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Transl Behav Med. 2017 Sep;7(3):567-580. doi: 10.1007/s13142-017-0464-6.

Intentional research design in implementation science: implications for the use of nomothetic and idiographic assessment.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, School of Medicine, 6200 NE 74th Street, Suite 100, Seattle, WA, 98115, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, 737 West Lombard Street, office 420, Baltimore, MD, 21201, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Miami, P.O. Box 248185, Coral Gables, FL, 33124, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham St, Little Rock, AR, 72205, USA.
VISN 16 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, 2200 Fort Roots Drive, North Little Rock, AR, 72114, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, School of Medicine, 6200 NE 74th Street, Suite 100, Seattle, WA, 98115, USA.
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, 1101 E. 10th St, Bloomington, IN, 47405, USA.
Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, PO Box 842018, 806 W. Franklin Street, Richmond, VA, 23284, USA.
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, William James Hall, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Montana, Skaggs Building Room 143, Missoula, MT, 59812, USA.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1102-C McGavran-Greenberg Hall, Chapel Hill, NC, 27516, USA.


The advancement of implementation science is dependent on identifying assessment strategies that can address implementation and clinical outcome variables in ways that are valid, relevant to stakeholders, and scalable. This paper presents a measurement agenda for implementation science that integrates the previously disparate assessment traditions of idiographic and nomothetic approaches. Although idiographic and nomothetic approaches are both used in implementation science, a review of the literature on this topic suggests that their selection can be indiscriminate, driven by convenience, and not explicitly tied to research study design. As a result, they are not typically combined deliberately or effectively. Thoughtful integration may simultaneously enhance both the rigor and relevance of assessments across multiple levels within health service systems. Background on nomothetic and idiographic assessment is provided as well as their potential to support research in implementation science. Drawing from an existing framework, seven structures (of various sequencing and weighting options) and five functions (Convergence, Complementarity, Expansion, Development, Sampling) for integrating conceptually distinct research methods are articulated as they apply to the deliberate, design-driven integration of nomothetic and idiographic assessment approaches. Specific examples and practical guidance are provided to inform research consistent with this framework. Selection and integration of idiographic and nomothetic assessments for implementation science research designs can be improved. The current paper argues for the deliberate application of a clear framework to improve the rigor and relevance of contemporary assessment strategies.


Assessment; Idiographic; Implementation science; Measurement; Nomothetic; Research design

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