Finding Single-System Design studies in Social Work

Tips for locating single-system design articles


Single-system design (SSD) studies can be difficult to find using regular library database search techniques. Although they are a useful tool for practitioners to monitor and evaluate treatment, they are less frequently published in the current literature. This page includes some strategies to assist you in locating SSD articles.

In each database you will need to combine two sets of keywords for your search, one for methodology (SSD) and one for your topic of interest. To help come up with methodology keywords (synonyms), review your lecture notes and the following sources for more information about single-system design.

Fischer, J., & Orme, J.  (2013, June 11). Single-System Designs. Encyclopedia of Social Work.


Overview of Single-Subject Research. Price, P. C. Price,Jhangiani, R. & Chiang, I-C. A. Research Methods in Psychology.

For example, for the methodology piece I might search something like: ("single system" OR "single subject" OR "single case" OR "repeated measures")
In PsycInfo, if my topic of interest is trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy, I'd translate the search to look like:
("single system" OR "single subject" OR "single case" OR "repeated measures").tw. AND (TFCBT OR TF-CBT OR "trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy").tw.
[note: there's no official heading for either of my concepts in PsycInfo, so I need to use the .tw. format (text word)]

Database searches

The following examples are based on a search for SSD and trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy; modify and experiment for your own topic. For example, in some databases your topic will have one or more official term affiliated with it. 

Note that all these searches are likely to have a high incidence of 'false hits' - i.e., where the search retrieves irrelevant records using the search terms.

This page is not meant as a tutorial for searching the databases; please look at the linked guides and database help pages for further information.

Example search:

("single system" OR "single subject" OR "single case" OR "repeated measures").tw. AND (TFCBT OR TF-CBT OR "trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy").tw.

Although SSD are not the same as clinical case studies, PsycInfo sometimes indexes them as such. So, you might also search on your topic (e.g., TF-CBT) then use the Limits->Additional limits->Methodology->Clinical Case Study

Example search:

TITLE-ABS-KEY ( "single system"  OR  "single subject"  OR  "Single Case"  OR  "repeated measures" )  AND  TITLE-ABS ( tfcbt  OR  tf-cbt  OR  "trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy" ) 

("single system" OR "single subject" OR "Single Case" OR "repeated measures") AND (TFCBT OR TF-CBT OR "trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy") 

Example search (Each set of parentheses represents a box)

("single system" OR "single subject" OR "Single Case" OR "repeated measures")


(TFCBT OR TF-CBT OR "trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy") 

Need more help?

You may struggle to find an example of single-system design studies on specific topics. Try broadening if necessary.

For more assistance, email Scott at with your topic or specific questions.

Or set up an appointment:  

Scott is also in Peters 165 for drop in assistance during these Fall 2019 times:

Friday, November 8, 1:30-3:00pm

Friday, November 22, 9:30-11:00am

Last Updated: Feb 11, 2022 10:49 AM