Progress in conducting and reporting behaviour change intervention studies: a prospective retrospection

Marie Johnston* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Behaviour change is a key to addressing many health and healthcare problems and interventions have been designed to improve health outcomes. These behaviour change interventions have been evaluated in many ways, including randomised controlled trials, and over recent decades there has been considerable progress in the conduct and reporting these studies. This paper is a personal retrospection on the changes occurring that have resulted in our current improved methods and their potential for future advancement.

There has been steady development of methods for conducting trials, including advances in statistical methods enabled by increase computing power and programmes, greater attention to the recruitment of participants and in the specification of outcomes. Trial reporting has improved, largely due to publication of guidelines for reporting interventions and trials, but until recently the reporting of behaviour change interventions has been quite limited. Developments in the specification of active ingredients of these interventions, the behaviour change techniques, has transformed our ability to report interventions in a manner that facilitates evidence synthesis and enables replication and implementation. However, further work using ontological approaches is needed to adequately represent the evidence contained in the mass of accumulated studies. Meanwhile, attention is gradually being paid to the comparator groups in trials leading to better reporting but with continuing challenges about how control groups are selected.

These developments are important for the advancements of behavioural science – but also in consolidating the expertise needed to address global social, environmental and health challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-581
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Psychology and Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2021


  • behaviour change
  • trials
  • evidence synthesis
  • review
  • reporting


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