Value of Scholarship: £13, 726

Fitzgerald PhD Studentship – A brief psychological intervention to promote physical activity

Manchester Centre for Health Psychology

A brief psychological intervention to promote physical activity

The objective of this fully-funded 3-year PhD project is to investigate a novel tool aimed at influencing behaviour change in relation to physical activity.

The studentship provides full support for tuition fees and an annual minimum tax-free stipend of £13, 726. The project is due to commence no later than October 2014 and is open to UK/EU nationals only due to the nature of the funding.


Even modest increases in physical activity have been shown to be valuable in averting long-term health conditions.  However, complex interventions designed to boost physical activity have met with mixed results, and those interventions that have successfully boosted physical activity have tended to be costly and to lack public health “reach”.


The “volitional help sheet” (Armitage, 2008) shows promise as a cost-effective tool for behaviour change that can be administered at scale.  The help sheet is a self-completion tool that supports people in forming implementation intentions (an established behaviour change technique). The findings from several pilot trials have been encouraging.  For example, among a sample of people with low socioeconomic status, Armitage and Arden (2010) found significant increases in physical activity in a volitional help sheet group compared with a marginal decrease in an active control group.


This PhD will seek to answer questions such as:


    • Does the volitional help sheet (alone and/or in combination with other behaviour change techniques) bring about sustained changes in objectively assessed physical activity?
    • Can the volitional help sheet be refined to maximize acceptability and effectiveness of physical activity changes among low socio-economic status populations?
    • Does repeated administration of the volitional help sheet sustain or augment changes in physical activity?
    • Which variables mediate the observed effects?
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The outcomes of the project stand to offer significant scope for high-level academic publication and conference presentation. They also have potential to act as interventions for practitioners involved in health behaviour change.

The successful candidate will be a member of the Manchester Centre for Health Psychology. Training will be extensive, and cover areas such as field experimentation and RCTs. This will equip the candidate to progress into a postdoctoral, lecturer or applied psychology role.

Applicants should hold (or expect to obtain) a minimum upper-second honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology, health psychology or related discipline. A Masters qualification and/or relevant research experience is desirable.


Please direct applications in the following format to Professor Chris Armitage (


    • CV
    • Official academic transcripts
    • Contact details for two suitable referees
    • A personal statement (750 words maximum) outlining your suitability for the study, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date.


Any enquiries relating to the project and/or suitability should be directed to Professor Armitage ( and Professor French ( Â


Applications are invited up to and including Monday 3 February 2014.


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