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Theory of planned behavior manual

There are many theories related to behaviour change in use in healthcare research, which is confusing for researchers and clinicians alike. Many theories have little or no empirical basis for use (as shown in one of ReBEQI’s reviews). One theory for which there is some experimental evidence in its favour is the theory of planned behaviour (TPB). A great deal of ReBEQI’s work has made use of this theory and a practical manual has been developed to support others in using the theory to design healthcare interventions. The manual, is designed to assist researchers or health workers involved in quality assurance to produce a questionnaire that can be used to assess the attitudes and beliefs underlying health-related behaviour. Responses to these questionnaires can be used to plan the development of interventions.

This manual is a response to a request from health services researchers wishing to predict and understand behaviour, in particular, researchers throughout the European Union involved in the ReBEQI project (Research-Based Education and Quality Improvement). It is based on a psychological model of behaviour change, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB; Ajzen, 1988), which evolved from the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein, 1967) and is designed to assist psychologists and non- psychologists involved in health services research to produce an effective questionnaire to measure the TPB constructs. Advice from the TPB literature (e.g. Ajzen, 1988; Conner & Sparks, 1995; Godin & Kok, 1996) has been integrated, resulting in a guide to writing questionnaires that is based on current practice among TPB researchers. Questionnaires based on the TPB can be used to investigate the attitudes and beliefs underlying health-related behaviour. In implementation (or knowledge transfer) research with health care professionals, these questionnaires have been used to investigate the uptake of evidence-based practice.

The Theory of Planned Behaviour is the explicit theoretical basis for 222 studies published in the Medline database, and 610 studies published in the PsycINFO database, from 1985 to January 2004. Apparently, hundreds of researchers have used this theory and have gone about the fascinating but time consuming task of reading the source materials and considering current debates about measurement strategies, before constructing a questionnaire to investigate their topic of interest. The manual is a tool that may help researchers to fast-track through this process.

The manual has been subjected to a wide range of reviewing and trialling procedures. It has been tested in both the UK and the Netherlands, looking at the management of diabetes to support the development of methods of prioritising and choosing components of interventions. It is also the most popular part of the ReBEQI website, having being downloaded over 6400 times since 1st June 2004, when we first started collecting website usage statistics.

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