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Research Topics in Health Promotion


Admission requirements

MSc Psychology (research) students


In this course, theories on the determinants of health behaviour and on the processes of behavioural change will be addressed, including issues such as ‘why do people endanger their health?’ or ‘why are good intentions not enough to change behaviour? Students will reflect on various theoretical models of health behaviour (change) and on their implications for research and practice.

After an introduction to the main theories and models within health behaviour research, students will choose one theoretical construct of their interest, which they will study more in-depth. They will write an analysis of the construct based on a literature review. They will also formulate several research questions, which are likely to lead to theoretical advancement. Finally they will develop a questionnaire to measure the construct, and will pilot-test its’ applicability in the field. During supervised sessions, students will be guided through this process of theory development and research design.

Course objectives

After the course students:

  • Have a basic understanding of the main theories and key constructs within the field of health behaviour (change);

  • Have experience with the application of theory and evidence with respect to understanding and changing health behaviour

  • Are able to recognize the promises and pitfalls of theory-based research in health promotion

  • Have knowledge with regard to the operationalization and assessment of theoretical concepts in the field of health promotion.


Mode of instruction

During the fifteen weeks of the course the whole process of intervention planning will be introduced and illustrated. Students will learn how to systematically design and implement an intervention.

  • Week 1: Introduction to the assignment and literature search (including lecture and supervised session)

  • Week 2: Writing outline theoretical analysis

  • Week 3: Choosing a theory and construct, writing theoretical analysis (including supervised session)

  • Week 4: Writing outline empirical analysis

  • Week 5: Writing empirical analysis (including lecture and supervised session)

  • Week 6: Finalizing theoretical and empirical analyses; RQ

  • Week 7: Writing brief research proposal and conceptual analysis (ncluding supervised session)

  • Week 8: Finalizing research proposal and conceptual analysis, design Questionnaire

  • Week 9: Finalizing Questionnaire (including lecture and supervised session)

  • Week 10: Pilot-testing Questionnaire

  • Week 11: Analysing pilot-test data (including supervised session)

  • Week 12: Writing results and adjustments to Questionnaire

  • Week 13: Finalizing paper, preparing presentation (including supervised session)

  • Week 14: Finalizing paper, preparing presentation

  • Week 15: Presenting (double session)

Assessment method

  • Attendance during sessions (full attendance is mandatory)

  • Active participation

  • Presentation

  • Final paper

From January 1, 2006 the Faculty of Social Sciences has instituted the Ephorus system to be used by instructors for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. Please see the information concerning fraud .


Information on

Reading list

  • Abraham, C., Sheeran, P. & Johnston, M. (1998). From health beliefs to self regulation: Theoretical advances in the psychology of action control. Psychology and Health, 13, 569-591.

  • Armitage, C. J. & Conner, M. (2000). Social cognition models and health behaviour: A structured review. Psychology and Health, 15, 173-189

  • Gebhardt WA & Maes S (2001). Integrating social-psychological frameworks for health behaviour research. American Journal of Health Behavior, 25, 528-536.

  • Boynton, P.M. (2004). Hands-on guide to questionnaire research: Administering, analyzing, and reporting your questionnaire. British Medical Journal, 328, 1372-1375.

  • Boynton, P.M & Greenhaigh, T. (2004). Selecting, designing, and developing your questionnaire. British Medical Journal, 2004, 328, 1312-1315.

  • Bowling, A. (2005). Mode of questionnaire administration can have serious effects on data quality. Journal of Public Health, 27(2), 281-291.

  • Francis, J.J. et al. (2004). Constructing questionnaires based on the theory of planned behaivor: A manual for health services researchers. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Centre for Health Services Research.

  • Stehr-Green, P.A., Stehr-Green, J.K. & Nelson, A. (2005). Focus on field epidemiology: Developing a questionnaire, 2(2), 1-

  • 20-30 additional journal articles

Advised (non-obligatory) readings

  • Conner, M. & Norman, P. (2005). Predicting health behaviour (2nd Ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

  • Norman, P., Abraham, C. & Conner, M. (2000). Understanding and changing health behaviour: From health beliefs to self-regulation. Harwood Academic Publishers.

  • Stroebe, W. (2000). Social Psychology and Health (2nd Ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.

Contact information

Dr. Winnie Gebhardt
Room 2B44
Tel.: 071-527 4084