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Usefulness of applying research reporting guidelines as Writing Aid software: a crossover randomised controlled trial
  1. Dana Hawwash1,
  2. Melissa K Sharp2,3,
  3. Alemayehu Argaw4,
  4. Patrick Kolsteren1,
  5. Carl Lachat1
  1. 1 Department of Food Technology, Safety and Health, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
  2. 2 Department of Psychology, University of Split, Split, Croatia
  3. 3 Universite de Paris,CRESS, INSERM, INRA, Paris, France
  4. 4 Department of Population and Family Health, Institute of Health, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carl Lachat; carl.lachat{at}


Objectives To assess the intention of using a Writing Aid software, which integrates four research reporting guidelines (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials, Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses, Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology and STrengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology-nutritional epidemiology) and their Elaboration & Explanation (E&E) documents during the write-up of research in Microsoft Word compared with current practices.

Design Two-arms crossover randomised controlled trial with no blinding and no washout period.

Setting Face-to-face or online sessions.

Participants 54 (28 in arm 1 and 26 in arm 2) doctoral and postdoctoral researchers.

Interventions Reporting guidelines and their E&E document were randomly administered as Writing Aid or as Word documents in a single 30 min to 1 hour session, with a short break before crossing over to the other study intervention.

Primary and secondary outcomes Using the Technology Acceptance Model, we assessed the primary outcome: the difference in the mean of intention of use; and secondary outcomes: the difference in mean perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness. The three outcomes were measured using questions with a 7-point Likert-scale. Secondary analysis using structural equation modelling (SEM) was applied to explore the relationships between the outcomes.

Results No significant difference in reported intention of use (mean difference and 95% CI 0.25 (–0.05 to 0.55), p=0.10), and perceived usefulness (mean difference and 95% CI 0.19 (–0.04 to 0.41), p=0.10). The Writing Aid performed significantly better than the word document on researchers’ perceived ease of use (mean difference and 95% CI 0.59 (0.29 to 0.89), p<0.001). In the SEM analysis, participants’ intention of using the tools was indirectly affected by perceived ease of use (beta 0.53 p=0.002).

Conclusions Despite no significant difference in the intention of use between the tools, administering reporting guidelines as Writing Aid is perceived as easier to use, offering a possibility to further explore its applicability to enhance reporting adherence.

  • reporting guidelines
  • intention
  • software
  • writing

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  • Contributors Conceptualisation: CL, DH and PK. Supervision: CL and PK. Wrote the first draft of the manuscript: DH. Contributed to the writing of the manuscript: CL, MKS and PK. Analysis: AA and DH. Agree with the study design, and findings: AA, CL, DH, MKS and PK. All authors have read, and confirm that they meet ICMJE criteria for authorship.

  • Funding DH is supported by the special research fund (BOF) from Ghent University. CL has received funding from the FWO Research Foundation - Flanders, grant number G0D4815N. MKS receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 676207. There was no other outside funding for this study.

  • Competing interests Authors (CL, DH and PK) have developed STROBE-nut for nutritional epidemiology cited in this manuscript. MKS works on the reporting guideline STROBE as a part of her doctoral studies. Writing Publication Aid version 1.0 Created by Automaticals Consulting Authors: Carl Lachat (Project manager, concept), Dana Hawwash (Project manager, concept), Patrick Kolsteren (Concept), Nathalie De Cock (Concept), Chen Yang (Concept), Herwig Jacobs (Programming). Copyright (C) 2016, Ghent University

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Ghent University Hospital number EC/2018/0479.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.

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