The 5 Step Approach to Evaluation: Designing and Evaluating Behaviour Change Interventions SUMMARY

A shorter (updated) version of full guidance describing how to use the 5-Step approach to design and evaluate any behaviour change intervention.

Step 2: Review the evidence

For best results, use a range of evidence

To draw the most robust conclusions about 'what works,' and why, you should take account of evidence produced through a range of methods. For example, quantitative studies (including the results of RCTs) might help you to establish what usually works and for whom. Qualitative work (e.g. interviews with users who 'succeed' and 'fail' and/or with practitioners) might help you to understand the processes through which interventions work or don't work and consider why barriers may exist to achieving your aims.

TIP! If you are short on time and resources, systematic and/or literature reviews are an excellent source of evidence. They often analyse both quantitative and qualitative studies on a particular topic and should do the work of summarising all this evidence for you.

Finding Evidence

When time and resources, are limited, evidence reviews (also called systematic reviews or literature reviews) are a realistic solution - enabling an overview of the evidence in a relatively short time.

Online databases and archives are the most convenient means through which to locate evidence reviews. The following slides provide links to topic-specific databases and individual evidence reviews in health, education, environment and sport behaviour change aims. However, the following databases can be of general help in locating relevant evidence:

Search academic databases:

Search government archives:

TIP! Try searching for "evidence/literature/systematic review" + your behaviour change aim (i.e. "smoking cessation" or "increase recycling").

Area A or P* Topic Link
Health and Social Care A Scottish Government Research
Cochrane Collaboration
NICE (guidance and evidence helpful)
Health Scotland
Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Sciences (IRISS)
P Review of 6 health interventions
Preventing harmful drinking
Smoking cessation services
Drug treatment and recovery
Using cycling helmets
Education A Scottish Government Research
Education Endowment Foundation
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
P Attainment in writing
Raising attainment/changing attitudes
Crime and Justice A Scottish Government Research
Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice
P Reducing reoffending
Reducing reoffending
Sport A Scottish Government Research
P Examining legacy of major sporting events
Barriers/enablers to regular exercise
Environment A Scottish Government Research
P Reducing climate change
All areas A Evidence for Policy and Practice Information Coordinating Centre (EPPI)

* A = Archive of relevant publications, P = specific publication

A fictitious example:

How the evidence base supports an intervention to promote young women's physical activity

Intervention (what are we doing?) Evidence (why are we doing this?)
  • This project aims to increase physical activity from childhood into adulthood.
  • Multiple international systematic reviews, drawing on cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have demonstrated the positive impact of physical activity on physical and mental health (see Scottish Government Literature Review, 2004). Physical activity habits have been shown to become established within childhood.
  • The project is targeted at girls in the final year of primary school and first two stages of secondary school
  • Statistical evidence shows that women are more likely to do little or no physical activity than men and that this divergence from their male counterparts begins around the age of 11 (Scottish Health Survey, 1998. 2003)
  • A choice of team and individual activities will be offered each week. e.g. dance or dodgeball. An emphasis will be made on enjoyment over competition or skill development. There will be no performances or leagues.
  • A systematic review of the international literature on promoting physical activity, highlighted a need for greater choice for young people, including non-traditional options. Reviews of quantitative and qualitative research by NICE (2007) demonstrate that competition and fear of having to perform may be barriers to taking part in physical activity, particularly for adolescent girls. However, enjoyment has been shown to be a key factor in overcoming these barriers (NICE 2007, Rees et al. 2006)
  • Social media will be used to promote activities and encourage network-building between participants.
  • The same reviews by NICE and case-study analysis by the British Heart Foundation (2011) have shown that peer approval and peer participation in physical activity encourages others to join in.


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