Characteristics of single-case designs used to assess intervention effects in 2008

Behav Res Methods. 2011 Dec;43(4):971-80. doi: 10.3758/s13428-011-0111-y.


This article reports the results of a study that located, digitized, and coded all 809 single-case designs appearing in 113 studies in the year 2008 in 21 journals in a variety of fields in psychology and education. Coded variables included the specific kind of design, number of cases per study, number of outcomes, data points and phases per case, and autocorrelations for each case. Although studies of the effects of interventions are a minority in these journals, within that category, single-case designs are used more frequently than randomized or nonrandomized experiments. The modal study uses a multiple-baseline design with 20 data points for each of three or four cases, where the aim of the intervention is to increase the frequency of a desired behavior; but these characteristics vary widely over studies. The average autocorrelation is near to but significantly different from zero; but autocorrelations are significantly heterogeneous. The results have implications for the contributions of single-case designs to evidence-based practice and suggest a number of future research directions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Research Design*