Implementation Science at UW

Overview of Study Designs in Implementation Science

Implementation science seeks to improve the adoption, adaptation, delivery and sustainment of evidence-based interventions in healthcare, and central to this goal is understanding how interventions are delivered effectively in the context of the 7 P’s.

The 7 P's: Programs, Practices, Principles, Procedures, Products, Pills, Policies

Research designed to evaluate the impact of these contexts takes many forms, and design selection is critical to capturing data in a manner that appropriately addresses your research question or questions.

Implementation research largely attends to external validity, whereas most randomized efficacy and effectiveness research designs emphasize internal validity.

Given these differing focal points, a debate exists in the field as to the role of randomized design in implementation research and the relative merit of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods designs.

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To learn more about which study designs are used in implementation research and why, please see below. In addition to two helpful overview articles about research design in implementation research, the National Cancer Institute’s archived Fireside Chat on study designs is a useful primer.

Selected Study Designs Used in Implementation Science

Randomized Control Trials

Randomized Control Trial

A type of experimental clinical study where participants are randomly selected into either the intervention or control group and then followed over time.

Learn More:

Experimental and quasi-experimental designs in implementation research (Psychiatry Research, 2019)

Quasi-Experimental Designs

Quasi-Experimental Designs

This category encompasses a broad range of nonrandomized intervention studies, frequently used when not logistically or ethically feasible to conduct a randomized control trial.1


Intervention Optimization

Multiphase Optimization Strategy

A strategy for building, optimizing, and evaluating interventions using a three-phase method to identify active intervention components and which levels of each component lead to optimal outcomes.

SMART Design

A randomized experimental design developed particularly for building time-varying adaptive interventions.

💻 Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trials (SMART) & Adaptive Designs for Implementation Studies

Mixed Methods

Mixed Methods

The combination of at least one numerical (quantitative) research method and at least one non-numerical (qualitative) research method into a single study design.

💻 Advanced Topics for Implementation Science Research: Mixed Methods in Implementation Science