Designing multiple baseline graphs using Microsoft Excel[TM].
Keywords: single-subject graphs, designing graphs, software
Single-subject design graphs (e.g., reversal, multiple baseline) are critical elements in displaying research results in applied behavior analysis. However, developing a graph that conveys the researcher's results as well as adheres to a manuscript preparation checklist are sometimes daunting experiences. This article is intended to provide the reader with a basic understanding of how to create a multiple baseline experimental design graph using Microsoft Excel[TM]. However, these directions assume an intermediate level of understanding of Excel[TM], such as the function of various Excel toolbars. These detailed instructions will act as a good starting point when initially constructing graphs. However, readers are cautioned in using the directions as guides not as rules as they evolve through the graph construction process.
Carr & Burkholder (1998) provided us with a great service in writing one of the first articles that described how to design single-subject graphs using Microsoft Excel[TM]. Even though there are several published articles that teach how to design single-subject graphs such as reversal graphs (e.g., Carr & Burkholder, 1998; Moran & Hirschbine, 2002), the authors have no knowledge of an article that clearly describes how to construct a multiple baseline graph. Following the instructions in this article will allow the reader to construct multiple baseline graphs on Excel[TM] that conform to the Manuscript preparation checklist in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (2000).
Creating a Multiple Baseline Design Graph
Entering Data into the Spreadsheet
When you open Excel you will see columns (labeled A, B, C...) that represent values of the dependent variable and rows (labeled 1, 2, 3...) that show the sessions, days, etc. As shown in Figure 1 (at the end of this article), enter all of your data (e.g. baseline) in column "A", beginning with A1, using one cell for each datum point. The only exception will be that each participant (or setting, or behavior) will be entered into a different column. For example, I have three participants, the first person's data will go in column A, the second set of data will go in column B, and the third set of data will go in column C.
For each new phase (e.g., baseline, intervention, return to baseline) enter data in the same column (e.g., column "A"). When finished, all data points for the first participant, setting, or behavior should be in a continuous line in the "A" column. All data points for the second participant, setting, or behavior should be in a continuous line in the "B" column, and so on until all data have been entered.
The primary reason for entering the data this way is to make your data entry less hectic, because you will be entering all of your data (e.g., participants, setting, etc.). Another reason is so that the x-axis numbers are correctly aligned with the tick marks.
The easiest way to ensure that the different graphs (also known as legs) in your multiple baseline graphs are equivalent is to create one graph and copy it. Using the mouse, starting with the last datum point, highlight all of the cells containing data points (this will highlight cells a shaded color) in column "A" only. DO NOT HIGHLIGHT THE OTHER COLUMNS. Left click on the Chart Wizard icon (picture of a bar graph). Choose (XY) SCATTER and press FINISH. The data points for the first participant, setting, or behavior will be graphed. You will want to modify the graph, before proceeding so you have one complete graph.
Modifying Graph Features
Format plot area. To format the plot area, move the cursor onto any part of the gray background and double click. You will see a chart titled FORMAT PLOT AREA. In the BORDER section left click NONE and under AREA left click NONE. Click OK to finish. The gray backgrounds and borderlines should be gone.
Move your cursor into the chart area. (move cursor towards the chart until you see "chart area" popping up underneath the cursor). In the chart area double click, and a box titled FORMAT CHART AREA will appear. You will see three different tabs: PATTERNS, FONT, and PROPERTIES. For the time being do not worry about PROPERTIES.
Patterns. Left click NONE for BORDER. Leave AREA as AUTOMATIC
Font. You will be given the opportunity to select you choice of font, style and size. When finished left click OK.
Chart Options. Go up to the toolbar (e.g., File, Edit, View, etc.) and left click on CHART and left click on CHART OPTIONS. This will permit you to change the rest of your graph features. (hint: your graph must be highlighted by having four squares on outer sides of graph before the CHART label will appear in the toolbar). You will see TITLES, AXES, GRIDLINES, LEGEND, and DATA LABLES.
Titles. Put in your labels for the X-axis and Y-axis lines. Do not select OK.
Axes. You will not have to change these unless you would like to remove the X-axis or Y-axis lines.
Gridlines. You will see four (4) different types of gridlines. Select the type of gridlines you would like by clicking the white box next to the gridline name, and a check mark will appear. As you change gridlines patterns, the small graph to the right will display the changes. If you would like to remove all gridlines from your graph, make sure there are no check marks in the boxes next to the gridlines. Do not select OK.
Legend. Remove the legend from the graph by left clicking in the white box next to SHOW LEGEND so there is no check mark in the box.
Data labels. This will enable you to place datum values next to each datum point. When you are done click OK.
Change numbers on X-axis. Move cursor on one of the x-axis numbers and double left click on it, to bring up FORMAT AXIS. You will see the following labels: patterns, scale, font, number, and alignment. I will briefly discuss the function of each of these.
The PATTERNS section this allows you to change "tick label/markings" on your graph as well as to choose if you would like an axis line (subheading "lines") to be present or absent from your graph. Most people like to have an axis line, so keep the mark on AUTOMATIC.
The SCALE section allows you to modify your X-axis scale. Keep all of the numbers the same under the "minimum" and "maximum" headings: these tell the graph where to start and finish numbering depending on how many entries you put in your Excel spreadsheet. For the "major unit" heading select a number of spaces you want between each number: For example, enter 1 to show every number between the "minimum" and "maximum", 2 to show every number, 5 to show every fifth number, and so on. Most like to either do 1 or 2.
The FONT section allows you to modify your font size or type for the axis numbers here.
The NUMBER section includes the categories you can select for your X-axis numbers (e.g., list your numbers as percentages, times, fractions).
The ALLIGNMENT section allows you to modify the alignment of the X-axis numbers. The word "text" shows you how the axis numbers should be aligned. To modify alignment, either click on one of the diamond symbols on the graph, or place cursor on the word "text" and move up or down using your mouse.
After finished modifying you graph axis, press OK.
Change numbers on Y-axis. To change the numbers on the Y-axis, double click on a y-axis number, and follow the above directions (changing x-axis numbers).
Bring zero (0) up off X-axis. Double click on a y-axis number, and in FORMAT AXIS go to SCALE. Under "minimum" enter -1 and under "value (x) axis crosses at" headings, enter -0.5. Press OK. Your graph should have the first number as being -1, followed by the other numbers.
Move zero (0) off Y-axis. Double click on an x-axis number, and in FORMAT AXIS go to SCALE. Under "minimum" enter -1 and under "value (x) axis crosses at" headings, enter -0.5. Press OK. Your graph should have the first number as being -1, followed by the other numbers.
Get rid of the -1 on Y-axis and X-axis. On you drawing tool left click on the text box icon (looks like college rule paper). Go to the -1 and, using your mouse, click and hold left button down and drag to form a box that fits around the number. Release left mouse button.
Double click on outside (your cursor will form a four sided arrow) of the text box you just formed, and this will take you to FORMAT TEXT BOX. Under the FORMAT TEXT BOX click on COLORS AND LINES. Go to FILL, and then under COLOR, select AUTOMATIC, and the color of the fill should be white. This tells Excel to fill in your textbox with white, just like white-out. Go to LINE, and select NO LINE. Select OK when finished.
Your textbox should be filled in white, and this will cover up your -1 on the y-axis. You can always find the text box by moving your cursor to bottom of the y-axis and clicking until the text box reappears. This way to can modify the size of the textbox whenever.
Changing data point symbols. Place cursor onto a datum point and left click twice. Under PATTERNS there is a subtitle called MARKER, select the type of datum point would like as well as the size of the datum point. Go to the subtitle LINE and select AUTOMATIC, this will connect all of your data points.
Completing the Multiple Baseline Graph
Now that you have one complete graph, click on the "chart area" to highlight the entire graph (you will see eight small boxes surrounding the graph). Go to your toolbar (i.e., File, Edit), left click EDIT and left click on COPY. Using your cursor left click on an Excel spreadsheet cell that is below the first graph. Go up to your toolbar again, left click EDIT and left click PASTE. This will copy the graph and you should have two identical graphs. Repeat this set of directions until you have all of your multiple baseline legs.
The first graph (top graph) should have the data for the first participant, setting or behavior. You need to change the other graphs to reflect the data from the second participants, setting, or behavior. Start by clicking on the "chart area" of the second graph, to highlight graph.
Notice that the data under column A is highlighted with a blue line. Move your cursor onto the blue line that separates column A from column B, until you see the four-pointed arrow. Hold your left mouse button down, and drag the cursor over to column B until the data in column B is highlighted with a blue line. Release the left mouse button. Move cursor onto a bottom square of the blue box until a slanted arrow appears. Hold left mouse button down and drag down until all data in column B are encircled by the blue box. The second graph of your multiple baseline should have the data of the second participant, setting, or behavior.
Repeat the above step for each additional graph until all of the data for each participant, setting, or behavior is graphed. You might notice that each multiple baseline leg has a different set of X-axis and Y-axis values. In order to make all legs similar, make sure each leg has the same X-axis and Y-axis values by left clicking twice on either the X-axis or the Y-axis line and follow the directions in the section labeled:
Change numbers on X-axis and Change numbers on Y-axis.
Aligning the Legs of Multiple Baseline
Go to the second leg of your multiple baseline and move cursor into "chart area". Hold left mouse button down and drag graph up until the dotted lines are below the X-axis tick marks of the first graph. Repeat directions until all multiple baseline legs are aligned. (Note: the legs do not have to be perfectly aligned with each other)
Move cursor into "chart area" of the first leg and left click once. Hold CTRL button down and left click once in "chart area" of each of the remaining legs. Release CTRL button. Move cursor to drawing toolbar, left click on DRAW, left click on ALIGN OR DISTRIBUTE, and left click on ALIGN LEFT. Left click again on DRAW, left click ALIGN OR DISTRIBUTE, and left click on DISTRIBUTE VERTICALLY.
Hint: after this step, do not click in the Chart Area or Plot Area of any of your legs, because with this step you have made your legs into one continuous graph. If you do click in either the Chart Area or Plot Area, just repeat the steps of this step.
Putting in Condition Labels
Go to the drawing toolbar and left click on textbox icon (icon of a piece of paper). Move cursor above first condition (e.g., baseline). Left click once and a box will appear. Type the label of the condition in the box. Center the label by left clicking once on edge of textbox, hold the left mouse button down and drag the condition label into place.
Eliminating Lines Around Textbox
Move cursor to a side of the textbox until a four-arrow cursor appears. Double click. In the FORMAT TEXT BOX select FONT, and change the font and size of the condition label. Next, select COLORS AND LINES, and under LINE you will see COLOR. Left click on down arrow (on left side of color box) and select NO LINE. Press OK, and the lines surrounding the textbox should be gone.
Copying the Textbox
Without moving your cursor, press CTRL + C and then CTRL + V to make a duplicate of the textbox. Use the cursor and move the second textbox above the next condition (e.g., intervention). Change the condition label, and proceed to complete the previous two steps until you have condition labels for each condition.
Making Y-Axis and X-Axis Labels
Go to the drawing toolbar and left click on textbox icon (icon of a piece of paper). Move cursor below X-axis line. Left click once and a box will appear. Type the label of the X-axis line. When done typing move the cursor to edge of textbox until a four-pointed arrow appears. Left click twice on edge of textbox. Left click once onto FONT and select the size and type of font. Then left click once on COLORS AND LINES, under FILL COLOR select AUTOMATIC. Select OK.
Moving cursor to the edge of the textbox, left click once on edge of textbox when you see the four-pointed arrow, and drag until centered over the original X-axis label. (For a Y-axis label follow the first four steps except put in your Y-axis label.)
Left click once on edge of textbox and a FORMAT TEXTBOX chart will appear. Left click on ALIGNMENT, under ORIENTATION, left click on the middle of the three boxes that have "text" written in them. Under TEXT ALIGNMENT, for VERTICAL select the choice that says, "center." Select OK.
Move cursor to the edge of Y-axis textbox, and move until it is centered between all multiple baseline legs. You will see eight circles surrounding the textbox. By placing cursor on any of the eight circles you can stretch the textbox until it covers all of the previous Y-axis labels. Left click somewhere on the spreadsheet other than on any of your multiple baseline graphs.
Eliminating Lines That Cross Condition Lines
To eliminate the data lines that cross condition lines, left click on each datum point on either side of the condition line. Move your cursor onto the line between the two highlighted data points and right click. In the information bar select FORMAT DATA POINT, find section labeled LINE, left click on NONE, and press OK. Voila, your line should be gone. Go back and repeat step to eliminate remaining lines.
Drawing Condition Lines
Go to your drawing tool bar, left click the slanted line (LINE comes up under your cursor). Move your cursor to the "X" axis of your last leg of your multiple baseline graph, place the cursor where you would like a condition line (e.g., between baseline and intervention) to be, hold your left click mouse button down, drag up until the line ends at the top of your first le g of your multiple baseline graph, as shown in Figure 2 (at the end of this article).
Move cursor anywhere on the line, get the four-pointed arrow, and right click once. Left click on EDIT POINTS. When you cursor is placed on the line, the cursor will now look like a small box. Move the cursor to the place on the condition line where you would like to change the condition line to a horizontal line (i.e., in between two legs of the graph) and right click once. Left click on ADD POINT and a small box should now be on your condition line. Move cursor above that small box about an inch, hold left mouse button down and drag towards the left and down in order to make a horizontal line. Release left mouse button when line is long enough.
To make the diagonal line straight for the second leg, move cursor up to the top of the second leg, put cursor on the condition line, hold left mouse button down and drag towards the left until diagonal line is straight. Keep doing the last step until your condition line is complete for all legs of your multiple baseline graph, as shown in Figure 3 (at the end of this article).
Now you should have a completed multiple baseline graph. As you learn and become more efficient at making a multiple baseline graph, remember that these steps are mere guides not rules in how to design a graph. As you become more proficient and gain more confidence in designing singlesubject design graphs, you may begin to discover new ways, maybe even easier ways, to construct multiple baseline graphs.
I would like to provide great thanks to Nate Smith for his help in providing feedback concerning Microsoft Excel[TM]. Correspondence should be addressed to
Carr, J. E., & Burkholder, E. O. (1998). Creating single-subject design graphs with Microsoft Excel. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 245-251.
Manuscript preparation checklist (2000). Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 399-400.
Moran, D. J., & Hirschbine, B. (2002). Constructing single0subject reversal design graphs using Microsoft Excel[TM]: A comprehensive tutorial. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3, 179-187.
Heidi L. Hillman & L. Keith Miller
University of Kansas
Department of Human Development and Family Life
4001 Dole Center
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS. 66045.
Correspondence can also be sent via E-mail to: email@example.com
L. Keith Miller, PhD
University of Kansas
Human Development & Family Life
4001 Dole Center
1000 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66045
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