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SPCE 638: Functional Assessment Project

This guide provides suggestions for how to find supporting references for your 638 functional assessment project

About this guide

This guide is meant to accompany the SPCE 638 Functional Assessment Project.

Once you decide on the function-based intervention(s) you want to propose for your current clients, you need to "provide three references to support your proposed intervention." This guide will give you tips on how to do that.

But it's also got more general help for doing research in your field using library databases.

While searching the Internet may prove somewhat useful to you, you'll be better served using library databases to find reliable, authoritative research in your field.  As a Ball State student, you are entitled to use the University Libraries, whether in the building or from afar.  This guide should give you some tools you can use for finding the research you need.

Deciding on components of your treatment

As you consider which function-based intervention is most appropriate for your client based on their mock-data, you may decide that you'd like to recommend using more than one intervention.

Your instructor provided this example and explanation:

If your mock data indicate that the behavior may be maintained by escape and access to tangible items, you may need to find an article that uses an escape extinction procedure along with a non-contingent reinforcement procedure that provides access to preferred items on a time-based schedule. 
If you are having trouble finding an article that includes all of the procedures you would want to include in your function-based treatment, it is OKAY to include one article that involves one component of your proposed intervention and another article that involves another component. 


Choosing a database

When you're doing academic research, start on the Ball State University Libraries' homepage.  Then look for the Databases link.  Use the drop-down "All Subjects" menu to explore the available resources by broad disciplines.

There are two principle research databases in the field of applied behavior analysis: PsycINFO (under the Psychology category) and ERIC (under the Education category).  PsycINFO is likely the best one to start with, but depending on your topic, you may find that ERIC is also helpful.

While you can use the same general search techniques in both databases, be alert for differences in terms used.

Search example

For the example mentioned above (where we wanted to find an article that uses an escape extinction procedure along with a non-contingent reinforcement procedure), I decided to search in PsycINFO, putting quotation marks around each phrase to keep the words together.

This led to several useful examples right away.


Here is an example of how I might begin to search for discussion of a function-based intervention using non-contingent reinforcement based on an attention-maintained behavior.

However, when this search (above) brought back no results, I had to look more closely at my terms, and consider that some authors may not use the dashes in those terms.  Here is how I could search, allowing for either spelling, by putting OR in between the different versions.


If I decide that I'm not finding any or enough articles with both of my components, I may search for each component separately and look for supporting articles focusing on one procedure at a time.  I will find many more results that way.  Here I've just chosen to search for one:

I find many more results this way.


Then I can consider adding another term in a second box to narrow this down some.  Some ideas:

  • Add a description of the age of your client.  (ex. infant)
  • Add words to describe some important aspect of the behavior.  (ex. food or eating)

Here's an example:

Which gives us a more manageable set of results:

Bear in mind that there's not just one way to search.  Be willing to search and experiment with different terms that you find.  Reach out if you have questions!

Don't see the full text of the article?

MultiLink BSU buttonIf you've found the description of an article you like but you don't see a PDF or HTML link to the full article, look for the "MultiLink BSU" button.  Here's more information about MultiLink and how it's helpful.