Specifying how intervention content is communicated: Development of a Style of Delivery Ontology

Alison J. Wright, Lisa Zhang, Ella Howes, Clement Veall, Elizabeth Corker, Marie Johnston, Janna Hastings, Robert West, Susan Michie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Investigating and enhancing the effectiveness of behaviour change interventions requires detailed and consistent specification of all aspects of interventions. We need to understand not only their content, that is the specific techniques, but also the source, mode, schedule, and style in which this content is delivered. Delivery style refers to the manner by which content is communicated to intervention participants. This paper reports the development of an ontology for specifying the style of delivery of interventions that depend on communication. This forms part of the Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology, which aims to cover all aspects of behaviour change intervention scenarios.
Methods: The Style of Delivery Ontology was developed following methods for ontology development used in the Human Behaviour-Change Project, with seven key steps: 1) defining the scope of the ontology, 2) identifying key entities and developing their preliminary definitions by reviewing 100 behaviour change intervention evaluation reports and existing classification systems, 3) refining the ontology by piloting the ontology through annotations of 100 reports, 4) stakeholder review by eight behavioural science and public health experts, 5) inter-rater reliability testing through annotating 100 reports using the ontology, 6) specifying ontological relationships between entities, and 7) disseminating and maintaining the ontology.
Results: The resulting ontology is a five-level hierarchical structure comprising 145 unique entities relevant to style of delivery. Key areas include communication processes, communication styles, and attributes of objects used in communication processes. Inter-rater reliability for annotating intervention evaluation reports was α=0.77 (good) for those familiar with the ontology and α=0.62 (acceptable) for those unfamiliar with it.
Conclusions: The Style of Delivery Ontology can be used for both annotating and describing behaviour change interventions in a consistent and coherent manner, thereby improving evidence comparison, synthesis, replication, and implementation of effective interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number456
JournalWellcome Open Research
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2023


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