Trip Database Blog

Liberating the literature


August 2021

New developments on Trip

What next for Trip? After over a year if back end development we’re looking to the next set of developments for Trip. Below are our current ideas and we’d like some help on which to take forward and/or prioritise.

IDEA ONE – improved search sensitivity/specificity

Currently Trip allows two main ways of governing search sensitivity. The default (sensitive) is to search title and text. The more specific mode is ‘title only’ (matching search terms to words in the document title).

Problem – sometimes the default can be overly sensitive returning low relevancy results or, if using the ‘title only’ too specific.

Proposed solution – To introduce three levels of searching:

  • Title only
  • Title and full text
  • Title and abstract

The default could be to the mid-level ‘title and abstract’ (but we would introduce an easy mechanism to ‘show more’ or ‘show fewer’ results). We believe this will be a sweet spot of relevancy (for most users) and reduce the sometimes overwhelmingly high number of results.

IDEA TWO – start to use citation data

Document linkage can be very useful in easily identifying articles that are related to the ones you are interested in. We exploit these linkages – in the form of clickstream data – in our SmartSearch and related articles features. This is fine but is limited in certain respects.

Problem – identifying linked articles is problematic and means users have to look through many results to find articles similar to the ones they have found already. Users may give up after a page of results missing lots of really good articles on the next pages.

Proposed solution – to introduce citation data.

Citation data would dramatically increase our ability to link articles. This could enhance our SmartSearch feature. So, if a user clicks on articles #1 and #5 we could identify more, closely related articles, that are relevant to their search intention. Another use could be highlighting the relationship between RCTs and systematic reviews. So, if you find an RCT we could link it to systematic reviews it might have been used in. Conversely if you find a systematic review we can highlight the individual RCTs.

IDEA THREE – quality scoring

Problem – Trip is an EBM search engine and we like to connect users to the best available evidence. However, just because something is linked to from Trip it doesn’t mean it’s not without flaws.

Proposed solution – we currently, using RobotReviewer, automatically assess if RCTs are likely to be of low risk of bias or not. We have done most of the work to assess guidelines for how evidence-based they are. We have also started some preliminary work to assess systematic reviews for bias and could develop this further.

IDEA FOUR – search support

Currently Trip allows users to search and then restrict the search by evidence type, clinical area, year etc. But is this set-up in an efficient way and does it support users to find what they need?

Problem – users might not be able to find the documents they needs as quickly as possible.

Proposed solution (1) – introduce an additional category of filters based on clinical question type e.g. therapy, diagnosis

Proposed solution (2) – introduce a step-by-step search guide to really allow users to focus their results. It might have the following steps:

  • User types search terms
  • We potentially suggest additional terms and user finalises search
  • We ask if the user wants a particular type of evidence
  • We then ask if there is a particular recency they’re interested in
  • If it’s a query about diagnosis, therapy
  • If there’s a particular clinical area

At each step we show the number of results and when the user is happy we show the results. It’s sounds long-winded but it should be quick and should deliver really focussed results.

So, it’s now over to you to let us know what you think. Please use the poll below (or let us know any alternatives you may have):

Help us to make Trip better

The new site is out, getting positive reviews and is very stable – this is excellent. There are a few teething issues which we’re dealing with (95% of them have already been fixed). So, our attention turns to the next steps. The immediate area we’re working on is the indexing (as laid out here (with an explanation as to what indexing is)).

The step after that – which needs considerable planning – is to work on improvements to the site. To that end we want to try a new approach – to convene a number of small, online, group sessions with users. These are likely to be grouped by user type e.g. health professional and information specialist. These sessions would allow us to better understand how users access evidence, the problems that they encounter and also for us to ‘pitch’ our current ideas for improvements. The subsequent discussions should allow us to better plan the next steps.

As a flavour of our thinking, these are some of our current ideas:

  • Introduce citation data in to Trip.
  • Improve the search – introducing greater control over the sensitivity and specificity of the search.
  • Add more document grading e.g. guidelines and systematic reviews.
  • Create specific filters for topics such as therapy, prognosis and diagnosis.
  • Introduce a search wizard to allow an easy way to find the documents users need.

Love or loathe those ideas, here’s your opportunity to influence. Send an email to if you want to take part.

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