The School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP) is a 4-year, quasi-experimental, evidence-based intervention research study designed to explore the effects of a student-focused, secondary school, alcohol education intervention in reducing alcohol-related harm experienced by school students. The SHAHRP study is unusual in that it has a primary aim of harm minimization rather than non-use or delayed use. The SHAHRP intervention aims to reduce harm by enhancing students' abilities to identify and deal with high-risk drinking situations particularly likely to be encountered by young people. The intervention involves eight lessons in the first year with five booster lessons in the subsequent year. The SHAHRP research will follow individual students exposed to both the alcohol and health promotion interventions over 3 successive years taking measures in: knowledge; attitudes; patterns of use; context of use; alcohol-related harm associated with the student' own use; alcohol-related harm associated with other people's use of alcohol. This paper describes the evidence-based conceptual components and design of the study by providing a review of the health and drug education literature particularly related to components that have the potential of influencing behaviour.