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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?’ and ‘why are good intentions not enough to change behaviour? Students will reflect on one main theoretical construct of their interest, how it is embedded in theory, the proposed underlying working mechanisms, and the empirical findings from previous research on the construct. Based on these analyses students will determine what the next step should be to increase knowledge on the construct, and formulate a new research question and study design. They will then design and pilot-test a questionnaire as a measurement instrument.
In other words, after a brief 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 some of the theories and key constructs within the field of health behaviour (change);

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

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

  • Have basic practical experience with designing a questionnaire

  • Understand some of the promises and pitfalls of questionnaires as measurement instruments




Students need to enroll for lectures and work group sessions. Please consult the Instructions registration


Students are not automatically enrolled for an examination. They can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the date; students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the examination. Registering for exams

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 lecture and supervised session)

  • Week 4: Writing outline empirical analysis

  • Week 5: Writing empirical analysis (supervised session)

  • Week 6: Finalizing theoretical and empirical analyses; RQ

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

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

  • Week 9: Finalizing Questionnaire (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

The Faculty of Social Sciences has instituted that instructors use a software programme for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. In case of fraud disciplinary actions will be taken. Please see the information concerning fraud


Information on

Reading list

Mandatory reading will be posted on Blackboard. It will include amongst others:

  • 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

Contact information

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