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Small sample size approaches in relational and intervention designs



This course provides an overview of potential approaches when you (need to) work with small sample sizes. We distinguish at least two origins of small sample sizes. First, you may need to work with an unpredictably small sample due to e.g. large scale dropout or data collection being unexpectedly cut off. We discuss which (statistical) approaches might aid in obtaining scientifcally grounded and robust results.

Second, you may know a priori that you have to deal with small samples , either by design or because the target population is small due to low prevalence, or just very hard to reach. In clinical settings this is often the case. In order to be able to test causal relationships in small sample sizes research, Single Case Experimental Studies (SCED) can be used. This approach will be discussed in detail, with focus on the design, and several visual and statistical analysis techniques. Several tools will be used to gain hands-on experience with these techniques . We will discuss implications and limitations of small sample analyses, as well as ethical considerations.

Learning Goals

1.2 advanced, up to date knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research methodology;
1.3 profound knowledge of philosophy and ethics of social research;
2.1 the capacity to apply various theoretical frameworks in conducting independently basic research in the field of developmental psychopathology and educational science;
2.2 the ability of critically selecting, studying and analyzing literature relevant to the issues and problems presented by the curriculum and the connected research programmes;
2.3 the ability to independently formulate, perform and assess scientific research at a level suitable to preparing scientific publications.
2.4 the capacity to connect scientific knowledge and insights to practical issues in developmental psychopathology and educational science.
4.2 the ability to write scientific reports in English;
4.3 the ability to engage in the international academic debate.
5.1 independently acquire new knowledge and skills relevant in a professional context or PhD-programme;


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable

Mode of instruction

  • Combined lecture and workgroups, through interactive meetings every week

  • Practical exercises

  • Discussion of relevant literature

Assessment method

Performance will be evaluated through

a) presentations in each session discussing the relevant literature for that particular week,
b) a reflective paper describing a suggested approach for a given research/design/data collection scenario,
c) a written exam consisting of a live analysis exercise.

Part (a) will be graded with a “pass” or “fail”, based on presentations of and participation in the discussion of the weekly literature, to the combined judgment of the instructors.

The two parts (b) and (c) are equally weighted into a single final grade. This grade will be released under the condition that (active) participation in (a) was graded with a “pass”.

The final grade should be higher than 5.5 to pass the course. Any of the parts can only be retaken if that individual part grade is unsatisfactory (lower than 5.5).

Reading list

Recent advances through research papers, to be announced around the start of the course.


It is mandatory to register for each course via uSis. This applies to both the lectures and the working groups, even if they take place online. Without a valid registration in uSis you will not be able to participate in the course and you will not have access to the Brightspace module of the course.

In addition, it is also mandatory to register separately in uSis for each exam (i.e. both the first exam opportunity and, if necessary, the resit) in uSis. This also applies to partial examinations in a course. This is possible up to 10 calendar days prior to the exam. You cannot take the exam without a valid registration in uSis.

NB If the exam concerns a paper or a practical assignment, you do not need to register in uSis.

Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

NB After you have registered in uSis, check whether your registration for lectures, working groups and the exam are registered there. This prevents disappointment.


Co-ordinator of this course is dr. Ralph Rippe