Single-case experimental designs: A systematic review of published research and current standards

Justin D. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

416 Scopus citations


This article systematically reviews the research design and methodological characteristics of single-case experimental design (SCED) research published in peer-reviewed journals between 2000 and 2010. SCEDs provide researchers with a flexible and viable alternative to group designs with large sample sizes. However, methodological challenges have precluded widespread implementation and acceptance of the SCED as a viable complementary methodology to the predominant group design. This article includes a description of the research design, measurement, and analysis domains distinctive to the SCED; a discussion of the results within the framework of contemporary standards and guidelines in the field; and a presentation of updated benchmarks for key characteristics (e.g., baseline sampling, method of analysis), and overall, it provides researchers and reviewers with a resource for conducting and evaluating SCED research. The results of the systematic review of 409 studies suggest that recently published SCED research is largely in accordance with contemporary criteria for experimental quality. Analytic method emerged as an area of discord. Comparison of the findings of this review with historical estimates of the use of statistical analysis indicates an upward trend, but visual analysis remains the most common analytic method and also garners the most support among those entities providing SCED standards. Although consensus exists along key dimensions of single-case research design, and researchers appear to be practicing within these parameters, there remains a need for further evaluation of assessment and sampling techniques and data analytic methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-550
Number of pages41
JournalPsychological methods
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Daily diary
  • Research standards
  • Single-case experimental design
  • Systematic review
  • Timeseries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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