Applying the Theoretical Domains Framework to understand knowledge broker decisions in selecting evidence for knowledge translation in low- and middle-income countries

Theresa C. Norton, Daniela C. Rodriguez, Sara Willems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Health-related organisations disseminate an abundance of clinical and implementation evidence that has potential to improve health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but little is known about what influences a user decision to select particular evidence for action. Knowledge brokers (KBs) play a part as intermediaries supporting evidence-informed health policy and practice by selecting and synthesising evidence for research users, and therefore understanding the basis for KB decisions, can help inform knowledge translation strategies. The Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF), a synthesis of psychological theories, was selected as a promising analysis approach because of its widespread use in identifying influences on decisions to act on evidence-based healthcare guidelines. This study explored its application in the context of KB decisions regarding evidence for use in LMICs. Methods: The study analysed data collected from participants of a 2015 global maternal and newborn health conference in Mexico. A total of 324 conference participants from 56 countries completed an online survey and 20 from 15 countries were interviewed about evidence use and sharing after the conference. TDF domains and constructs were retrospectively applied and adapted during coding of qualitative data to enhance understanding of the KB decision process in selecting evidence for action. Results: Application of the TDF involved challenges related to overlapping constructs, retrospective use, and complexities of global health settings and relevant knowledge. Codes needed to be added or adapted to account for how KBs' internal reflections on external factors influenced their actions in selecting evidence to share and use, and the decisions they made during the process. Four themes of the rationale for changing the TDF were identified during analysis, namely Influences from Beyond the Organisation, Knowledge Selection as a Process, Access and Packaging of Knowledge, and Fit for Use. Conclusions: Theories of individual behaviour, such as those in the TDF, can enhance understanding of the decisions made by actors such as KBs along dissemination and knowledge translation pathways. Understanding how KBs reflect on evidence and interact with their environment has the potential for improving global dissemination efforts and LMIC-to-LMIC exchange of implementation evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number60
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 11 2019


  • Knowledge brokers
  • barriers
  • facilitators
  • knowledge translation
  • low- and middle-income countries
  • theoretical domains framework

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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