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Using the critical incident technique for qualitative process evaluation of interventions: The example of the “Let's Move It” trial

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Vera Araujo-SoaresORCiD, Professor Falko Sniehotta


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© 2019 The AuthorsRationale: Trials evaluating interventions to promote health behavior change rarely embed investigations that assess participant perceptions of crucial triggers of change. Objective: The "Let's Move It” (LMI) randomized trial evaluated a theorybased whole school system intervention aiming to increase physical activity (PA) of adolescents attending vocational schools. This article serves two main purposes: to describe how to use the critical incident technique (CIT) to conduct in qualitative process evaluation to identify events, including intervention elements, which LMI trial participants perceived to enable or support behavior change. Method: Semi-structured interviews (n = 34) conducted immediately post intervention from intervention and control arms were analyzed using the CIT. Results: The analysis identified altogether 39 critical incidents. Most of the critical incidents were related to the LMI in the intervention arm and the findings are partly aligned with the LMI intervention theory. Analysis revealed several critical incidents also in the control arm, including gaining insights regarding PA and mere measurement effects, illustrating challenges facing real-world trials. Conclusion: The CIT seems a promising approach for directing analysis towards potentially crucial intervention elements as described by the participants themselves, helping in focusing and limiting the text corpus to accounts relevant to change. Qualitative evaluations in trials may add valuable understanding to complement quantitative assessments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kostamo K, Jallinoja P, Vesala KM, Araujo-Soares V, Sniehotta FF, Hankonen N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Science and Medicine

Year: 2019

Volume: 232

Pages: 389-397

Print publication date: 01/07/2019

Online publication date: 15/05/2019

Acceptance date: 14/05/2019

ISSN (print): 0277-9536

ISSN (electronic): 1873-5347

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.05.014


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