Consolidated guidance for behavioral intervention pilot and feasibility studies

Christopher Pfledderer*, Lauren von Klinggraeff, Sarah Burkart, Alexsandra da Silva Bandeira, David Lubans, Russ Jago, Anthony Okely, Esther M. F. van Sluijs, John P. A. Ioannidis, James F. Thrasher, Xiaoming Li, Michael W. Beets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In the behavioral sciences, conducting pilot and/or feasibility studies (PFS) is a key step that provides essential information used to inform the design, conduct, and implementation of a larger-scale trial. There are more than 160 published guidelines, reporting checklists, frameworks, and recommendations related to PFS. All of these publications offer some form of guidance on PFS, but many focus on one or a few topics. This makes it difficult for researchers wanting to gain a broader understanding of all the relevant and important aspects of PFS and requires them to seek out multiple sources of information, which increases the risk of missing key considerations to incorporate into their PFS. The purpose of this study was to develop a consolidated set of considerations for the design, conduct, implementation, and reporting of PFS for interventions conducted in the behavioral sciences.

To develop this consolidation, we undertook a review of the published guidance on PFS in combination with expert consensus (via a Delphi study) from the authors who wrote such guidance to inform the identified considerations. A total of 161 PFS-related guidelines, checklists, frameworks, and recommendations were identified via a review of recently published behavioral intervention PFS and backward/forward citation tracking of a well-known PFS literature (e.g., CONSORT Ext. for PFS). Authors of all 161 PFS publications were invited to complete a three-round Delphi survey, which was used to guide the creation of a consolidated list of considerations to guide the design, conduct, and reporting of PFS conducted by researchers in the behavioral sciences.

A total of 496 authors were invited to take part in the three-round Delphi survey (round 1, N = 46; round 2, N = 24; round 3, N = 22). A set of twenty considerations, broadly categorized into six themes (intervention design, study design, conduct of trial, implementation of intervention, statistical analysis, and reporting) were generated from a review of the 161 PFS-related publications as well as a synthesis of feedback from the three-round Delphi process. These 20 considerations are presented alongside a supporting narrative for each consideration as well as a crosswalk of all 161 publications aligned with each consideration for further reading.

We leveraged expert opinion from researchers who have published PFS-related guidelines, checklists, frameworks, and recommendations on a wide range of topics and distilled this knowledge into a valuable and universal resource for researchers conducting PFS. Researchers may use these considerations alongside the previously published literature to guide decisions about all aspects of PFS, with the hope of creating and disseminating interventions with broad public health impact.
Original languageEnglish
Article number57
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2024

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© The Author(s) 2024.


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