literature searches in a selected set of information resources, for the purpose of identifying existing measures of patient-reported emotional distress.


A step-by-step search protocol developed by librarians produced a set of 525 keywords and controlled vocabulary terms for use in search statements in 3 bibliographic databases. These searches produced 6,169 literature citations, allowing investigators to add 444 measurement scales to their item banks.


Inclusion of librarians on the Pittsburgh PROMIS research team allowed investigators to create large initial item banks, increasing the likelihood that the banks would attain high measurement precision during subsequent psychometric analyses. In addition, a comprehensive literature search protocol was developed that can now serve as a guide for other investigators in the creation of IRT item banks.


Databases as topic Outcome assessment (health care) Librarians Interdisciplinary communication