Using document analysis to identify core concepts for dietetics: The first step in promoting conceptual learning

Judith Tweedie, Claire Palermo, Hattie H. Wright, Fiona E. Pelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Concept-based approaches to curriculum design have been proposed in nursing and health sciences education to address the issue of content overload in curricula but have not been described in dietetics. This study aimed to identify core concepts for the dietetics discipline in Australia and investigate the commonality and differences in these concepts across different dietetic organizations across the world. This study used document analysis of a purposive sample of international dietetics competency or proficiency standards identified from English-speaking dietetic organizations worldwide. Content analysis was applied to the performance criteria or equivalent from 10 documents (nine organizations) to identify the most common elements. A total of 1,007 statements were analyzed. Fifty-six concepts were developed. The four most frequent concepts coded across all statements were “critical thinking,” “communication,” “nutrition and dietetic service,” and “quality assurance and improvement.” There were 55 concepts common to all standards. The concept of “food security” was not present in one of the standards from the United States. The concepts that emerged from this study were common across different English-speaking dietetic organizations across the world. Small differences on the emphasis of concepts, between different competency standards may reflect the health needs; health, political, economic, and social systems; and the cultural context of a country. Identifying core concepts in dietetics is the first step to help to inform curriculum design, which may address overcrowded curricular and promote conceptual learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-684
Number of pages10
JournalNursing and Health Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • competency standards
  • concept-based curriculum
  • core concepts
  • dietetics
  • dietetics education
  • document analysis

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