Acceptability of goal-setting to facilitate engagement with physical activity for people living with a musculoskeletal condition


An opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the College of Health, Science and Society, UWE Bristol.  

Ref: 2223-APR-CHSS07

The expected start date is 01 April 2023.

The closing date for applications is 12 February 2023. 

Studentship details

Goal-setting is frequently utilised in self-management interventions to support physical activity (PA) for people with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. However, little research has explored its relevance and acceptability over the longer term. Such research is vital for people living with long-term MSK conditions, as episodes of pain and fatigue can interrupt plans, result in goals not being met, and reduce future PA intentions. Additionally, evidence highlights that certain sub-groups of the MSK population are under-represented in research and are less likely to engage with existing PA interventions. There is a lack of evidence to support traditional methods of goal-setting for these sub-groups and the usefulness of utilising this approach over the long term is unknown. 

This project aims to understand the relevance of different goal-setting approaches for under-represented sub-groups of people living with long-term MSK conditions, to inform the co-development of guidance for future interventions to improve long-term PA engagement.

This project will adopt a mixed-methods approach to explore the impact of goal-setting on PA engagement. Four distinct studies will be conducted (with patient partners): a systematic literature review of existing evidence; a survey to understand experiences of various goal-setting approaches; an interview study to explore the acceptability of different approaches; and co-production project to develop guidance to inform future interventions.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Dr Alice Berry:


The studentship is available from 01 April 2023 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax-exempt stipend, which is currently £17,668 (2022/23) per annum. 

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years.


Applicants must have at least a 2:1 at BSc level in a health-related subject, and an MSc in exercise psychology or health would be preferred. Experience of mixed methods research would be advantageous. 

We strive for a diverse research culture, with the very best researchers, and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all. We encourage applications from underrepresented groups inclusive of Black, Asian, and other minoritised/marginalised ethnic groups, the LGBT+ community, candidates with a disability, and those that practise different faiths and beliefs.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted use the reference number 2223-APR-CHSS07

Supporting documentation: You will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application, so please have these available when you complete the application form.

References: You will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted.

Closing Date

The closing date for applications is 12 February 2023.

Further Information

It is expected that interviews will take place on weeks commencing 06 March 2023. If you have not heard from us by this date, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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