Quality of Life Research

, Volume 18, Issue 7, pp 881–888 | Cite as

Building PROMIS item banks: librarians as co-investigators

  • Mary Klem
  • Ester Saghafi
  • Rebecca Abromitis
  • Angela Stover
  • Mary Amanda Dew
  • Paul Pilkonis



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 



The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap Initiative to develop a computerized system measuring patient-reported outcomes in respondents with a wide range of chronic diseases and demographic characteristics. PROMIS was funded by cooperative agreements to a Statistical Coordinating Center (Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, PI: David Cella, PhD, U01AR52177) and six Primary Research Sites (Duke University, PI: Kevin Weinfurt, PhD, U01AR52186; University of North Carolina, PI: Darren DeWalt, MD, MPH, U01AR52181; University of Pittsburgh, PI: Paul A. Pilkonis, PhD, U01AR52155; Stanford University, PI: James Fries, MD, U01AR52158; Stony Brook University, PI: Arthur Stone, PhD, U01AR52170; and University of Washington, PI: Dagmar Amtmann, PhD, U01AR52171). NIH Science Officers on this project are Deborah Ader, Ph.D., Susan Czajkowski, PhD, Lawrence Fine, MD, DrPH, Laura Lee Johnson, PhD, Louis Quatrano, PhD, Bryce Reeve, PhD, William Riley, PhD, Susana Serrate-Sztein, MD, and James Witter, MD, PhD. See the web site at for additional information on the PROMIS cooperative group. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of all Pittsburgh PROMIS co-investigators and staff.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Klem
    • 1
  • Ester Saghafi
    • 1
  • Rebecca Abromitis
    • 1
  • Angela Stover
    • 1
  • Mary Amanda Dew
    • 1
  • Paul Pilkonis
    • 1
  1. 1.PittsburghUSA

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