A structured descriptive methodology: Increasing agreement between descriptive and experimental analyses

Kurt A. Freeman, Cynthia M. Anderson, Joseph R. Scotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Recent research comparing results of descriptive and experimental (analog) functional analyses suggests disagreement regarding the identified function of target behavior is likely. In the current study, a "structured" descriptive analysis methodology is presented. The purpose of the structured descriptive methodology was to develop a set of procedures that is as easy to implement as the unstructured, but as rigorous as the analog in terms of data and interpretation. The structured procedures were designed to increase the likelihood that specific environmental events would occur sufficiently often to allow for an adequate sampling of their co-occurrence with challenging behavior. To that end, the frequency of occurrence of targeted environmental events during both unstructured and structured descriptive analyses conducted with two participants was compared. Further, data produced via the structured descriptive analyses were compared against those of experimental analyses conducted with the participants. Results showed that procedural modifications employed during the structured descriptive analysis increased the frequency of occurrence for most targeted environmental events for both participants. Additionally, the structured methodology produced results similar to those of the experimental analysis regarding hypotheses of the function of challenging behavior. Implications for the use of different functional analysis methodologies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-66
Number of pages12
JournalEducation and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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