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Part 2: Data Collection methods in ABA – All you need to know

In this part 2, we are covering other data collection methods.  But before we do that, here are some quick and practical tips on how you can collect data when not using technology:

  • Elastics on fingers: Roll over the bands to the other hand when a behavior occurs
  • Clicker Counters: Click on the clicker every time a (high frequency) behavior takes place
  • Beads on a pipe cleaner: Slide the beads to the bottom of the pipe cleaner when the behavior happens
  • Hourglass: Or better in plastic, to measure duration use for intervals
  • Small objects in pockets: When the behavior occurs, transfer the small items to the other pocket.

If you want to learn more in depth about data collection strategies, check out ABA Courses: ABAT (QABA) course (available in English, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish) and our 40-hour RBT courses (BACB) on, which offers a full course on measurement, and includes measurement procedures within the 40 hour courses.

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ABA Data Collection Methods

In the last blog we discussed:

  • Frequency or Event Recording
  • Duration Recording
  • Per Opportunity Recording

In this blog/article, we will discuss:

  • Latency Recording
  • Permanent product
  • Rate Data
  • Momentary time sampling
  • Whole Interval Recording
  • Partial interval Recording
  • Continuous versus Discontinuous Measurement
  • ABC Data collection
  • Scatterplot

Check out this glossary to learn more about ABA terminology.

  1. Latency

Latency recording measures the time it takes for a learner to respond (the time between the discriminative stimuli, SD, and the response.) You may want to use Latency data to help increase the response so the learner’s overall compliance can be increased. For example, Tommy took 30 seconds before he sat down after the teacher told him to sit down. Usually, Latency is used when responses occur too slowly or too quickly following the SD.

  • Permanent Product

Another data collection strategy that is included in the RBT and ABAT course, and we use in our South Bay ABA Work’s clinic, is Permanent Product. This type of recording measures specific objects or outcomes as a result of a behavior. For example, the number of times the learner completed a puzzle during the time they had to work independently. Or the number of plates the learner put up after they were told to clean up the dishes.

  • Rate Recording

Rate recording always needs to include a time. It will measure how many times a specific behavior occurs within a certain time frame. For example, during Social Skills Group, Hussain shares a Lego with another learner 4 times in 10 minutes. The rate of the behavior is 4 times per 10 minutes (for more information about ABA Works’ Social Skills Groups, click here).

  • Momentary Time Sampling (MTS)

This method gives a snapshot of whether a behavior occurs. It measures the presence or absence of behavior at the end of an observation period. For example, every time Nancy is building the blocks at the end of the 30-second interval, it is counted as correct. In the case she was not engaging in building blocks (for example, she was looking around the room), it is counted as incorrect. Because not all instances of behavior are recorded, the data are far less accurate compared to continuous data collection.

  • Whole interval Recording

Whole interval recording measures a full interval of a behavior.  Again, the intervals will be determined as equal intervals. The behavior must occur for the entire amount of interval. This measurement method can underestimate the occurrence of the target. Use small intervals. For example, intervals of 60 seconds, rather than 30-minute intervals. An example of how to use Whole Interval Recording is to measure the time that a learner is focused on the teacher’s instruction.

  • Partial Interval Recording

Partial Interval Recording measures the behavior only during a certain point of an interval. You will have to determine the intervals, for example, 30-second intervals.  It is important to keep the intervals small and not make 60-minute intervals. During that specific interval, the behavior should occur at least 1 time. Once it has occurred, it is counted for the whole interval. Since the behavior only needs to occur for a small fraction of the interval, this type of data collection may overestimate the occurrence of the behavior. Therefore, it is overall advised to only used this type of data collection when:

  • The behavior occurs at a high rate, and it’s difficult to measure each occurrence.
  • The behavior does not have a clear start and end.
  • It is ok if the behavior may be overestimated.
  • Continuous versus Discontinuous Recording

What is the difference between continuous and discontinuous recording?

Continuous measurement focuses on each occurrence of the behavior (including frequency, rate, duration, and latency). It helps to determine behavior trends and gives a good reflection of the actual behavior.

Discontinuous recording measures only a sample of behaviors. There is an observation period, and the period is broken down into smaller increments of time. So, you will look at a sample of behavior versus the whole behavior. The methods that fall under this, are Partial Interval Recording, Whole Interval Recording, and Momentary Time Sampling. These methods of data collection can be the easiest to use when the behavior occurs at a high rate or where the environment is busy, such as in a group setting.

  • ABC Data Collection

The Antecedent (A), Behavior (B) and Consequence (C) data collection method is a narrative way of describing what occurred behavior a behavior occurred (A), what the actual behavior was, and what the consequence (C) was. For example, Sarah took the pen from Hon (A). Hon hit Sarah (B). Sarah returned the pen (C). It helps identify what keeps the behavior in place; to identify the function of the behavior (escape, tangible/activity, attention, sensory); and to develop a behavior intervention plan.

  • Scatterplot

This can be an effective way to track and visualize patterns of behavior. The information is tracked in a table that will show different parts of the day, either time frames or activities.  The behavior can be tracked by entering a bullet point, for example, in every little cell when it occurs, thereby showing a visual and giving an understanding of the patterns of behavior. For example, by counting the behaviors of concerns, such as yelling through the house, it can be analyzed that this occurs the most during 6-7 pm, and 9-10 pm when all siblings are in the living room at the same time as the learner.

Want to learn more about data collection? Check out our RBT and ABAT course

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