Education | Introduction to Single Subject Design Research Methods
Y750 | 6249 | Dr. Sam Odom
Text and Readings:
Kazdin, A. E. (1982). Single case research designs: Methods for
clinical and applied settings. New York: Oxford University Press.
A list of required readings will also be assigned for this course.
These will be placed on electronic reserve in the Education Library.
Single subject design methodology has developed primarily within the
field of behavior analysis but has wider application beyond that
theoretical orientation. It represents an intervention-oriented
methodology that is idiographic in nature, requires frequent
measurement of the dependent variable, and employs replications
within and across participants. In addition, single subject design
studies frequently use direct observational methodology as the
dependent variable. In this course, we will begin with an overview
of single subject design research methods and their application
within special education. We will next examine methods of behavioral
assessment and techniques for conducting observational research. A
variety of single subject research designs will be examined, with the
strengths and weakness of each identified. Issues related to
treatment fidelity, social validity, and ethical use of single
subject research methodology will be discussed.
Structure of Course
The format of this course will include both lecture and seminar
sessions. Students must complete all the assigned readings for each
session in order to participate in the seminar portions of class each
week. Also, students will develop a single subject design research
proposal that addresses the research question(s) of their
By the end of this course, students will have a working knowledge of:
1. Threats to internal and external validity of single subject
2. Current dimensions of behavior analysis
3. Strategies for assessing social validity
4. The process for identifying research questions in single subject
5. Strategies for identifying target behaviors
6. Requirements for establishing an operational definition
7. Requirements for determining sample size in observational research
8. Techniques for training observers
9. Methods for assessing interobserver agreement
10. Methods for assessing interobserver accuracy
11. Computer and other technological aides for collecting
12. The role of replication in single subject design research
13. Reversal and withdrawal of treatment designs
14. Multiple baseline designs and their variations
15. Designs that compare treatment effects
16. Procedure for reviewing journal manuscripts
17. Statistical analyses of time series designs and changes across
18. Analysis of trend and level changes across phases
19. Ethical issues related to applied behavior analysis research
20. Elements of a human subjects application.
Dates, Topics, and Assignments
September 1 Introduction to the Course
Introduction to Observational Research
Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis Research
Assignment: Journals Publishing Single Subject Design
September 8 Research in Education: Single Subject Design Research
and Education; Designs and Threats to Interval and External Validity;
Assignment: Kazdin, Chapters 4
Horner, Carr, Halle, McGee, Odom, Wolery (2003)
Tawney & Gast (1984, pp. 342-367)
September 15* Conceptualizing Research Questions and Designing
Programs of Research; Identifying Dependent Variables and Behavioral
Assessment, Writing Research Proposals, Preparing an IRB application
and Human Subjects Training
Assignment: Kazdin (1982), Chapter 2
Schwartz & Baer (1991)
Identify Topic of Research Study
September 22* Creating an Observational System; Defining Target
Behaviors; Creating Operational Definitions; Systems for Collecting
Observational Data (Guest Lecturer)
Assignment: Thompson, Symons, & Felce (2000)
Hartmann & Wood (1990), 107-114
September 29* Training Observers; Variables Affecting Observer
Accuracy; Methods for Calculating Interobserver Agreement; Interval
Level Vs. Session Level Agreement; Observer Accuracy
Assignment: Kazdin, Chapter 3
Hartmann & Wood (1990), pp. 117-129
Kappa Computer Program (From Sam)
Examples of Observer Training Manuals
October 6* Collecting Observational Data Using Computers and
Other Technological Aids
Assignment: Emerson, Reeves, & Felce (2000)
Kahng & Iwata (2000)
Tapp & Wehby (2000)
Miltenberger, Rapp, & Long (1999)
October 13 Observer Training and Data Collection in the Field:
Instructor available for consultation on observational data
collection systems (NO CLASS)
October 20* Single Subject Design Methodology; Replication as the
Basis of Single Subject Design; Analyzing Phase Changes
Assignment: Kazdin, Chapters 4 (pp. 87-102), 10 (pp. 230-240), 11,
and Appendix A;
Carr & Burkholder (1998)
October 27 Reversal and Withdrawal of Treatment Designs; Variations
on these Designs; Documenting the Independent Variable
Assignment: Kazdin, Chapter 5
Gresham, Gansle, & Noell (1993)
Homework Assignment Due
November 3* Multiple Baseline Designs; Multiple Probe Designs;
Changing Criterion Design
Assignment: Kazdin, Chapters 6 & 7
November 10* Designs that Compare Treatments: Alternating Treatment
and Simultaneous Treatment Designs
Assignment: Kazdin, Chapter 8
Holcombe, Wolery, & Gast (1994)
November 17* Statistical Analysis of Single Subject Designs,
Assessment of Social Validity, Reviewing Single Subject Design
Manuscripts (Materials from Sam)
Assignment: Kazdin, Chapter 10 (pp. 241-261), Appendix B
Hopkins, Cole, & Mason (1998)
Koehler & Levin (2000)
November 24 * Meta-analysis of Single Subject Designs;
Ecobehavioral Analysis; Review of Manuscript Due
Assignment: Busk & Serlin (1992)
Parker & Brossart (2003)
Greenwood, Carta, & Dawson (2000)
Odom, Favazza, Brown, & Horn (2000)
December 1* Ethics of Applied Behavior Analysis Research;
Research in Applied Settings
Assignment: Fisher (1993)
Tawney & Gast (1983-pp. 380-409)
Blakely, Poling, & Cross (1986)
December 8 Review of Projects; Course summary
*Journal Assignments Due
Assignments for Course
Journal Assignments. Students will complete assignments
associated with 10 journal articles of their choice. Each week
preceding the class session in which the assignment is due, an
assignment description will be distributed. The description will
include questions related to the topic for the next week. See
asterisk for due date.
Homework assignment. Students will complete a homework
assignment in which they conduct trend line analyses for single
subject design articles. Due October 27.
Reviewing a journal manuscript. Students will review one
journal manuscript of a single subject design study. The manuscript
and review materials will be distributed in class. Due November 24.
Designing an observational data collection system, collecting
data, calculating inter-observer agreement. Two students will
together design an observational data collection system, train
themselves to an acceptable level of interobserver agreement, collect
data for three sessions with the child, student, or other focal
participant, calculate interobserver agreement for one session and
summarize data. An outline for this assignment will be distributed
Research proposal. Students will complete a proposal for a
single subject design research study. Due December 8.
Human subjects form. Students will complete a human subjects
review form that accompanies the research proposal. Due December 8.
Points Awarded for Assignments and Grades
Abstracts (10 @ 10 points) 100
Homework Assignment 20
Reviewing Journal Manuscript 40
Observation System 75
Human Subjects Review Form 25
Research Proposal 100
Grades Points Required
F Below 216
Blakely, E., Poling, A., & Cross, J. (1986). Fraud, fakery, and
fudge: Behavior analysis and bad science. . In A. Poling & W. Fuqua
(Eds.), Research methods in applied behavior analysis: Issues and
advances (pp. 313-330). New York: Plenum Press.
Busk, P. L., & Serlin, R. C. (1992). Meta-analysis for single-case
research. In T. Kratochwill & J. Levin (Eds.), Single case research
design and analysis (pp. 187-212). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Carr, J. E., & Burkholder, E. O. (1998). Creating single-subject
design graphs with Microsoft Excel. Journal of Applied Behavior
Analysis, 31, 245-252.
Dixon, M. R. (2003). Creating a portable data-collection system with
Microsoft Embedded Visual Tools for Pocket PC. Journal of Applied
Behavior Analysis, 36, 271-284.
Emerson, E., Reeves, D. J., & Felce, D. (2000). Palmtop computer
technologies for behavioral observation research. In T. Thompson, D.
Felce, & F. Symons (Eds.), Behavioral observation: Technology and
applications in developmental disabilities (pp. 47-60). Baltimore:
Paul H. Brookes.
Fawcett, S. B. (1991). Some values guiding community research and
action. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 24, 621-636.
Fisher, C. B. (1993). Integrating science and ethics in research
with high-risk children and youth. Social Policy Report: Society for
Research in Child Development, 7(4).
Greenwood, C. R., Carta, J. J., & Dawson, H. (2000). Ecobehavioral
assessment systems software. . In T. Thompson, D. Felce, & F.
Symons (Eds.), Behavioral observation: Technology and applications
in developmental disabilities (pp. 229-252). Baltimore: Paul H.
Gresham, F. M., Gansel, K. A., & Kurtz, P. F. (1993). Treatment
integrity in applied behavior analysis with children. Journal of
Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 257-263.
Hartmann, D. P. & Wood, D. D. (1990). Observational methods. In A.
Bellack, M. Hersen, & A. Kazdin (Eds.), International handbook of
behavior modification and therapy (pp. 107-138). New York: Plenum
Holcombe, A., Wolery, M., & Gast, D. L. (1994). Comparative single-
subject research: Description of designs and discussion of
problems. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 14, 119-145.
Hopkins, B. L., Cole, B. L., & Mason, T. L. (1998). A critique of
the usefulness of inferential statistics in Applied Behavior
Analysis. Behavior Analyst, 21, 125-137.
Horner, R., Carr, E., Halle, J., McGee, G., Odom, S., & Wolery, M.
(2003). The use of single subject design research to identify
evidence-based practice in special education. Paper in preparation.
Huitema, B. E. (1986). Statistical analysis and single-subject
design. In A. Poling & W. Fuqua (Eds.), Research methods in applied
behavior analysis: Issues and advances (pp. 209-232). New York:
Kahng, S. W., & Iwata, B. A. (1998). Computerized systems for
collecting real-time observational data. Journal of Applied Behavior
Analysis, 31, 253-261.
Keller, J. J. (1991). The recycling solution: How I increased
recycling on Dilworth Road. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,
Koehler, M. J., & Levin, J. R. (2000). RegRand: Statistical
software for the multiple-baseline design. Behavior Research
Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 32, 367-371.
Komaki, J. L. (1998). When performance improvement is the goal: A
new set of criteria for criteria. Journal of Applied Behavior
Analysis, 31, 263-281.
Miltenberger, R. G., Rapp, J. T., & Long, E. S. (1999). A low-tech
method for conducting real-time recording. Journal of Applied
Behavior Analysis, 32, 119-120.
Odom, S. L., Favazza, P. C., Brown, W. H., & Horn, E. M. (2000).
Approaches to understanding the ecology of early childhood
environments for children with disabilities. In T. Thompson, D.
Felce, & F. Symons (Eds.), Behavioral observation: Technology and
applications in developmental disabilities (pp. 193-214).
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Parker, R. I, & Brossart, D. F. (2003). Evaluating single case
research data: A comparison of seven statistical methods. Behavior
Therapy, 34, 189-213.
Schwartz, I. S., & Baer, D. M. (1991). Social validity assessment:
Is current practice state of the art? Journal of Applied Behavior
Analysis, 24, 189-204.
Tapp, J., & Wehby, J. (2000). Observational software for laptop
computers and optical bar code readers. . In T. Thompson, D. Felce,
& F. Symons (Eds.), Behavioral observation: Technology and
applications in developmental disabilities (pp. 71-82). Baltimore:
Paul H. Brookes.
Tawney, J. W., & Gast, D. L. (1984). Single subject research in
special education. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Thompson, T., Symons, F. J., & Felce, D. (2000). Principles of
behavioral observation: Assumptions and strategies. In T. Thompson,
D. Felce, & F. Symons (Eds.), Behavioral observation: Technology and
applications in developmental disabilities (pp. 3-16). Baltimore:
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Wolf, M. M. (1978). Social validity: The case for subjective
measurement or how applied behavior analysis is finding its heart.
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