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This paper is the first of several papers designed to demonstrate how the application of item response models in the behavioral sciences can be used to enhance the conceptual and technical toolkit of researchers and developers and to understand better the psychometric properties of psychosocial measures. The papers all use baseline data from the Behavior Change Consortium data archive. This paper begins with an introduction to item response models, including both dichotomous and polytomous versions. The concepts of respondent and item location, model interpretation, standard errors and testing model fit are introduced and described. A sample analysis based on data from the self-efficacy scale is used to illustrate the concepts and techniques.