What study participants think about the nature of a study has been hypothesised to affect subsequent behaviour and to potentially bias study findings. In this trial we examine the impact of awareness of study design and allocation on participant drinking behaviour.
A three-arm parallel group randomised controlled trial design will be used. All recruitment, screening, randomisation, and follow-up will be conducted on-line among university students. Participants who indicate a hazardous level of alcohol consumption will be randomly assigned to one of three groups. Group A will be informed their drinking will be assessed at baseline and again in one month (as in a cohort study design). Group B will be told the study is an intervention trial and they are in the control group. Group C will be told the study is an intervention trial and they are in the intervention group. All will receive exactly the same brief educational material to read. After one month, alcohol intake for the past 4 weeks will be assessed.DiscussionThe experimental manipulations address subtle and previously unexplored ways in which participant behaviour may be unwittingly influenced by standard practice in trials. Given the necessity of relying on self-reported outcome, it will not be possible to distinguish true behaviour change from reporting artefact. This does not matter in the present study, as any effects of awareness of study design or allocation involve bias that is not well understood. There has been little research on awareness effects, and our outcomes will provide an indication of the possible value of further studies of this type and inform hypothesis generation.Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ACTRN12610000846022 https://www.anzctr.org.au/)
Effects of Study Design and Allocation on participant behaviour – ESDA: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial