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Experimental Research Design — 6 mistakes you should never make!

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Since school days’ students perform scientific experiments that provide results that define and prove the laws and theorems in science. These experiments are laid on a strong foundation of experimental research designs.

An experimental research design helps researchers execute their research objectives with more clarity and transparency.

In this article, we will not only discuss the key aspects of experimental research designs but also the issues to avoid and problems to resolve while designing your research study.

Table of Contents

What Is Experimental Research Design?

Experimental research design is a framework of protocols and procedures created to conduct experimental research with a scientific approach using two sets of variables. Herein, the first set of variables acts as a constant, used to measure the differences of the second set. The best example of experimental research methods is quantitative research .

Experimental research helps a researcher gather the necessary data for making better research decisions and determining the facts of a research study.

When Can a Researcher Conduct Experimental Research?

A researcher can conduct experimental research in the following situations —

  • When time is an important factor in establishing a relationship between the cause and effect.
  • When there is an invariable or never-changing behavior between the cause and effect.
  • Finally, when the researcher wishes to understand the importance of the cause and effect.

Importance of Experimental Research Design

To publish significant results, choosing a quality research design forms the foundation to build the research study. Moreover, effective research design helps establish quality decision-making procedures, structures the research to lead to easier data analysis, and addresses the main research question. Therefore, it is essential to cater undivided attention and time to create an experimental research design before beginning the practical experiment.

By creating a research design, a researcher is also giving oneself time to organize the research, set up relevant boundaries for the study, and increase the reliability of the results. Through all these efforts, one could also avoid inconclusive results. If any part of the research design is flawed, it will reflect on the quality of the results derived.

Types of Experimental Research Designs

Based on the methods used to collect data in experimental studies, the experimental research designs are of three primary types:

1. Pre-experimental Research Design

A research study could conduct pre-experimental research design when a group or many groups are under observation after implementing factors of cause and effect of the research. The pre-experimental design will help researchers understand whether further investigation is necessary for the groups under observation.

Pre-experimental research is of three types —

  • One-shot Case Study Research Design
  • One-group Pretest-posttest Research Design
  • Static-group Comparison

2. True Experimental Research Design

A true experimental research design relies on statistical analysis to prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis. It is one of the most accurate forms of research because it provides specific scientific evidence. Furthermore, out of all the types of experimental designs, only a true experimental design can establish a cause-effect relationship within a group. However, in a true experiment, a researcher must satisfy these three factors —

  • There is a control group that is not subjected to changes and an experimental group that will experience the changed variables
  • A variable that can be manipulated by the researcher
  • Random distribution of the variables

This type of experimental research is commonly observed in the physical sciences.

3. Quasi-experimental Research Design

The word “Quasi” means similarity. A quasi-experimental design is similar to a true experimental design. However, the difference between the two is the assignment of the control group. In this research design, an independent variable is manipulated, but the participants of a group are not randomly assigned. This type of research design is used in field settings where random assignment is either irrelevant or not required.

The classification of the research subjects, conditions, or groups determines the type of research design to be used.

experimental research design

Advantages of Experimental Research

Experimental research allows you to test your idea in a controlled environment before taking the research to clinical trials. Moreover, it provides the best method to test your theory because of the following advantages:

  • Researchers have firm control over variables to obtain results.
  • The subject does not impact the effectiveness of experimental research. Anyone can implement it for research purposes.
  • The results are specific.
  • Post results analysis, research findings from the same dataset can be repurposed for similar research ideas.
  • Researchers can identify the cause and effect of the hypothesis and further analyze this relationship to determine in-depth ideas.
  • Experimental research makes an ideal starting point. The collected data could be used as a foundation to build new research ideas for further studies.

6 Mistakes to Avoid While Designing Your Research

There is no order to this list, and any one of these issues can seriously compromise the quality of your research. You could refer to the list as a checklist of what to avoid while designing your research.

1. Invalid Theoretical Framework

Usually, researchers miss out on checking if their hypothesis is logical to be tested. If your research design does not have basic assumptions or postulates, then it is fundamentally flawed and you need to rework on your research framework.

2. Inadequate Literature Study

Without a comprehensive research literature review , it is difficult to identify and fill the knowledge and information gaps. Furthermore, you need to clearly state how your research will contribute to the research field, either by adding value to the pertinent literature or challenging previous findings and assumptions.

3. Insufficient or Incorrect Statistical Analysis

Statistical results are one of the most trusted scientific evidence. The ultimate goal of a research experiment is to gain valid and sustainable evidence. Therefore, incorrect statistical analysis could affect the quality of any quantitative research.

4. Undefined Research Problem

This is one of the most basic aspects of research design. The research problem statement must be clear and to do that, you must set the framework for the development of research questions that address the core problems.

5. Research Limitations

Every study has some type of limitations . You should anticipate and incorporate those limitations into your conclusion, as well as the basic research design. Include a statement in your manuscript about any perceived limitations, and how you considered them while designing your experiment and drawing the conclusion.

6. Ethical Implications

The most important yet less talked about topic is the ethical issue. Your research design must include ways to minimize any risk for your participants and also address the research problem or question at hand. If you cannot manage the ethical norms along with your research study, your research objectives and validity could be questioned.

Experimental Research Design Example

In an experimental design, a researcher gathers plant samples and then randomly assigns half the samples to photosynthesize in sunlight and the other half to be kept in a dark box without sunlight, while controlling all the other variables (nutrients, water, soil, etc.)

By comparing their outcomes in biochemical tests, the researcher can confirm that the changes in the plants were due to the sunlight and not the other variables.

Experimental research is often the final form of a study conducted in the research process which is considered to provide conclusive and specific results. But it is not meant for every research. It involves a lot of resources, time, and money and is not easy to conduct, unless a foundation of research is built. Yet it is widely used in research institutes and commercial industries, for its most conclusive results in the scientific approach.

Have you worked on research designs? How was your experience creating an experimental design? What difficulties did you face? Do write to us or comment below and share your insights on experimental research designs!

Frequently Asked Questions

Randomization is important in an experimental research because it ensures unbiased results of the experiment. It also measures the cause-effect relationship on a particular group of interest.

Experimental research design lay the foundation of a research and structures the research to establish quality decision making process.

There are 3 types of experimental research designs. These are pre-experimental research design, true experimental research design, and quasi experimental research design.

The difference between an experimental and a quasi-experimental design are: 1. The assignment of the control group in quasi experimental research is non-random, unlike true experimental design, which is randomly assigned. 2. Experimental research group always has a control group; on the other hand, it may not be always present in quasi experimental research.

Experimental research establishes a cause-effect relationship by testing a theory or hypothesis using experimental groups or control variables. In contrast, descriptive research describes a study or a topic by defining the variables under it and answering the questions related to the same.

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Experimental Design: Types, Examples & Methods

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

Experimental design refers to how participants are allocated to different groups in an experiment. Types of design include repeated measures, independent groups, and matched pairs designs.

Probably the most common way to design an experiment in psychology is to divide the participants into two groups, the experimental group and the control group, and then introduce a change to the experimental group, not the control group.

The researcher must decide how he/she will allocate their sample to the different experimental groups.  For example, if there are 10 participants, will all 10 participants participate in both groups (e.g., repeated measures), or will the participants be split in half and take part in only one group each?

Three types of experimental designs are commonly used:

1. Independent Measures

Independent measures design, also known as between-groups , is an experimental design where different participants are used in each condition of the independent variable.  This means that each condition of the experiment includes a different group of participants.

This should be done by random allocation, ensuring that each participant has an equal chance of being assigned to one group.

Independent measures involve using two separate groups of participants, one in each condition. For example:

Independent Measures Design 2

  • Con : More people are needed than with the repeated measures design (i.e., more time-consuming).
  • Pro : Avoids order effects (such as practice or fatigue) as people participate in one condition only.  If a person is involved in several conditions, they may become bored, tired, and fed up by the time they come to the second condition or become wise to the requirements of the experiment!
  • Con : Differences between participants in the groups may affect results, for example, variations in age, gender, or social background.  These differences are known as participant variables (i.e., a type of extraneous variable ).
  • Control : After the participants have been recruited, they should be randomly assigned to their groups. This should ensure the groups are similar, on average (reducing participant variables).

2. Repeated Measures Design

Repeated Measures design is an experimental design where the same participants participate in each independent variable condition.  This means that each experiment condition includes the same group of participants.

Repeated Measures design is also known as within-groups or within-subjects design .

  • Pro : As the same participants are used in each condition, participant variables (i.e., individual differences) are reduced.
  • Con : There may be order effects. Order effects refer to the order of the conditions affecting the participants’ behavior.  Performance in the second condition may be better because the participants know what to do (i.e., practice effect).  Or their performance might be worse in the second condition because they are tired (i.e., fatigue effect). This limitation can be controlled using counterbalancing.
  • Pro : Fewer people are needed as they participate in all conditions (i.e., saves time).
  • Control : To combat order effects, the researcher counter-balances the order of the conditions for the participants.  Alternating the order in which participants perform in different conditions of an experiment.


Suppose we used a repeated measures design in which all of the participants first learned words in “loud noise” and then learned them in “no noise.”

We expect the participants to learn better in “no noise” because of order effects, such as practice. However, a researcher can control for order effects using counterbalancing.

The sample would be split into two groups: experimental (A) and control (B).  For example, group 1 does ‘A’ then ‘B,’ and group 2 does ‘B’ then ‘A.’ This is to eliminate order effects.

Although order effects occur for each participant, they balance each other out in the results because they occur equally in both groups.

counter balancing

3. Matched Pairs Design

A matched pairs design is an experimental design where pairs of participants are matched in terms of key variables, such as age or socioeconomic status. One member of each pair is then placed into the experimental group and the other member into the control group .

One member of each matched pair must be randomly assigned to the experimental group and the other to the control group.

matched pairs design

  • Con : If one participant drops out, you lose 2 PPs’ data.
  • Pro : Reduces participant variables because the researcher has tried to pair up the participants so that each condition has people with similar abilities and characteristics.
  • Con : Very time-consuming trying to find closely matched pairs.
  • Pro : It avoids order effects, so counterbalancing is not necessary.
  • Con : Impossible to match people exactly unless they are identical twins!
  • Control : Members of each pair should be randomly assigned to conditions. However, this does not solve all these problems.

Experimental design refers to how participants are allocated to an experiment’s different conditions (or IV levels). There are three types:

1. Independent measures / between-groups : Different participants are used in each condition of the independent variable.

2. Repeated measures /within groups : The same participants take part in each condition of the independent variable.

3. Matched pairs : Each condition uses different participants, but they are matched in terms of important characteristics, e.g., gender, age, intelligence, etc.

Learning Check

Read about each of the experiments below. For each experiment, identify (1) which experimental design was used; and (2) why the researcher might have used that design.

1 . To compare the effectiveness of two different types of therapy for depression, depressed patients were assigned to receive either cognitive therapy or behavior therapy for a 12-week period.

The researchers attempted to ensure that the patients in the two groups had similar severity of depressed symptoms by administering a standardized test of depression to each participant, then pairing them according to the severity of their symptoms.

2 . To assess the difference in reading comprehension between 7 and 9-year-olds, a researcher recruited each group from a local primary school. They were given the same passage of text to read and then asked a series of questions to assess their understanding.

3 . To assess the effectiveness of two different ways of teaching reading, a group of 5-year-olds was recruited from a primary school. Their level of reading ability was assessed, and then they were taught using scheme one for 20 weeks.

At the end of this period, their reading was reassessed, and a reading improvement score was calculated. They were then taught using scheme two for a further 20 weeks, and another reading improvement score for this period was calculated. The reading improvement scores for each child were then compared.

4 . To assess the effect of the organization on recall, a researcher randomly assigned student volunteers to two conditions.

Condition one attempted to recall a list of words that were organized into meaningful categories; condition two attempted to recall the same words, randomly grouped on the page.

Experiment Terminology

Ecological validity.

The degree to which an investigation represents real-life experiences.

Experimenter effects

These are the ways that the experimenter can accidentally influence the participant through their appearance or behavior.

Demand characteristics

The clues in an experiment lead the participants to think they know what the researcher is looking for (e.g., the experimenter’s body language).

Independent variable (IV)

The variable the experimenter manipulates (i.e., changes) is assumed to have a direct effect on the dependent variable.

Dependent variable (DV)

Variable the experimenter measures. This is the outcome (i.e., the result) of a study.

Extraneous variables (EV)

All variables which are not independent variables but could affect the results (DV) of the experiment. Extraneous variables should be controlled where possible.

Confounding variables

Variable(s) that have affected the results (DV), apart from the IV. A confounding variable could be an extraneous variable that has not been controlled.

Random Allocation

Randomly allocating participants to independent variable conditions means that all participants should have an equal chance of taking part in each condition.

The principle of random allocation is to avoid bias in how the experiment is carried out and limit the effects of participant variables.

Order effects

Changes in participants’ performance due to their repeating the same or similar test more than once. Examples of order effects include:

(i) practice effect: an improvement in performance on a task due to repetition, for example, because of familiarity with the task;

(ii) fatigue effect: a decrease in performance of a task due to repetition, for example, because of boredom or tiredness.

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19+ Experimental Design Examples (Methods + Types)

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Ever wondered how scientists discover new medicines, psychologists learn about behavior, or even how marketers figure out what kind of ads you like? Well, they all have something in common: they use a special plan or recipe called an "experimental design."

Imagine you're baking cookies. You can't just throw random amounts of flour, sugar, and chocolate chips into a bowl and hope for the best. You follow a recipe, right? Scientists and researchers do something similar. They follow a "recipe" called an experimental design to make sure their experiments are set up in a way that the answers they find are meaningful and reliable.

Experimental design is the roadmap researchers use to answer questions. It's a set of rules and steps that researchers follow to collect information, or "data," in a way that is fair, accurate, and makes sense.

experimental design test tubes

Long ago, people didn't have detailed game plans for experiments. They often just tried things out and saw what happened. But over time, people got smarter about this. They started creating structured plans—what we now call experimental designs—to get clearer, more trustworthy answers to their questions.

In this article, we'll take you on a journey through the world of experimental designs. We'll talk about the different types, or "flavors," of experimental designs, where they're used, and even give you a peek into how they came to be.

What Is Experimental Design?

Alright, before we dive into the different types of experimental designs, let's get crystal clear on what experimental design actually is.

Imagine you're a detective trying to solve a mystery. You need clues, right? Well, in the world of research, experimental design is like the roadmap that helps you find those clues. It's like the game plan in sports or the blueprint when you're building a house. Just like you wouldn't start building without a good blueprint, researchers won't start their studies without a strong experimental design.

So, why do we need experimental design? Think about baking a cake. If you toss ingredients into a bowl without measuring, you'll end up with a mess instead of a tasty dessert.

Similarly, in research, if you don't have a solid plan, you might get confusing or incorrect results. A good experimental design helps you ask the right questions ( think critically ), decide what to measure ( come up with an idea ), and figure out how to measure it (test it). It also helps you consider things that might mess up your results, like outside influences you hadn't thought of.

For example, let's say you want to find out if listening to music helps people focus better. Your experimental design would help you decide things like: Who are you going to test? What kind of music will you use? How will you measure focus? And, importantly, how will you make sure that it's really the music affecting focus and not something else, like the time of day or whether someone had a good breakfast?

In short, experimental design is the master plan that guides researchers through the process of collecting data, so they can answer questions in the most reliable way possible. It's like the GPS for the journey of discovery!

History of Experimental Design

Around 350 BCE, people like Aristotle were trying to figure out how the world works, but they mostly just thought really hard about things. They didn't test their ideas much. So while they were super smart, their methods weren't always the best for finding out the truth.

Fast forward to the Renaissance (14th to 17th centuries), a time of big changes and lots of curiosity. People like Galileo started to experiment by actually doing tests, like rolling balls down inclined planes to study motion. Galileo's work was cool because he combined thinking with doing. He'd have an idea, test it, look at the results, and then think some more. This approach was a lot more reliable than just sitting around and thinking.

Now, let's zoom ahead to the 18th and 19th centuries. This is when people like Francis Galton, an English polymath, started to get really systematic about experimentation. Galton was obsessed with measuring things. Seriously, he even tried to measure how good-looking people were ! His work helped create the foundations for a more organized approach to experiments.

Next stop: the early 20th century. Enter Ronald A. Fisher , a brilliant British statistician. Fisher was a game-changer. He came up with ideas that are like the bread and butter of modern experimental design.

Fisher invented the concept of the " control group "—that's a group of people or things that don't get the treatment you're testing, so you can compare them to those who do. He also stressed the importance of " randomization ," which means assigning people or things to different groups by chance, like drawing names out of a hat. This makes sure the experiment is fair and the results are trustworthy.

Around the same time, American psychologists like John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner were developing " behaviorism ." They focused on studying things that they could directly observe and measure, like actions and reactions.

Skinner even built boxes—called Skinner Boxes —to test how animals like pigeons and rats learn. Their work helped shape how psychologists design experiments today. Watson performed a very controversial experiment called The Little Albert experiment that helped describe behaviour through conditioning—in other words, how people learn to behave the way they do.

In the later part of the 20th century and into our time, computers have totally shaken things up. Researchers now use super powerful software to help design their experiments and crunch the numbers.

With computers, they can simulate complex experiments before they even start, which helps them predict what might happen. This is especially helpful in fields like medicine, where getting things right can be a matter of life and death.

Also, did you know that experimental designs aren't just for scientists in labs? They're used by people in all sorts of jobs, like marketing, education, and even video game design! Yes, someone probably ran an experiment to figure out what makes a game super fun to play.

So there you have it—a quick tour through the history of experimental design, from Aristotle's deep thoughts to Fisher's groundbreaking ideas, and all the way to today's computer-powered research. These designs are the recipes that help people from all walks of life find answers to their big questions.

Key Terms in Experimental Design

Before we dig into the different types of experimental designs, let's get comfy with some key terms. Understanding these terms will make it easier for us to explore the various types of experimental designs that researchers use to answer their big questions.

Independent Variable : This is what you change or control in your experiment to see what effect it has. Think of it as the "cause" in a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, if you're studying whether different types of music help people focus, the kind of music is the independent variable.

Dependent Variable : This is what you're measuring to see the effect of your independent variable. In our music and focus experiment, how well people focus is the dependent variable—it's what "depends" on the kind of music played.

Control Group : This is a group of people who don't get the special treatment or change you're testing. They help you see what happens when the independent variable is not applied. If you're testing whether a new medicine works, the control group would take a fake pill, called a placebo , instead of the real medicine.

Experimental Group : This is the group that gets the special treatment or change you're interested in. Going back to our medicine example, this group would get the actual medicine to see if it has any effect.

Randomization : This is like shaking things up in a fair way. You randomly put people into the control or experimental group so that each group is a good mix of different kinds of people. This helps make the results more reliable.

Sample : This is the group of people you're studying. They're a "sample" of a larger group that you're interested in. For instance, if you want to know how teenagers feel about a new video game, you might study a sample of 100 teenagers.

Bias : This is anything that might tilt your experiment one way or another without you realizing it. Like if you're testing a new kind of dog food and you only test it on poodles, that could create a bias because maybe poodles just really like that food and other breeds don't.

Data : This is the information you collect during the experiment. It's like the treasure you find on your journey of discovery!

Replication : This means doing the experiment more than once to make sure your findings hold up. It's like double-checking your answers on a test.

Hypothesis : This is your educated guess about what will happen in the experiment. It's like predicting the end of a movie based on the first half.

Steps of Experimental Design

Alright, let's say you're all fired up and ready to run your own experiment. Cool! But where do you start? Well, designing an experiment is a bit like planning a road trip. There are some key steps you've got to take to make sure you reach your destination. Let's break it down:

  • Ask a Question : Before you hit the road, you've got to know where you're going. Same with experiments. You start with a question you want to answer, like "Does eating breakfast really make you do better in school?"
  • Do Some Homework : Before you pack your bags, you look up the best places to visit, right? In science, this means reading up on what other people have already discovered about your topic.
  • Form a Hypothesis : This is your educated guess about what you think will happen. It's like saying, "I bet this route will get us there faster."
  • Plan the Details : Now you decide what kind of car you're driving (your experimental design), who's coming with you (your sample), and what snacks to bring (your variables).
  • Randomization : Remember, this is like shuffling a deck of cards. You want to mix up who goes into your control and experimental groups to make sure it's a fair test.
  • Run the Experiment : Finally, the rubber hits the road! You carry out your plan, making sure to collect your data carefully.
  • Analyze the Data : Once the trip's over, you look at your photos and decide which ones are keepers. In science, this means looking at your data to see what it tells you.
  • Draw Conclusions : Based on your data, did you find an answer to your question? This is like saying, "Yep, that route was faster," or "Nope, we hit a ton of traffic."
  • Share Your Findings : After a great trip, you want to tell everyone about it, right? Scientists do the same by publishing their results so others can learn from them.
  • Do It Again? : Sometimes one road trip just isn't enough. In the same way, scientists often repeat their experiments to make sure their findings are solid.

So there you have it! Those are the basic steps you need to follow when you're designing an experiment. Each step helps make sure that you're setting up a fair and reliable way to find answers to your big questions.

Let's get into examples of experimental designs.

1) True Experimental Design


In the world of experiments, the True Experimental Design is like the superstar quarterback everyone talks about. Born out of the early 20th-century work of statisticians like Ronald A. Fisher, this design is all about control, precision, and reliability.

Researchers carefully pick an independent variable to manipulate (remember, that's the thing they're changing on purpose) and measure the dependent variable (the effect they're studying). Then comes the magic trick—randomization. By randomly putting participants into either the control or experimental group, scientists make sure their experiment is as fair as possible.

No sneaky biases here!

True Experimental Design Pros

The pros of True Experimental Design are like the perks of a VIP ticket at a concert: you get the best and most trustworthy results. Because everything is controlled and randomized, you can feel pretty confident that the results aren't just a fluke.

True Experimental Design Cons

However, there's a catch. Sometimes, it's really tough to set up these experiments in a real-world situation. Imagine trying to control every single detail of your day, from the food you eat to the air you breathe. Not so easy, right?

True Experimental Design Uses

The fields that get the most out of True Experimental Designs are those that need super reliable results, like medical research.

When scientists were developing COVID-19 vaccines, they used this design to run clinical trials. They had control groups that received a placebo (a harmless substance with no effect) and experimental groups that got the actual vaccine. Then they measured how many people in each group got sick. By comparing the two, they could say, "Yep, this vaccine works!"

So next time you read about a groundbreaking discovery in medicine or technology, chances are a True Experimental Design was the VIP behind the scenes, making sure everything was on point. It's been the go-to for rigorous scientific inquiry for nearly a century, and it's not stepping off the stage anytime soon.

2) Quasi-Experimental Design

So, let's talk about the Quasi-Experimental Design. Think of this one as the cool cousin of True Experimental Design. It wants to be just like its famous relative, but it's a bit more laid-back and flexible. You'll find quasi-experimental designs when it's tricky to set up a full-blown True Experimental Design with all the bells and whistles.

Quasi-experiments still play with an independent variable, just like their stricter cousins. The big difference? They don't use randomization. It's like wanting to divide a bag of jelly beans equally between your friends, but you can't quite do it perfectly.

In real life, it's often not possible or ethical to randomly assign people to different groups, especially when dealing with sensitive topics like education or social issues. And that's where quasi-experiments come in.

Quasi-Experimental Design Pros

Even though they lack full randomization, quasi-experimental designs are like the Swiss Army knives of research: versatile and practical. They're especially popular in fields like education, sociology, and public policy.

For instance, when researchers wanted to figure out if the Head Start program , aimed at giving young kids a "head start" in school, was effective, they used a quasi-experimental design. They couldn't randomly assign kids to go or not go to preschool, but they could compare kids who did with kids who didn't.

Quasi-Experimental Design Cons

Of course, quasi-experiments come with their own bag of pros and cons. On the plus side, they're easier to set up and often cheaper than true experiments. But the flip side is that they're not as rock-solid in their conclusions. Because the groups aren't randomly assigned, there's always that little voice saying, "Hey, are we missing something here?"

Quasi-Experimental Design Uses

Quasi-Experimental Design gained traction in the mid-20th century. Researchers were grappling with real-world problems that didn't fit neatly into a laboratory setting. Plus, as society became more aware of ethical considerations, the need for flexible designs increased. So, the quasi-experimental approach was like a breath of fresh air for scientists wanting to study complex issues without a laundry list of restrictions.

In short, if True Experimental Design is the superstar quarterback, Quasi-Experimental Design is the versatile player who can adapt and still make significant contributions to the game.

3) Pre-Experimental Design

Now, let's talk about the Pre-Experimental Design. Imagine it as the beginner's skateboard you get before you try out for all the cool tricks. It has wheels, it rolls, but it's not built for the professional skatepark.

Similarly, pre-experimental designs give researchers a starting point. They let you dip your toes in the water of scientific research without diving in head-first.

So, what's the deal with pre-experimental designs?

Pre-Experimental Designs are the basic, no-frills versions of experiments. Researchers still mess around with an independent variable and measure a dependent variable, but they skip over the whole randomization thing and often don't even have a control group.

It's like baking a cake but forgetting the frosting and sprinkles; you'll get some results, but they might not be as complete or reliable as you'd like.

Pre-Experimental Design Pros

Why use such a simple setup? Because sometimes, you just need to get the ball rolling. Pre-experimental designs are great for quick-and-dirty research when you're short on time or resources. They give you a rough idea of what's happening, which you can use to plan more detailed studies later.

A good example of this is early studies on the effects of screen time on kids. Researchers couldn't control every aspect of a child's life, but they could easily ask parents to track how much time their kids spent in front of screens and then look for trends in behavior or school performance.

Pre-Experimental Design Cons

But here's the catch: pre-experimental designs are like that first draft of an essay. It helps you get your ideas down, but you wouldn't want to turn it in for a grade. Because these designs lack the rigorous structure of true or quasi-experimental setups, they can't give you rock-solid conclusions. They're more like clues or signposts pointing you in a certain direction.

Pre-Experimental Design Uses

This type of design became popular in the early stages of various scientific fields. Researchers used them to scratch the surface of a topic, generate some initial data, and then decide if it's worth exploring further. In other words, pre-experimental designs were the stepping stones that led to more complex, thorough investigations.

So, while Pre-Experimental Design may not be the star player on the team, it's like the practice squad that helps everyone get better. It's the starting point that can lead to bigger and better things.

4) Factorial Design

Now, buckle up, because we're moving into the world of Factorial Design, the multi-tasker of the experimental universe.

Imagine juggling not just one, but multiple balls in the air—that's what researchers do in a factorial design.

In Factorial Design, researchers are not satisfied with just studying one independent variable. Nope, they want to study two or more at the same time to see how they interact.

It's like cooking with several spices to see how they blend together to create unique flavors.

Factorial Design became the talk of the town with the rise of computers. Why? Because this design produces a lot of data, and computers are the number crunchers that help make sense of it all. So, thanks to our silicon friends, researchers can study complicated questions like, "How do diet AND exercise together affect weight loss?" instead of looking at just one of those factors.

Factorial Design Pros

This design's main selling point is its ability to explore interactions between variables. For instance, maybe a new study drug works really well for young people but not so great for older adults. A factorial design could reveal that age is a crucial factor, something you might miss if you only studied the drug's effectiveness in general. It's like being a detective who looks for clues not just in one room but throughout the entire house.

Factorial Design Cons

However, factorial designs have their own bag of challenges. First off, they can be pretty complicated to set up and run. Imagine coordinating a four-way intersection with lots of cars coming from all directions—you've got to make sure everything runs smoothly, or you'll end up with a traffic jam. Similarly, researchers need to carefully plan how they'll measure and analyze all the different variables.

Factorial Design Uses

Factorial designs are widely used in psychology to untangle the web of factors that influence human behavior. They're also popular in fields like marketing, where companies want to understand how different aspects like price, packaging, and advertising influence a product's success.

And speaking of success, the factorial design has been a hit since statisticians like Ronald A. Fisher (yep, him again!) expanded on it in the early-to-mid 20th century. It offered a more nuanced way of understanding the world, proving that sometimes, to get the full picture, you've got to juggle more than one ball at a time.

So, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback and Quasi-Experimental Design is the versatile player, Factorial Design is the strategist who sees the entire game board and makes moves accordingly.

5) Longitudinal Design

pill bottle

Alright, let's take a step into the world of Longitudinal Design. Picture it as the grand storyteller, the kind who doesn't just tell you about a single event but spins an epic tale that stretches over years or even decades. This design isn't about quick snapshots; it's about capturing the whole movie of someone's life or a long-running process.

You know how you might take a photo every year on your birthday to see how you've changed? Longitudinal Design is kind of like that, but for scientific research.

With Longitudinal Design, instead of measuring something just once, researchers come back again and again, sometimes over many years, to see how things are going. This helps them understand not just what's happening, but why it's happening and how it changes over time.

This design really started to shine in the latter half of the 20th century, when researchers began to realize that some questions can't be answered in a hurry. Think about studies that look at how kids grow up, or research on how a certain medicine affects you over a long period. These aren't things you can rush.

The famous Framingham Heart Study , started in 1948, is a prime example. It's been studying heart health in a small town in Massachusetts for decades, and the findings have shaped what we know about heart disease.

Longitudinal Design Pros

So, what's to love about Longitudinal Design? First off, it's the go-to for studying change over time, whether that's how people age or how a forest recovers from a fire.

Longitudinal Design Cons

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Longitudinal studies take a lot of patience and resources. Plus, keeping track of participants over many years can be like herding cats—difficult and full of surprises.

Longitudinal Design Uses

Despite these challenges, longitudinal studies have been key in fields like psychology, sociology, and medicine. They provide the kind of deep, long-term insights that other designs just can't match.

So, if the True Experimental Design is the superstar quarterback, and the Quasi-Experimental Design is the flexible athlete, then the Factorial Design is the strategist, and the Longitudinal Design is the wise elder who has seen it all and has stories to tell.

6) Cross-Sectional Design

Now, let's flip the script and talk about Cross-Sectional Design, the polar opposite of the Longitudinal Design. If Longitudinal is the grand storyteller, think of Cross-Sectional as the snapshot photographer. It captures a single moment in time, like a selfie that you take to remember a fun day. Researchers using this design collect all their data at one point, providing a kind of "snapshot" of whatever they're studying.

In a Cross-Sectional Design, researchers look at multiple groups all at the same time to see how they're different or similar.

This design rose to popularity in the mid-20th century, mainly because it's so quick and efficient. Imagine wanting to know how people of different ages feel about a new video game. Instead of waiting for years to see how opinions change, you could just ask people of all ages what they think right now. That's Cross-Sectional Design for you—fast and straightforward.

You'll find this type of research everywhere from marketing studies to healthcare. For instance, you might have heard about surveys asking people what they think about a new product or political issue. Those are usually cross-sectional studies, aimed at getting a quick read on public opinion.

Cross-Sectional Design Pros

So, what's the big deal with Cross-Sectional Design? Well, it's the go-to when you need answers fast and don't have the time or resources for a more complicated setup.

Cross-Sectional Design Cons

Remember, speed comes with trade-offs. While you get your results quickly, those results are stuck in time. They can't tell you how things change or why they're changing, just what's happening right now.

Cross-Sectional Design Uses

Also, because they're so quick and simple, cross-sectional studies often serve as the first step in research. They give scientists an idea of what's going on so they can decide if it's worth digging deeper. In that way, they're a bit like a movie trailer, giving you a taste of the action to see if you're interested in seeing the whole film.

So, in our lineup of experimental designs, if True Experimental Design is the superstar quarterback and Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, then Cross-Sectional Design is like the speedy running back—fast, agile, but not designed for long, drawn-out plays.

7) Correlational Design

Next on our roster is the Correlational Design, the keen observer of the experimental world. Imagine this design as the person at a party who loves people-watching. They don't interfere or get involved; they just observe and take mental notes about what's going on.

In a correlational study, researchers don't change or control anything; they simply observe and measure how two variables relate to each other.

The correlational design has roots in the early days of psychology and sociology. Pioneers like Sir Francis Galton used it to study how qualities like intelligence or height could be related within families.

This design is all about asking, "Hey, when this thing happens, does that other thing usually happen too?" For example, researchers might study whether students who have more study time get better grades or whether people who exercise more have lower stress levels.

One of the most famous correlational studies you might have heard of is the link between smoking and lung cancer. Back in the mid-20th century, researchers started noticing that people who smoked a lot also seemed to get lung cancer more often. They couldn't say smoking caused cancer—that would require a true experiment—but the strong correlation was a red flag that led to more research and eventually, health warnings.

Correlational Design Pros

This design is great at proving that two (or more) things can be related. Correlational designs can help prove that more detailed research is needed on a topic. They can help us see patterns or possible causes for things that we otherwise might not have realized.

Correlational Design Cons

But here's where you need to be careful: correlational designs can be tricky. Just because two things are related doesn't mean one causes the other. That's like saying, "Every time I wear my lucky socks, my team wins." Well, it's a fun thought, but those socks aren't really controlling the game.

Correlational Design Uses

Despite this limitation, correlational designs are popular in psychology, economics, and epidemiology, to name a few fields. They're often the first step in exploring a possible relationship between variables. Once a strong correlation is found, researchers may decide to conduct more rigorous experimental studies to examine cause and effect.

So, if the True Experimental Design is the superstar quarterback and the Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, the Factorial Design is the strategist, and the Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, then the Correlational Design is the clever scout, identifying interesting patterns but leaving the heavy lifting of proving cause and effect to the other types of designs.

8) Meta-Analysis

Last but not least, let's talk about Meta-Analysis, the librarian of experimental designs.

If other designs are all about creating new research, Meta-Analysis is about gathering up everyone else's research, sorting it, and figuring out what it all means when you put it together.

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle where each piece is a different study. Meta-Analysis is the process of fitting all those pieces together to see the big picture.

The concept of Meta-Analysis started to take shape in the late 20th century, when computers became powerful enough to handle massive amounts of data. It was like someone handed researchers a super-powered magnifying glass, letting them examine multiple studies at the same time to find common trends or results.

You might have heard of the Cochrane Reviews in healthcare . These are big collections of meta-analyses that help doctors and policymakers figure out what treatments work best based on all the research that's been done.

For example, if ten different studies show that a certain medicine helps lower blood pressure, a meta-analysis would pull all that information together to give a more accurate answer.

Meta-Analysis Pros

The beauty of Meta-Analysis is that it can provide really strong evidence. Instead of relying on one study, you're looking at the whole landscape of research on a topic.

Meta-Analysis Cons

However, it does have some downsides. For one, Meta-Analysis is only as good as the studies it includes. If those studies are flawed, the meta-analysis will be too. It's like baking a cake: if you use bad ingredients, it doesn't matter how good your recipe is—the cake won't turn out well.

Meta-Analysis Uses

Despite these challenges, meta-analyses are highly respected and widely used in many fields like medicine, psychology, and education. They help us make sense of a world that's bursting with information by showing us the big picture drawn from many smaller snapshots.

So, in our all-star lineup, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback and Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, the Factorial Design is the strategist, the Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, and the Correlational Design is the scout, then the Meta-Analysis is like the coach, using insights from everyone else's plays to come up with the best game plan.

9) Non-Experimental Design

Now, let's talk about a player who's a bit of an outsider on this team of experimental designs—the Non-Experimental Design. Think of this design as the commentator or the journalist who covers the game but doesn't actually play.

In a Non-Experimental Design, researchers are like reporters gathering facts, but they don't interfere or change anything. They're simply there to describe and analyze.

Non-Experimental Design Pros

So, what's the deal with Non-Experimental Design? Its strength is in description and exploration. It's really good for studying things as they are in the real world, without changing any conditions.

Non-Experimental Design Cons

Because a non-experimental design doesn't manipulate variables, it can't prove cause and effect. It's like a weather reporter: they can tell you it's raining, but they can't tell you why it's raining.

The downside? Since researchers aren't controlling variables, it's hard to rule out other explanations for what they observe. It's like hearing one side of a story—you get an idea of what happened, but it might not be the complete picture.

Non-Experimental Design Uses

Non-Experimental Design has always been a part of research, especially in fields like anthropology, sociology, and some areas of psychology.

For instance, if you've ever heard of studies that describe how people behave in different cultures or what teens like to do in their free time, that's often Non-Experimental Design at work. These studies aim to capture the essence of a situation, like painting a portrait instead of taking a snapshot.

One well-known example you might have heard about is the Kinsey Reports from the 1940s and 1950s, which described sexual behavior in men and women. Researchers interviewed thousands of people but didn't manipulate any variables like you would in a true experiment. They simply collected data to create a comprehensive picture of the subject matter.

So, in our metaphorical team of research designs, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback and Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, Factorial Design is the strategist, Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, Correlational Design is the scout, and Meta-Analysis is the coach, then Non-Experimental Design is the sports journalist—always present, capturing the game, but not part of the action itself.

10) Repeated Measures Design

white rat

Time to meet the Repeated Measures Design, the time traveler of our research team. If this design were a player in a sports game, it would be the one who keeps revisiting past plays to figure out how to improve the next one.

Repeated Measures Design is all about studying the same people or subjects multiple times to see how they change or react under different conditions.

The idea behind Repeated Measures Design isn't new; it's been around since the early days of psychology and medicine. You could say it's a cousin to the Longitudinal Design, but instead of looking at how things naturally change over time, it focuses on how the same group reacts to different things.

Imagine a study looking at how a new energy drink affects people's running speed. Instead of comparing one group that drank the energy drink to another group that didn't, a Repeated Measures Design would have the same group of people run multiple times—once with the energy drink, and once without. This way, you're really zeroing in on the effect of that energy drink, making the results more reliable.

Repeated Measures Design Pros

The strong point of Repeated Measures Design is that it's super focused. Because it uses the same subjects, you don't have to worry about differences between groups messing up your results.

Repeated Measures Design Cons

But the downside? Well, people can get tired or bored if they're tested too many times, which might affect how they respond.

Repeated Measures Design Uses

A famous example of this design is the "Little Albert" experiment, conducted by John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner in 1920. In this study, a young boy was exposed to a white rat and other stimuli several times to see how his emotional responses changed. Though the ethical standards of this experiment are often criticized today, it was groundbreaking in understanding conditioned emotional responses.

In our metaphorical lineup of research designs, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback and Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, Factorial Design is the strategist, Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, Correlational Design is the scout, Meta-Analysis is the coach, and Non-Experimental Design is the journalist, then Repeated Measures Design is the time traveler—always looping back to fine-tune the game plan.

11) Crossover Design

Next up is Crossover Design, the switch-hitter of the research world. If you're familiar with baseball, you'll know a switch-hitter is someone who can bat both right-handed and left-handed.

In a similar way, Crossover Design allows subjects to experience multiple conditions, flipping them around so that everyone gets a turn in each role.

This design is like the utility player on our team—versatile, flexible, and really good at adapting.

The Crossover Design has its roots in medical research and has been popular since the mid-20th century. It's often used in clinical trials to test the effectiveness of different treatments.

Crossover Design Pros

The neat thing about this design is that it allows each participant to serve as their own control group. Imagine you're testing two new kinds of headache medicine. Instead of giving one type to one group and another type to a different group, you'd give both kinds to the same people but at different times.

Crossover Design Cons

What's the big deal with Crossover Design? Its major strength is in reducing the "noise" that comes from individual differences. Since each person experiences all conditions, it's easier to see real effects. However, there's a catch. This design assumes that there's no lasting effect from the first condition when you switch to the second one. That might not always be true. If the first treatment has a long-lasting effect, it could mess up the results when you switch to the second treatment.

Crossover Design Uses

A well-known example of Crossover Design is in studies that look at the effects of different types of diets—like low-carb vs. low-fat diets. Researchers might have participants follow a low-carb diet for a few weeks, then switch them to a low-fat diet. By doing this, they can more accurately measure how each diet affects the same group of people.

In our team of experimental designs, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback and Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, Factorial Design is the strategist, Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, Correlational Design is the scout, Meta-Analysis is the coach, Non-Experimental Design is the journalist, and Repeated Measures Design is the time traveler, then Crossover Design is the versatile utility player—always ready to adapt and play multiple roles to get the most accurate results.

12) Cluster Randomized Design

Meet the Cluster Randomized Design, the team captain of group-focused research. In our imaginary lineup of experimental designs, if other designs focus on individual players, then Cluster Randomized Design is looking at how the entire team functions.

This approach is especially common in educational and community-based research, and it's been gaining traction since the late 20th century.

Here's how Cluster Randomized Design works: Instead of assigning individual people to different conditions, researchers assign entire groups, or "clusters." These could be schools, neighborhoods, or even entire towns. This helps you see how the new method works in a real-world setting.

Imagine you want to see if a new anti-bullying program really works. Instead of selecting individual students, you'd introduce the program to a whole school or maybe even several schools, and then compare the results to schools without the program.

Cluster Randomized Design Pros

Why use Cluster Randomized Design? Well, sometimes it's just not practical to assign conditions at the individual level. For example, you can't really have half a school following a new reading program while the other half sticks with the old one; that would be way too confusing! Cluster Randomization helps get around this problem by treating each "cluster" as its own mini-experiment.

Cluster Randomized Design Cons

There's a downside, too. Because entire groups are assigned to each condition, there's a risk that the groups might be different in some important way that the researchers didn't account for. That's like having one sports team that's full of veterans playing against a team of rookies; the match wouldn't be fair.

Cluster Randomized Design Uses

A famous example is the research conducted to test the effectiveness of different public health interventions, like vaccination programs. Researchers might roll out a vaccination program in one community but not in another, then compare the rates of disease in both.

In our metaphorical research team, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback, Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, Factorial Design is the strategist, Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, Correlational Design is the scout, Meta-Analysis is the coach, Non-Experimental Design is the journalist, Repeated Measures Design is the time traveler, and Crossover Design is the utility player, then Cluster Randomized Design is the team captain—always looking out for the group as a whole.

13) Mixed-Methods Design

Say hello to Mixed-Methods Design, the all-rounder or the "Renaissance player" of our research team.

Mixed-Methods Design uses a blend of both qualitative and quantitative methods to get a more complete picture, just like a Renaissance person who's good at lots of different things. It's like being good at both offense and defense in a sport; you've got all your bases covered!

Mixed-Methods Design is a fairly new kid on the block, becoming more popular in the late 20th and early 21st centuries as researchers began to see the value in using multiple approaches to tackle complex questions. It's the Swiss Army knife in our research toolkit, combining the best parts of other designs to be more versatile.

Here's how it could work: Imagine you're studying the effects of a new educational app on students' math skills. You might use quantitative methods like tests and grades to measure how much the students improve—that's the 'numbers part.'

But you also want to know how the students feel about math now, or why they think they got better or worse. For that, you could conduct interviews or have students fill out journals—that's the 'story part.'

Mixed-Methods Design Pros

So, what's the scoop on Mixed-Methods Design? The strength is its versatility and depth; you're not just getting numbers or stories, you're getting both, which gives a fuller picture.

Mixed-Methods Design Cons

But, it's also more challenging. Imagine trying to play two sports at the same time! You have to be skilled in different research methods and know how to combine them effectively.

Mixed-Methods Design Uses

A high-profile example of Mixed-Methods Design is research on climate change. Scientists use numbers and data to show temperature changes (quantitative), but they also interview people to understand how these changes are affecting communities (qualitative).

In our team of experimental designs, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback, Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, Factorial Design is the strategist, Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, Correlational Design is the scout, Meta-Analysis is the coach, Non-Experimental Design is the journalist, Repeated Measures Design is the time traveler, Crossover Design is the utility player, and Cluster Randomized Design is the team captain, then Mixed-Methods Design is the Renaissance player—skilled in multiple areas and able to bring them all together for a winning strategy.

14) Multivariate Design

Now, let's turn our attention to Multivariate Design, the multitasker of the research world.

If our lineup of research designs were like players on a basketball court, Multivariate Design would be the player dribbling, passing, and shooting all at once. This design doesn't just look at one or two things; it looks at several variables simultaneously to see how they interact and affect each other.

Multivariate Design is like baking a cake with many ingredients. Instead of just looking at how flour affects the cake, you also consider sugar, eggs, and milk all at once. This way, you understand how everything works together to make the cake taste good or bad.

Multivariate Design has been a go-to method in psychology, economics, and social sciences since the latter half of the 20th century. With the advent of computers and advanced statistical software, analyzing multiple variables at once became a lot easier, and Multivariate Design soared in popularity.

Multivariate Design Pros

So, what's the benefit of using Multivariate Design? Its power lies in its complexity. By studying multiple variables at the same time, you can get a really rich, detailed understanding of what's going on.

Multivariate Design Cons

But that complexity can also be a drawback. With so many variables, it can be tough to tell which ones are really making a difference and which ones are just along for the ride.

Multivariate Design Uses

Imagine you're a coach trying to figure out the best strategy to win games. You wouldn't just look at how many points your star player scores; you'd also consider assists, rebounds, turnovers, and maybe even how loud the crowd is. A Multivariate Design would help you understand how all these factors work together to determine whether you win or lose.

A well-known example of Multivariate Design is in market research. Companies often use this approach to figure out how different factors—like price, packaging, and advertising—affect sales. By studying multiple variables at once, they can find the best combination to boost profits.

In our metaphorical research team, if True Experimental Design is the quarterback, Longitudinal Design is the wise elder, Factorial Design is the strategist, Cross-Sectional Design is the speedster, Correlational Design is the scout, Meta-Analysis is the coach, Non-Experimental Design is the journalist, Repeated Measures Design is the time traveler, Crossover Design is the utility player, Cluster Randomized Design is the team captain, and Mixed-Methods Design is the Renaissance player, then Multivariate Design is the multitasker—juggling many variables at once to get a fuller picture of what's happening.

15) Pretest-Posttest Design

Let's introduce Pretest-Posttest Design, the "Before and After" superstar of our research team. You've probably seen those before-and-after pictures in ads for weight loss programs or home renovations, right?

Well, this design is like that, but for science! Pretest-Posttest Design checks out what things are like before the experiment starts and then compares that to what things are like after the experiment ends.

This design is one of the classics, a staple in research for decades across various fields like psychology, education, and healthcare. It's so simple and straightforward that it has stayed popular for a long time.

In Pretest-Posttest Design, you measure your subject's behavior or condition before you introduce any changes—that's your "before" or "pretest." Then you do your experiment, and after it's done, you measure the same thing again—that's your "after" or "posttest."

Pretest-Posttest Design Pros

What makes Pretest-Posttest Design special? It's pretty easy to understand and doesn't require fancy statistics.

Pretest-Posttest Design Cons

But there are some pitfalls. For example, what if the kids in our math example get better at multiplication just because they're older or because they've taken the test before? That would make it hard to tell if the program is really effective or not.

Pretest-Posttest Design Uses

Let's say you're a teacher and you want to know if a new math program helps kids get better at multiplication. First, you'd give all the kids a multiplication test—that's your pretest. Then you'd teach them using the new math program. At the end, you'd give them the same test again—that's your posttest. If the kids do better on the second test, you might conclude that the program works.

One famous use of Pretest-Posttest Design is in evaluating the effectiveness of driver's education courses. Researchers will measure people's driving skills before and after the course to see if they've improved.

16) Solomon Four-Group Design

Next up is the Solomon Four-Group Design, the "chess master" of our research team. This design is all about strategy and careful planning. Named after Richard L. Solomon who introduced it in the 1940s, this method tries to correct some of the weaknesses in simpler designs, like the Pretest-Posttest Design.

Here's how it rolls: The Solomon Four-Group Design uses four different groups to test a hypothesis. Two groups get a pretest, then one of them receives the treatment or intervention, and both get a posttest. The other two groups skip the pretest, and only one of them receives the treatment before they both get a posttest.

Sound complicated? It's like playing 4D chess; you're thinking several moves ahead!

Solomon Four-Group Design Pros

What's the pro and con of the Solomon Four-Group Design? On the plus side, it provides really robust results because it accounts for so many variables.

Solomon Four-Group Design Cons

The downside? It's a lot of work and requires a lot of participants, making it more time-consuming and costly.

Solomon Four-Group Design Uses

Let's say you want to figure out if a new way of teaching history helps students remember facts better. Two classes take a history quiz (pretest), then one class uses the new teaching method while the other sticks with the old way. Both classes take another quiz afterward (posttest).

Meanwhile, two more classes skip the initial quiz, and then one uses the new method before both take the final quiz. Comparing all four groups will give you a much clearer picture of whether the new teaching method works and whether the pretest itself affects the outcome.

The Solomon Four-Group Design is less commonly used than simpler designs but is highly respected for its ability to control for more variables. It's a favorite in educational and psychological research where you really want to dig deep and figure out what's actually causing changes.

17) Adaptive Designs

Now, let's talk about Adaptive Designs, the chameleons of the experimental world.

Imagine you're a detective, and halfway through solving a case, you find a clue that changes everything. You wouldn't just stick to your old plan; you'd adapt and change your approach, right? That's exactly what Adaptive Designs allow researchers to do.

In an Adaptive Design, researchers can make changes to the study as it's happening, based on early results. In a traditional study, once you set your plan, you stick to it from start to finish.

Adaptive Design Pros

This method is particularly useful in fast-paced or high-stakes situations, like developing a new vaccine in the middle of a pandemic. The ability to adapt can save both time and resources, and more importantly, it can save lives by getting effective treatments out faster.

Adaptive Design Cons

But Adaptive Designs aren't without their drawbacks. They can be very complex to plan and carry out, and there's always a risk that the changes made during the study could introduce bias or errors.

Adaptive Design Uses

Adaptive Designs are most often seen in clinical trials, particularly in the medical and pharmaceutical fields.

For instance, if a new drug is showing really promising results, the study might be adjusted to give more participants the new treatment instead of a placebo. Or if one dose level is showing bad side effects, it might be dropped from the study.

The best part is, these changes are pre-planned. Researchers lay out in advance what changes might be made and under what conditions, which helps keep everything scientific and above board.

In terms of applications, besides their heavy usage in medical and pharmaceutical research, Adaptive Designs are also becoming increasingly popular in software testing and market research. In these fields, being able to quickly adjust to early results can give companies a significant advantage.

Adaptive Designs are like the agile startups of the research world—quick to pivot, keen to learn from ongoing results, and focused on rapid, efficient progress. However, they require a great deal of expertise and careful planning to ensure that the adaptability doesn't compromise the integrity of the research.

18) Bayesian Designs

Next, let's dive into Bayesian Designs, the data detectives of the research universe. Named after Thomas Bayes, an 18th-century statistician and minister, this design doesn't just look at what's happening now; it also takes into account what's happened before.

Imagine if you were a detective who not only looked at the evidence in front of you but also used your past cases to make better guesses about your current one. That's the essence of Bayesian Designs.

Bayesian Designs are like detective work in science. As you gather more clues (or data), you update your best guess on what's really happening. This way, your experiment gets smarter as it goes along.

In the world of research, Bayesian Designs are most notably used in areas where you have some prior knowledge that can inform your current study. For example, if earlier research shows that a certain type of medicine usually works well for a specific illness, a Bayesian Design would include that information when studying a new group of patients with the same illness.

Bayesian Design Pros

One of the major advantages of Bayesian Designs is their efficiency. Because they use existing data to inform the current experiment, often fewer resources are needed to reach a reliable conclusion.

Bayesian Design Cons

However, they can be quite complicated to set up and require a deep understanding of both statistics and the subject matter at hand.

Bayesian Design Uses

Bayesian Designs are highly valued in medical research, finance, environmental science, and even in Internet search algorithms. Their ability to continually update and refine hypotheses based on new evidence makes them particularly useful in fields where data is constantly evolving and where quick, informed decisions are crucial.

Here's a real-world example: In the development of personalized medicine, where treatments are tailored to individual patients, Bayesian Designs are invaluable. If a treatment has been effective for patients with similar genetics or symptoms in the past, a Bayesian approach can use that data to predict how well it might work for a new patient.

This type of design is also increasingly popular in machine learning and artificial intelligence. In these fields, Bayesian Designs help algorithms "learn" from past data to make better predictions or decisions in new situations. It's like teaching a computer to be a detective that gets better and better at solving puzzles the more puzzles it sees.

19) Covariate Adaptive Randomization

old person and young person

Now let's turn our attention to Covariate Adaptive Randomization, which you can think of as the "matchmaker" of experimental designs.

Picture a soccer coach trying to create the most balanced teams for a friendly match. They wouldn't just randomly assign players; they'd take into account each player's skills, experience, and other traits.

Covariate Adaptive Randomization is all about creating the most evenly matched groups possible for an experiment.

In traditional randomization, participants are allocated to different groups purely by chance. This is a pretty fair way to do things, but it can sometimes lead to unbalanced groups.

Imagine if all the professional-level players ended up on one soccer team and all the beginners on another; that wouldn't be a very informative match! Covariate Adaptive Randomization fixes this by using important traits or characteristics (called "covariates") to guide the randomization process.

Covariate Adaptive Randomization Pros

The benefits of this design are pretty clear: it aims for balance and fairness, making the final results more trustworthy.

Covariate Adaptive Randomization Cons

But it's not perfect. It can be complex to implement and requires a deep understanding of which characteristics are most important to balance.

Covariate Adaptive Randomization Uses

This design is particularly useful in medical trials. Let's say researchers are testing a new medication for high blood pressure. Participants might have different ages, weights, or pre-existing conditions that could affect the results.

Covariate Adaptive Randomization would make sure that each treatment group has a similar mix of these characteristics, making the results more reliable and easier to interpret.

In practical terms, this design is often seen in clinical trials for new drugs or therapies, but its principles are also applicable in fields like psychology, education, and social sciences.

For instance, in educational research, it might be used to ensure that classrooms being compared have similar distributions of students in terms of academic ability, socioeconomic status, and other factors.

Covariate Adaptive Randomization is like the wise elder of the group, ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to show their true capabilities, thereby making the collective results as reliable as possible.

20) Stepped Wedge Design

Let's now focus on the Stepped Wedge Design, a thoughtful and cautious member of the experimental design family.

Imagine you're trying out a new gardening technique, but you're not sure how well it will work. You decide to apply it to one section of your garden first, watch how it performs, and then gradually extend the technique to other sections. This way, you get to see its effects over time and across different conditions. That's basically how Stepped Wedge Design works.

In a Stepped Wedge Design, all participants or clusters start off in the control group, and then, at different times, they 'step' over to the intervention or treatment group. This creates a wedge-like pattern over time where more and more participants receive the treatment as the study progresses. It's like rolling out a new policy in phases, monitoring its impact at each stage before extending it to more people.

Stepped Wedge Design Pros

The Stepped Wedge Design offers several advantages. Firstly, it allows for the study of interventions that are expected to do more good than harm, which makes it ethically appealing.

Secondly, it's useful when resources are limited and it's not feasible to roll out a new treatment to everyone at once. Lastly, because everyone eventually receives the treatment, it can be easier to get buy-in from participants or organizations involved in the study.

Stepped Wedge Design Cons

However, this design can be complex to analyze because it has to account for both the time factor and the changing conditions in each 'step' of the wedge. And like any study where participants know they're receiving an intervention, there's the potential for the results to be influenced by the placebo effect or other biases.

Stepped Wedge Design Uses

This design is particularly useful in health and social care research. For instance, if a hospital wants to implement a new hygiene protocol, it might start in one department, assess its impact, and then roll it out to other departments over time. This allows the hospital to adjust and refine the new protocol based on real-world data before it's fully implemented.

In terms of applications, Stepped Wedge Designs are commonly used in public health initiatives, organizational changes in healthcare settings, and social policy trials. They are particularly useful in situations where an intervention is being rolled out gradually and it's important to understand its impacts at each stage.

21) Sequential Design

Next up is Sequential Design, the dynamic and flexible member of our experimental design family.

Imagine you're playing a video game where you can choose different paths. If you take one path and find a treasure chest, you might decide to continue in that direction. If you hit a dead end, you might backtrack and try a different route. Sequential Design operates in a similar fashion, allowing researchers to make decisions at different stages based on what they've learned so far.

In a Sequential Design, the experiment is broken down into smaller parts, or "sequences." After each sequence, researchers pause to look at the data they've collected. Based on those findings, they then decide whether to stop the experiment because they've got enough information, or to continue and perhaps even modify the next sequence.

Sequential Design Pros

This allows for a more efficient use of resources, as you're only continuing with the experiment if the data suggests it's worth doing so.

One of the great things about Sequential Design is its efficiency. Because you're making data-driven decisions along the way, you can often reach conclusions more quickly and with fewer resources.

Sequential Design Cons

However, it requires careful planning and expertise to ensure that these "stop or go" decisions are made correctly and without bias.

Sequential Design Uses

In terms of its applications, besides healthcare and medicine, Sequential Design is also popular in quality control in manufacturing, environmental monitoring, and financial modeling. In these areas, being able to make quick decisions based on incoming data can be a big advantage.

This design is often used in clinical trials involving new medications or treatments. For example, if early results show that a new drug has significant side effects, the trial can be stopped before more people are exposed to it.

On the flip side, if the drug is showing promising results, the trial might be expanded to include more participants or to extend the testing period.

Think of Sequential Design as the nimble athlete of experimental designs, capable of quick pivots and adjustments to reach the finish line in the most effective way possible. But just like an athlete needs a good coach, this design requires expert oversight to make sure it stays on the right track.

22) Field Experiments

Last but certainly not least, let's explore Field Experiments—the adventurers of the experimental design world.

Picture a scientist leaving the controlled environment of a lab to test a theory in the real world, like a biologist studying animals in their natural habitat or a social scientist observing people in a real community. These are Field Experiments, and they're all about getting out there and gathering data in real-world settings.

Field Experiments embrace the messiness of the real world, unlike laboratory experiments, where everything is controlled down to the smallest detail. This makes them both exciting and challenging.

Field Experiment Pros

On one hand, the results often give us a better understanding of how things work outside the lab.

While Field Experiments offer real-world relevance, they come with challenges like controlling for outside factors and the ethical considerations of intervening in people's lives without their knowledge.

Field Experiment Cons

On the other hand, the lack of control can make it harder to tell exactly what's causing what. Yet, despite these challenges, they remain a valuable tool for researchers who want to understand how theories play out in the real world.

Field Experiment Uses

Let's say a school wants to improve student performance. In a Field Experiment, they might change the school's daily schedule for one semester and keep track of how students perform compared to another school where the schedule remained the same.

Because the study is happening in a real school with real students, the results could be very useful for understanding how the change might work in other schools. But since it's the real world, lots of other factors—like changes in teachers or even the weather—could affect the results.

Field Experiments are widely used in economics, psychology, education, and public policy. For example, you might have heard of the famous "Broken Windows" experiment in the 1980s that looked at how small signs of disorder, like broken windows or graffiti, could encourage more serious crime in neighborhoods. This experiment had a big impact on how cities think about crime prevention.

From the foundational concepts of control groups and independent variables to the sophisticated layouts like Covariate Adaptive Randomization and Sequential Design, it's clear that the realm of experimental design is as varied as it is fascinating.

We've seen that each design has its own special talents, ideal for specific situations. Some designs, like the Classic Controlled Experiment, are like reliable old friends you can always count on.

Others, like Sequential Design, are flexible and adaptable, making quick changes based on what they learn. And let's not forget the adventurous Field Experiments, which take us out of the lab and into the real world to discover things we might not see otherwise.

Choosing the right experimental design is like picking the right tool for the job. The method you choose can make a big difference in how reliable your results are and how much people will trust what you've discovered. And as we've learned, there's a design to suit just about every question, every problem, and every curiosity.

So the next time you read about a new discovery in medicine, psychology, or any other field, you'll have a better understanding of the thought and planning that went into figuring things out. Experimental design is more than just a set of rules; it's a structured way to explore the unknown and answer questions that can change the world.

Related posts:

  • Experimental Psychologist Career (Salary + Duties + Interviews)
  • 40+ Famous Psychologists (Images + Biographies)
  • 11+ Psychology Experiment Ideas (Goals + Methods)
  • The Little Albert Experiment
  • 41+ White Collar Job Examples (Salary + Path)

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Statistics By Jim

Making statistics intuitive

Experimental Design: Definition and Types

By Jim Frost 3 Comments

What is Experimental Design?

An experimental design is a detailed plan for collecting and using data to identify causal relationships. Through careful planning, the design of experiments allows your data collection efforts to have a reasonable chance of detecting effects and testing hypotheses that answer your research questions.

An experiment is a data collection procedure that occurs in controlled conditions to identify and understand causal relationships between variables. Researchers can use many potential designs. The ultimate choice depends on their research question, resources, goals, and constraints. In some fields of study, researchers refer to experimental design as the design of experiments (DOE). Both terms are synonymous.

Scientist who developed an experimental design for her research.

Ultimately, the design of experiments helps ensure that your procedures and data will evaluate your research question effectively. Without an experimental design, you might waste your efforts in a process that, for many potential reasons, can’t answer your research question. In short, it helps you trust your results.

Learn more about Independent and Dependent Variables .

Design of Experiments: Goals & Settings

Experiments occur in many settings, ranging from psychology, social sciences, medicine, physics, engineering, and industrial and service sectors. Typically, experimental goals are to discover a previously unknown effect , confirm a known effect, or test a hypothesis.

Effects represent causal relationships between variables. For example, in a medical experiment, does the new medicine cause an improvement in health outcomes? If so, the medicine has a causal effect on the outcome.

An experimental design’s focus depends on the subject area and can include the following goals:

  • Understanding the relationships between variables.
  • Identifying the variables that have the largest impact on the outcomes.
  • Finding the input variable settings that produce an optimal result.

For example, psychologists have conducted experiments to understand how conformity affects decision-making. Sociologists have performed experiments to determine whether ethnicity affects the public reaction to staged bike thefts. These experiments map out the causal relationships between variables, and their primary goal is to understand the role of various factors.

Conversely, in a manufacturing environment, the researchers might use an experimental design to find the factors that most effectively improve their product’s strength, identify the optimal manufacturing settings, and do all that while accounting for various constraints. In short, a manufacturer’s goal is often to use experiments to improve their products cost-effectively.

In a medical experiment, the goal might be to quantify the medicine’s effect and find the optimum dosage.

Developing an Experimental Design

Developing an experimental design involves planning that maximizes the potential to collect data that is both trustworthy and able to detect causal relationships. Specifically, these studies aim to see effects when they exist in the population the researchers are studying, preferentially favor causal effects, isolate each factor’s true effect from potential confounders, and produce conclusions that you can generalize to the real world.

To accomplish these goals, experimental designs carefully manage data validity and reliability , and internal and external experimental validity. When your experiment is valid and reliable, you can expect your procedures and data to produce trustworthy results.

An excellent experimental design involves the following:

  • Lots of preplanning.
  • Developing experimental treatments.
  • Determining how to assign subjects to treatment groups.

The remainder of this article focuses on how experimental designs incorporate these essential items to accomplish their research goals.

Learn more about Data Reliability vs. Validity and Internal and External Experimental Validity .

Preplanning, Defining, and Operationalizing for Design of Experiments

A literature review is crucial for the design of experiments.

This phase of the design of experiments helps you identify critical variables, know how to measure them while ensuring reliability and validity, and understand the relationships between them. The review can also help you find ways to reduce sources of variability, which increases your ability to detect treatment effects. Notably, the literature review allows you to learn how similar studies designed their experiments and the challenges they faced.

Operationalizing a study involves taking your research question, using the background information you gathered, and formulating an actionable plan.

This process should produce a specific and testable hypothesis using data that you can reasonably collect given the resources available to the experiment.

  • Null hypothesis : The jumping exercise intervention does not affect bone density.
  • Alternative hypothesis : The jumping exercise intervention affects bone density.

To learn more about this early phase, read Five Steps for Conducting Scientific Studies with Statistical Analyses .

Formulating Treatments in Experimental Designs

In an experimental design, treatments are variables that the researchers control. They are the primary independent variables of interest. Researchers administer the treatment to the subjects or items in the experiment and want to know whether it causes changes in the outcome.

As the name implies, a treatment can be medical in nature, such as a new medicine or vaccine. But it’s a general term that applies to other things such as training programs, manufacturing settings, teaching methods, and types of fertilizers. I helped run an experiment where the treatment was a jumping exercise intervention that we hoped would increase bone density. All these treatment examples are things that potentially influence a measurable outcome.

Even when you know your treatment generally, you must carefully consider the amount. How large of a dose? If you’re comparing three different temperatures in a manufacturing process, how far apart are they? For my bone mineral density study, we had to determine how frequently the exercise sessions would occur and how long each lasted.

How you define the treatments in the design of experiments can affect your findings and the generalizability of your results.

Assigning Subjects to Experimental Groups

A crucial decision for all experimental designs is determining how researchers assign subjects to the experimental conditions—the treatment and control groups. The control group is often, but not always, the lack of a treatment. It serves as a basis for comparison by showing outcomes for subjects who don’t receive a treatment. Learn more about Control Groups .

How your experimental design assigns subjects to the groups affects how confident you can be that the findings represent true causal effects rather than mere correlation caused by confounders. Indeed, the assignment method influences how you control for confounding variables. This is the difference between correlation and causation .

Imagine a study finds that vitamin consumption correlates with better health outcomes. As a researcher, you want to be able to say that vitamin consumption causes the improvements. However, with the wrong experimental design, you might only be able to say there is an association. A confounder, and not the vitamins, might actually cause the health benefits.

Let’s explore some of the ways to assign subjects in design of experiments.

Completely Randomized Designs

A completely randomized experimental design randomly assigns all subjects to the treatment and control groups. You simply take each participant and use a random process to determine their group assignment. You can flip coins, roll a die, or use a computer. Randomized experiments must be prospective studies because they need to be able to control group assignment.

Random assignment in the design of experiments helps ensure that the groups are roughly equivalent at the beginning of the study. This equivalence at the start increases your confidence that any differences you see at the end were caused by the treatments. The randomization tends to equalize confounders between the experimental groups and, thereby, cancels out their effects, leaving only the treatment effects.

For example, in a vitamin study, the researchers can randomly assign participants to either the control or vitamin group. Because the groups are approximately equal when the experiment starts, if the health outcomes are different at the end of the study, the researchers can be confident that the vitamins caused those improvements.

Statisticians consider randomized experimental designs to be the best for identifying causal relationships.

If you can’t randomly assign subjects but want to draw causal conclusions about an intervention, consider using a quasi-experimental design .

Learn more about Randomized Controlled Trials and Random Assignment in Experiments .

Randomized Block Designs

Nuisance factors are variables that can affect the outcome, but they are not the researcher’s primary interest. Unfortunately, they can hide or distort the treatment results. When experimenters know about specific nuisance factors, they can use a randomized block design to minimize their impact.

This experimental design takes subjects with a shared “nuisance” characteristic and groups them into blocks. The participants in each block are then randomly assigned to the experimental groups. This process allows the experiment to control for known nuisance factors.

Blocking in the design of experiments reduces the impact of nuisance factors on experimental error. The analysis assesses the effects of the treatment within each block, which removes the variability between blocks. The result is that blocked experimental designs can reduce the impact of nuisance variables, increasing the ability to detect treatment effects accurately.

Suppose you’re testing various teaching methods. Because grade level likely affects educational outcomes, you might use grade level as a blocking factor. To use a randomized block design for this scenario, divide the participants by grade level and then randomly assign the members of each grade level to the experimental groups.

A standard guideline for an experimental design is to “Block what you can, randomize what you cannot.” Use blocking for a few primary nuisance factors. Then use random assignment to distribute the unblocked nuisance factors equally between the experimental conditions.

You can also use covariates to control nuisance factors. Learn about Covariates: Definition and Uses .

Observational Studies

In some experimental designs, randomly assigning subjects to the experimental conditions is impossible or unethical. The researchers simply can’t assign participants to the experimental groups. However, they can observe them in their natural groupings, measure the essential variables, and look for correlations. These observational studies are also known as quasi-experimental designs. Retrospective studies must be observational in nature because they look back at past events.

Imagine you’re studying the effects of depression on an activity. Clearly, you can’t randomly assign participants to the depression and control groups. But you can observe participants with and without depression and see how their task performance differs.

Observational studies let you perform research when you can’t control the treatment. However, quasi-experimental designs increase the problem of confounding variables. For this design of experiments, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. While special procedures can help control confounders in an observational study, you’re ultimately less confident that the results represent causal findings.

Learn more about Observational Studies .

For a good comparison, learn about the differences and tradeoffs between Observational Studies and Randomized Experiments .

Between-Subjects vs. Within-Subjects Experimental Designs

When you think of the design of experiments, you probably picture a treatment and control group. Researchers assign participants to only one of these groups, so each group contains entirely different subjects than the other groups. Analysts compare the groups at the end of the experiment. Statisticians refer to this method as a between-subjects, or independent measures, experimental design.

In a between-subjects design , you can have more than one treatment group, but each subject is exposed to only one condition, the control group or one of the treatment groups.

A potential downside to this approach is that differences between groups at the beginning can affect the results at the end. As you’ve read earlier, random assignment can reduce those differences, but it is imperfect. There will always be some variability between the groups.

In a  within-subjects experimental design , also known as repeated measures, subjects experience all treatment conditions and are measured for each. Each subject acts as their own control, which reduces variability and increases the statistical power to detect effects.

In this experimental design, you minimize pre-existing differences between the experimental conditions because they all contain the same subjects. However, the order of treatments can affect the results. Beware of practice and fatigue effects. Learn more about Repeated Measures Designs .

Assigned to one experimental condition Participates in all experimental conditions
Requires more subjects Fewer subjects
Differences between subjects in the groups can affect the results Uses same subjects in all conditions.
No order of treatment effects. Order of treatments can affect results.

Design of Experiments Examples

For example, a bone density study has three experimental groups—a control group, a stretching exercise group, and a jumping exercise group.

In a between-subjects experimental design, scientists randomly assign each participant to one of the three groups.

In a within-subjects design, all subjects experience the three conditions sequentially while the researchers measure bone density repeatedly. The procedure can switch the order of treatments for the participants to help reduce order effects.

Matched Pairs Experimental Design

A matched pairs experimental design is a between-subjects study that uses pairs of similar subjects. Researchers use this approach to reduce pre-existing differences between experimental groups. It’s yet another design of experiments method for reducing sources of variability.

Researchers identify variables likely to affect the outcome, such as demographics. When they pick a subject with a set of characteristics, they try to locate another participant with similar attributes to create a matched pair. Scientists randomly assign one member of a pair to the treatment group and the other to the control group.

On the plus side, this process creates two similar groups, and it doesn’t create treatment order effects. While matched pairs do not produce the perfectly matched groups of a within-subjects design (which uses the same subjects in all conditions), it aims to reduce variability between groups relative to a between-subjects study.

On the downside, finding matched pairs is very time-consuming. Additionally, if one member of a matched pair drops out, the other subject must leave the study too.

Learn more about Matched Pairs Design: Uses & Examples .

Another consideration is whether you’ll use a cross-sectional design (one point in time) or use a longitudinal study to track changes over time .

A case study is a research method that often serves as a precursor to a more rigorous experimental design by identifying research questions, variables, and hypotheses to test. Learn more about What is a Case Study? Definition & Examples .

In conclusion, the design of experiments is extremely sensitive to subject area concerns and the time and resources available to the researchers. Developing a suitable experimental design requires balancing a multitude of considerations. A successful design is necessary to obtain trustworthy answers to your research question and to have a reasonable chance of detecting treatment effects when they exist.

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  • Types of Research Designs Compared | Guide & Examples

Types of Research Designs Compared | Guide & Examples

Published on June 20, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 22, 2023.

When you start planning a research project, developing research questions and creating a  research design , you will have to make various decisions about the type of research you want to do.

There are many ways to categorize different types of research. The words you use to describe your research depend on your discipline and field. In general, though, the form your research design takes will be shaped by:

  • The type of knowledge you aim to produce
  • The type of data you will collect and analyze
  • The sampling methods , timescale and location of the research

This article takes a look at some common distinctions made between different types of research and outlines the key differences between them.

Table of contents

Types of research aims, types of research data, types of sampling, timescale, and location, other interesting articles.

The first thing to consider is what kind of knowledge your research aims to contribute.

Type of research What’s the difference? What to consider
Basic vs. applied Basic research aims to , while applied research aims to . Do you want to expand scientific understanding or solve a practical problem?
vs. Exploratory research aims to , while explanatory research aims to . How much is already known about your research problem? Are you conducting initial research on a newly-identified issue, or seeking precise conclusions about an established issue?
aims to , while aims to . Is there already some theory on your research problem that you can use to develop , or do you want to propose new theories based on your findings?

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different types of research experimental design

The next thing to consider is what type of data you will collect. Each kind of data is associated with a range of specific research methods and procedures.

Type of research What’s the difference? What to consider
Primary research vs secondary research Primary data is (e.g., through or ), while secondary data (e.g., in government or scientific publications). How much data is already available on your topic? Do you want to collect original data or analyze existing data (e.g., through a )?
, while . Is your research more concerned with measuring something or interpreting something? You can also create a research design that has elements of both.
vs Descriptive research gathers data , while experimental research . Do you want to identify characteristics, patterns and or test causal relationships between ?

Finally, you have to consider three closely related questions: how will you select the subjects or participants of the research? When and how often will you collect data from your subjects? And where will the research take place?

Keep in mind that the methods that you choose bring with them different risk factors and types of research bias . Biases aren’t completely avoidable, but can heavily impact the validity and reliability of your findings if left unchecked.

Type of research What’s the difference? What to consider
allows you to , while allows you to draw conclusions . Do you want to produce  knowledge that applies to many contexts or detailed knowledge about a specific context (e.g. in a )?
vs Cross-sectional studies , while longitudinal studies . Is your research question focused on understanding the current situation or tracking changes over time?
Field research vs laboratory research Field research takes place in , while laboratory research takes place in . Do you want to find out how something occurs in the real world or draw firm conclusions about cause and effect? Laboratory experiments have higher but lower .
Fixed design vs flexible design In a fixed research design the subjects, timescale and location are begins, while in a flexible design these aspects may . Do you want to test hypotheses and establish generalizable facts, or explore concepts and develop understanding? For measuring, testing and making generalizations, a fixed research design has higher .

Choosing between all these different research types is part of the process of creating your research design , which determines exactly how your research will be conducted. But the type of research is only the first step: next, you have to make more concrete decisions about your research methods and the details of the study.

Read more about creating a research design

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

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McCombes, S. (2023, June 22). Types of Research Designs Compared | Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/types-of-research/

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Research Design 101

Everything You Need To Get Started (With Examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewers: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) & Kerryn Warren (PhD) | April 2023

Research design for qualitative and quantitative studies

Navigating the world of research can be daunting, especially if you’re a first-time researcher. One concept you’re bound to run into fairly early in your research journey is that of “ research design ”. Here, we’ll guide you through the basics using practical examples , so that you can approach your research with confidence.

Overview: Research Design 101

What is research design.

  • Research design types for quantitative studies
  • Video explainer : quantitative research design
  • Research design types for qualitative studies
  • Video explainer : qualitative research design
  • How to choose a research design
  • Key takeaways

Research design refers to the overall plan, structure or strategy that guides a research project , from its conception to the final data analysis. A good research design serves as the blueprint for how you, as the researcher, will collect and analyse data while ensuring consistency, reliability and validity throughout your study.

Understanding different types of research designs is essential as helps ensure that your approach is suitable  given your research aims, objectives and questions , as well as the resources you have available to you. Without a clear big-picture view of how you’ll design your research, you run the risk of potentially making misaligned choices in terms of your methodology – especially your sampling , data collection and data analysis decisions.

The problem with defining research design…

One of the reasons students struggle with a clear definition of research design is because the term is used very loosely across the internet, and even within academia.

Some sources claim that the three research design types are qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods , which isn’t quite accurate (these just refer to the type of data that you’ll collect and analyse). Other sources state that research design refers to the sum of all your design choices, suggesting it’s more like a research methodology . Others run off on other less common tangents. No wonder there’s confusion!

In this article, we’ll clear up the confusion. We’ll explain the most common research design types for both qualitative and quantitative research projects, whether that is for a full dissertation or thesis, or a smaller research paper or article.

Free Webinar: Research Methodology 101

Research Design: Quantitative Studies

Quantitative research involves collecting and analysing data in a numerical form. Broadly speaking, there are four types of quantitative research designs: descriptive , correlational , experimental , and quasi-experimental . 

Descriptive Research Design

As the name suggests, descriptive research design focuses on describing existing conditions, behaviours, or characteristics by systematically gathering information without manipulating any variables. In other words, there is no intervention on the researcher’s part – only data collection.

For example, if you’re studying smartphone addiction among adolescents in your community, you could deploy a survey to a sample of teens asking them to rate their agreement with certain statements that relate to smartphone addiction. The collected data would then provide insight regarding how widespread the issue may be – in other words, it would describe the situation.

The key defining attribute of this type of research design is that it purely describes the situation . In other words, descriptive research design does not explore potential relationships between different variables or the causes that may underlie those relationships. Therefore, descriptive research is useful for generating insight into a research problem by describing its characteristics . By doing so, it can provide valuable insights and is often used as a precursor to other research design types.

Correlational Research Design

Correlational design is a popular choice for researchers aiming to identify and measure the relationship between two or more variables without manipulating them . In other words, this type of research design is useful when you want to know whether a change in one thing tends to be accompanied by a change in another thing.

For example, if you wanted to explore the relationship between exercise frequency and overall health, you could use a correlational design to help you achieve this. In this case, you might gather data on participants’ exercise habits, as well as records of their health indicators like blood pressure, heart rate, or body mass index. Thereafter, you’d use a statistical test to assess whether there’s a relationship between the two variables (exercise frequency and health).

As you can see, correlational research design is useful when you want to explore potential relationships between variables that cannot be manipulated or controlled for ethical, practical, or logistical reasons. It is particularly helpful in terms of developing predictions , and given that it doesn’t involve the manipulation of variables, it can be implemented at a large scale more easily than experimental designs (which will look at next).

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that correlational research design has limitations – most notably that it cannot be used to establish causality . In other words, correlation does not equal causation . To establish causality, you’ll need to move into the realm of experimental design, coming up next…

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different types of research experimental design

Experimental Research Design

Experimental research design is used to determine if there is a causal relationship between two or more variables . With this type of research design, you, as the researcher, manipulate one variable (the independent variable) while controlling others (dependent variables). Doing so allows you to observe the effect of the former on the latter and draw conclusions about potential causality.

For example, if you wanted to measure if/how different types of fertiliser affect plant growth, you could set up several groups of plants, with each group receiving a different type of fertiliser, as well as one with no fertiliser at all. You could then measure how much each plant group grew (on average) over time and compare the results from the different groups to see which fertiliser was most effective.

Overall, experimental research design provides researchers with a powerful way to identify and measure causal relationships (and the direction of causality) between variables. However, developing a rigorous experimental design can be challenging as it’s not always easy to control all the variables in a study. This often results in smaller sample sizes , which can reduce the statistical power and generalisability of the results.

Moreover, experimental research design requires random assignment . This means that the researcher needs to assign participants to different groups or conditions in a way that each participant has an equal chance of being assigned to any group (note that this is not the same as random sampling ). Doing so helps reduce the potential for bias and confounding variables . This need for random assignment can lead to ethics-related issues . For example, withholding a potentially beneficial medical treatment from a control group may be considered unethical in certain situations.

Quasi-Experimental Research Design

Quasi-experimental research design is used when the research aims involve identifying causal relations , but one cannot (or doesn’t want to) randomly assign participants to different groups (for practical or ethical reasons). Instead, with a quasi-experimental research design, the researcher relies on existing groups or pre-existing conditions to form groups for comparison.

For example, if you were studying the effects of a new teaching method on student achievement in a particular school district, you may be unable to randomly assign students to either group and instead have to choose classes or schools that already use different teaching methods. This way, you still achieve separate groups, without having to assign participants to specific groups yourself.

Naturally, quasi-experimental research designs have limitations when compared to experimental designs. Given that participant assignment is not random, it’s more difficult to confidently establish causality between variables, and, as a researcher, you have less control over other variables that may impact findings.

All that said, quasi-experimental designs can still be valuable in research contexts where random assignment is not possible and can often be undertaken on a much larger scale than experimental research, thus increasing the statistical power of the results. What’s important is that you, as the researcher, understand the limitations of the design and conduct your quasi-experiment as rigorously as possible, paying careful attention to any potential confounding variables .

The four most common quantitative research design types are descriptive, correlational, experimental and quasi-experimental.

Research Design: Qualitative Studies

There are many different research design types when it comes to qualitative studies, but here we’ll narrow our focus to explore the “Big 4”. Specifically, we’ll look at phenomenological design, grounded theory design, ethnographic design, and case study design.

Phenomenological Research Design

Phenomenological design involves exploring the meaning of lived experiences and how they are perceived by individuals. This type of research design seeks to understand people’s perspectives , emotions, and behaviours in specific situations. Here, the aim for researchers is to uncover the essence of human experience without making any assumptions or imposing preconceived ideas on their subjects.

For example, you could adopt a phenomenological design to study why cancer survivors have such varied perceptions of their lives after overcoming their disease. This could be achieved by interviewing survivors and then analysing the data using a qualitative analysis method such as thematic analysis to identify commonalities and differences.

Phenomenological research design typically involves in-depth interviews or open-ended questionnaires to collect rich, detailed data about participants’ subjective experiences. This richness is one of the key strengths of phenomenological research design but, naturally, it also has limitations. These include potential biases in data collection and interpretation and the lack of generalisability of findings to broader populations.

Grounded Theory Research Design

Grounded theory (also referred to as “GT”) aims to develop theories by continuously and iteratively analysing and comparing data collected from a relatively large number of participants in a study. It takes an inductive (bottom-up) approach, with a focus on letting the data “speak for itself”, without being influenced by preexisting theories or the researcher’s preconceptions.

As an example, let’s assume your research aims involved understanding how people cope with chronic pain from a specific medical condition, with a view to developing a theory around this. In this case, grounded theory design would allow you to explore this concept thoroughly without preconceptions about what coping mechanisms might exist. You may find that some patients prefer cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) while others prefer to rely on herbal remedies. Based on multiple, iterative rounds of analysis, you could then develop a theory in this regard, derived directly from the data (as opposed to other preexisting theories and models).

Grounded theory typically involves collecting data through interviews or observations and then analysing it to identify patterns and themes that emerge from the data. These emerging ideas are then validated by collecting more data until a saturation point is reached (i.e., no new information can be squeezed from the data). From that base, a theory can then be developed .

As you can see, grounded theory is ideally suited to studies where the research aims involve theory generation , especially in under-researched areas. Keep in mind though that this type of research design can be quite time-intensive , given the need for multiple rounds of data collection and analysis.

different types of research experimental design

Ethnographic Research Design

Ethnographic design involves observing and studying a culture-sharing group of people in their natural setting to gain insight into their behaviours, beliefs, and values. The focus here is on observing participants in their natural environment (as opposed to a controlled environment). This typically involves the researcher spending an extended period of time with the participants in their environment, carefully observing and taking field notes .

All of this is not to say that ethnographic research design relies purely on observation. On the contrary, this design typically also involves in-depth interviews to explore participants’ views, beliefs, etc. However, unobtrusive observation is a core component of the ethnographic approach.

As an example, an ethnographer may study how different communities celebrate traditional festivals or how individuals from different generations interact with technology differently. This may involve a lengthy period of observation, combined with in-depth interviews to further explore specific areas of interest that emerge as a result of the observations that the researcher has made.

As you can probably imagine, ethnographic research design has the ability to provide rich, contextually embedded insights into the socio-cultural dynamics of human behaviour within a natural, uncontrived setting. Naturally, however, it does come with its own set of challenges, including researcher bias (since the researcher can become quite immersed in the group), participant confidentiality and, predictably, ethical complexities . All of these need to be carefully managed if you choose to adopt this type of research design.

Case Study Design

With case study research design, you, as the researcher, investigate a single individual (or a single group of individuals) to gain an in-depth understanding of their experiences, behaviours or outcomes. Unlike other research designs that are aimed at larger sample sizes, case studies offer a deep dive into the specific circumstances surrounding a person, group of people, event or phenomenon, generally within a bounded setting or context .

As an example, a case study design could be used to explore the factors influencing the success of a specific small business. This would involve diving deeply into the organisation to explore and understand what makes it tick – from marketing to HR to finance. In terms of data collection, this could include interviews with staff and management, review of policy documents and financial statements, surveying customers, etc.

While the above example is focused squarely on one organisation, it’s worth noting that case study research designs can have different variation s, including single-case, multiple-case and longitudinal designs. As you can see in the example, a single-case design involves intensely examining a single entity to understand its unique characteristics and complexities. Conversely, in a multiple-case design , multiple cases are compared and contrasted to identify patterns and commonalities. Lastly, in a longitudinal case design , a single case or multiple cases are studied over an extended period of time to understand how factors develop over time.

As you can see, a case study research design is particularly useful where a deep and contextualised understanding of a specific phenomenon or issue is desired. However, this strength is also its weakness. In other words, you can’t generalise the findings from a case study to the broader population. So, keep this in mind if you’re considering going the case study route.

Case study design often involves investigating an individual to gain an in-depth understanding of their experiences, behaviours or outcomes.

How To Choose A Research Design

Having worked through all of these potential research designs, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering, “ But how do I decide which research design to use? ”. While we could write an entire post covering that alone, here are a few factors to consider that will help you choose a suitable research design for your study.

Data type: The first determining factor is naturally the type of data you plan to be collecting – i.e., qualitative or quantitative. This may sound obvious, but we have to be clear about this – don’t try to use a quantitative research design on qualitative data (or vice versa)!

Research aim(s) and question(s): As with all methodological decisions, your research aim and research questions will heavily influence your research design. For example, if your research aims involve developing a theory from qualitative data, grounded theory would be a strong option. Similarly, if your research aims involve identifying and measuring relationships between variables, one of the experimental designs would likely be a better option.

Time: It’s essential that you consider any time constraints you have, as this will impact the type of research design you can choose. For example, if you’ve only got a month to complete your project, a lengthy design such as ethnography wouldn’t be a good fit.

Resources: Take into account the resources realistically available to you, as these need to factor into your research design choice. For example, if you require highly specialised lab equipment to execute an experimental design, you need to be sure that you’ll have access to that before you make a decision.

Keep in mind that when it comes to research, it’s important to manage your risks and play as conservatively as possible. If your entire project relies on you achieving a huge sample, having access to niche equipment or holding interviews with very difficult-to-reach participants, you’re creating risks that could kill your project. So, be sure to think through your choices carefully and make sure that you have backup plans for any existential risks. Remember that a relatively simple methodology executed well generally will typically earn better marks than a highly-complex methodology executed poorly.

different types of research experimental design

Recap: Key Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Let’s recap by looking at the key takeaways:

  • Research design refers to the overall plan, structure or strategy that guides a research project, from its conception to the final analysis of data.
  • Research designs for quantitative studies include descriptive , correlational , experimental and quasi-experimenta l designs.
  • Research designs for qualitative studies include phenomenological , grounded theory , ethnographic and case study designs.
  • When choosing a research design, you need to consider a variety of factors, including the type of data you’ll be working with, your research aims and questions, your time and the resources available to you.

If you need a helping hand with your research design (or any other aspect of your research), check out our private coaching services .

different types of research experimental design

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Wei Leong YONG

Is there any blog article explaining more on Case study research design? Is there a Case study write-up template? Thank you.

Solly Khan

Thanks this was quite valuable to clarify such an important concept.


Thanks for this simplified explanations. it is quite very helpful.


This was really helpful. thanks


Thank you for your explanation. I think case study research design and the use of secondary data in researches needs to be talked about more in your videos and articles because there a lot of case studies research design tailored projects out there.

Please is there any template for a case study research design whose data type is a secondary data on your repository?

Sam Msongole

This post is very clear, comprehensive and has been very helpful to me. It has cleared the confusion I had in regard to research design and methodology.

Robyn Pritchard

This post is helpful, easy to understand, and deconstructs what a research design is. Thanks


how to cite this page


Thank you very much for the post. It is wonderful and has cleared many worries in my mind regarding research designs. I really appreciate .


how can I put this blog as my reference(APA style) in bibliography part?

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  • A Quick Guide to Experimental Design | 5 Steps & Examples

A Quick Guide to Experimental Design | 5 Steps & Examples

Published on 11 April 2022 by Rebecca Bevans . Revised on 5 December 2022.

Experiments are used to study causal relationships . You manipulate one or more independent variables and measure their effect on one or more dependent variables.

Experimental design means creating a set of procedures to systematically test a hypothesis . A good experimental design requires a strong understanding of the system you are studying. 

There are five key steps in designing an experiment:

  • Consider your variables and how they are related
  • Write a specific, testable hypothesis
  • Design experimental treatments to manipulate your independent variable
  • Assign subjects to groups, either between-subjects or within-subjects
  • Plan how you will measure your dependent variable

For valid conclusions, you also need to select a representative sample and control any  extraneous variables that might influence your results. If if random assignment of participants to control and treatment groups is impossible, unethical, or highly difficult, consider an observational study instead.

Table of contents

Step 1: define your variables, step 2: write your hypothesis, step 3: design your experimental treatments, step 4: assign your subjects to treatment groups, step 5: measure your dependent variable, frequently asked questions about experimental design.

You should begin with a specific research question . We will work with two research question examples, one from health sciences and one from ecology:

To translate your research question into an experimental hypothesis, you need to define the main variables and make predictions about how they are related.

Start by simply listing the independent and dependent variables .

Research question Independent variable Dependent variable
Phone use and sleep Minutes of phone use before sleep Hours of sleep per night
Temperature and soil respiration Air temperature just above the soil surface CO2 respired from soil

Then you need to think about possible extraneous and confounding variables and consider how you might control  them in your experiment.

Extraneous variable How to control
Phone use and sleep in sleep patterns among individuals. measure the average difference between sleep with phone use and sleep without phone use rather than the average amount of sleep per treatment group.
Temperature and soil respiration also affects respiration, and moisture can decrease with increasing temperature. monitor soil moisture and add water to make sure that soil moisture is consistent across all treatment plots.

Finally, you can put these variables together into a diagram. Use arrows to show the possible relationships between variables and include signs to show the expected direction of the relationships.

Diagram of the relationship between variables in a sleep experiment

Here we predict that increasing temperature will increase soil respiration and decrease soil moisture, while decreasing soil moisture will lead to decreased soil respiration.

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Now that you have a strong conceptual understanding of the system you are studying, you should be able to write a specific, testable hypothesis that addresses your research question.

Null hypothesis (H ) Alternate hypothesis (H )
Phone use and sleep Phone use before sleep does not correlate with the amount of sleep a person gets. Increasing phone use before sleep leads to a decrease in sleep.
Temperature and soil respiration Air temperature does not correlate with soil respiration. Increased air temperature leads to increased soil respiration.

The next steps will describe how to design a controlled experiment . In a controlled experiment, you must be able to:

  • Systematically and precisely manipulate the independent variable(s).
  • Precisely measure the dependent variable(s).
  • Control any potential confounding variables.

If your study system doesn’t match these criteria, there are other types of research you can use to answer your research question.

How you manipulate the independent variable can affect the experiment’s external validity – that is, the extent to which the results can be generalised and applied to the broader world.

First, you may need to decide how widely to vary your independent variable.

  • just slightly above the natural range for your study region.
  • over a wider range of temperatures to mimic future warming.
  • over an extreme range that is beyond any possible natural variation.

Second, you may need to choose how finely to vary your independent variable. Sometimes this choice is made for you by your experimental system, but often you will need to decide, and this will affect how much you can infer from your results.

  • a categorical variable : either as binary (yes/no) or as levels of a factor (no phone use, low phone use, high phone use).
  • a continuous variable (minutes of phone use measured every night).

How you apply your experimental treatments to your test subjects is crucial for obtaining valid and reliable results.

First, you need to consider the study size : how many individuals will be included in the experiment? In general, the more subjects you include, the greater your experiment’s statistical power , which determines how much confidence you can have in your results.

Then you need to randomly assign your subjects to treatment groups . Each group receives a different level of the treatment (e.g. no phone use, low phone use, high phone use).

You should also include a control group , which receives no treatment. The control group tells us what would have happened to your test subjects without any experimental intervention.

When assigning your subjects to groups, there are two main choices you need to make:

  • A completely randomised design vs a randomised block design .
  • A between-subjects design vs a within-subjects design .


An experiment can be completely randomised or randomised within blocks (aka strata):

  • In a completely randomised design , every subject is assigned to a treatment group at random.
  • In a randomised block design (aka stratified random design), subjects are first grouped according to a characteristic they share, and then randomly assigned to treatments within those groups.
Completely randomised design Randomised block design
Phone use and sleep Subjects are all randomly assigned a level of phone use using a random number generator. Subjects are first grouped by age, and then phone use treatments are randomly assigned within these groups.
Temperature and soil respiration Warming treatments are assigned to soil plots at random by using a number generator to generate map coordinates within the study area. Soils are first grouped by average rainfall, and then treatment plots are randomly assigned within these groups.

Sometimes randomisation isn’t practical or ethical , so researchers create partially-random or even non-random designs. An experimental design where treatments aren’t randomly assigned is called a quasi-experimental design .

Between-subjects vs within-subjects

In a between-subjects design (also known as an independent measures design or classic ANOVA design), individuals receive only one of the possible levels of an experimental treatment.

In medical or social research, you might also use matched pairs within your between-subjects design to make sure that each treatment group contains the same variety of test subjects in the same proportions.

In a within-subjects design (also known as a repeated measures design), every individual receives each of the experimental treatments consecutively, and their responses to each treatment are measured.

Within-subjects or repeated measures can also refer to an experimental design where an effect emerges over time, and individual responses are measured over time in order to measure this effect as it emerges.

Counterbalancing (randomising or reversing the order of treatments among subjects) is often used in within-subjects designs to ensure that the order of treatment application doesn’t influence the results of the experiment.

Between-subjects (independent measures) design Within-subjects (repeated measures) design
Phone use and sleep Subjects are randomly assigned a level of phone use (none, low, or high) and follow that level of phone use throughout the experiment. Subjects are assigned consecutively to zero, low, and high levels of phone use throughout the experiment, and the order in which they follow these treatments is randomised.
Temperature and soil respiration Warming treatments are assigned to soil plots at random and the soils are kept at this temperature throughout the experiment. Every plot receives each warming treatment (1, 3, 5, 8, and 10C above ambient temperatures) consecutively over the course of the experiment, and the order in which they receive these treatments is randomised.

Finally, you need to decide how you’ll collect data on your dependent variable outcomes. You should aim for reliable and valid measurements that minimise bias or error.

Some variables, like temperature, can be objectively measured with scientific instruments. Others may need to be operationalised to turn them into measurable observations.

  • Ask participants to record what time they go to sleep and get up each day.
  • Ask participants to wear a sleep tracker.

How precisely you measure your dependent variable also affects the kinds of statistical analysis you can use on your data.

Experiments are always context-dependent, and a good experimental design will take into account all of the unique considerations of your study system to produce information that is both valid and relevant to your research question.

Experimental designs are a set of procedures that you plan in order to examine the relationship between variables that interest you.

To design a successful experiment, first identify:

  • A testable hypothesis
  • One or more independent variables that you will manipulate
  • One or more dependent variables that you will measure

When designing the experiment, first decide:

  • How your variable(s) will be manipulated
  • How you will control for any potential confounding or lurking variables
  • How many subjects you will include
  • How you will assign treatments to your subjects

The key difference between observational studies and experiments is that, done correctly, an observational study will never influence the responses or behaviours of participants. Experimental designs will have a treatment condition applied to at least a portion of participants.

A confounding variable , also called a confounder or confounding factor, is a third variable in a study examining a potential cause-and-effect relationship.

A confounding variable is related to both the supposed cause and the supposed effect of the study. It can be difficult to separate the true effect of the independent variable from the effect of the confounding variable.

In your research design , it’s important to identify potential confounding variables and plan how you will reduce their impact.

In a between-subjects design , every participant experiences only one condition, and researchers assess group differences between participants in various conditions.

In a within-subjects design , each participant experiences all conditions, and researchers test the same participants repeatedly for differences between conditions.

The word ‘between’ means that you’re comparing different conditions between groups, while the word ‘within’ means you’re comparing different conditions within the same group.

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Rebecca Bevans

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  • Experimental Research Designs: Types, Examples & Methods


Experimental research is the most familiar type of research design for individuals in the physical sciences and a host of other fields. This is mainly because experimental research is a classical scientific experiment, similar to those performed in high school science classes.

Imagine taking 2 samples of the same plant and exposing one of them to sunlight, while the other is kept away from sunlight. Let the plant exposed to sunlight be called sample A, while the latter is called sample B.

If after the duration of the research, we find out that sample A grows and sample B dies, even though they are both regularly wetted and given the same treatment. Therefore, we can conclude that sunlight will aid growth in all similar plants.

What is Experimental Research?

Experimental research is a scientific approach to research, where one or more independent variables are manipulated and applied to one or more dependent variables to measure their effect on the latter. The effect of the independent variables on the dependent variables is usually observed and recorded over some time, to aid researchers in drawing a reasonable conclusion regarding the relationship between these 2 variable types.

The experimental research method is widely used in physical and social sciences, psychology, and education. It is based on the comparison between two or more groups with a straightforward logic, which may, however, be difficult to execute.

Mostly related to a laboratory test procedure, experimental research designs involve collecting quantitative data and performing statistical analysis on them during research. Therefore, making it an example of quantitative research method .

What are The Types of Experimental Research Design?

The types of experimental research design are determined by the way the researcher assigns subjects to different conditions and groups. They are of 3 types, namely; pre-experimental, quasi-experimental, and true experimental research.

Pre-experimental Research Design

In pre-experimental research design, either a group or various dependent groups are observed for the effect of the application of an independent variable which is presumed to cause change. It is the simplest form of experimental research design and is treated with no control group.

Although very practical, experimental research is lacking in several areas of the true-experimental criteria. The pre-experimental research design is further divided into three types

  • One-shot Case Study Research Design

In this type of experimental study, only one dependent group or variable is considered. The study is carried out after some treatment which was presumed to cause change, making it a posttest study.

  • One-group Pretest-posttest Research Design: 

This research design combines both posttest and pretest study by carrying out a test on a single group before the treatment is administered and after the treatment is administered. With the former being administered at the beginning of treatment and later at the end.

  • Static-group Comparison: 

In a static-group comparison study, 2 or more groups are placed under observation, where only one of the groups is subjected to some treatment while the other groups are held static. All the groups are post-tested, and the observed differences between the groups are assumed to be a result of the treatment.

Quasi-experimental Research Design

  The word “quasi” means partial, half, or pseudo. Therefore, the quasi-experimental research bearing a resemblance to the true experimental research, but not the same.  In quasi-experiments, the participants are not randomly assigned, and as such, they are used in settings where randomization is difficult or impossible.

 This is very common in educational research, where administrators are unwilling to allow the random selection of students for experimental samples.

Some examples of quasi-experimental research design include; the time series, no equivalent control group design, and the counterbalanced design.

True Experimental Research Design

The true experimental research design relies on statistical analysis to approve or disprove a hypothesis. It is the most accurate type of experimental design and may be carried out with or without a pretest on at least 2 randomly assigned dependent subjects.

The true experimental research design must contain a control group, a variable that can be manipulated by the researcher, and the distribution must be random. The classification of true experimental design include:

  • The posttest-only Control Group Design: In this design, subjects are randomly selected and assigned to the 2 groups (control and experimental), and only the experimental group is treated. After close observation, both groups are post-tested, and a conclusion is drawn from the difference between these groups.
  • The pretest-posttest Control Group Design: For this control group design, subjects are randomly assigned to the 2 groups, both are presented, but only the experimental group is treated. After close observation, both groups are post-tested to measure the degree of change in each group.
  • Solomon four-group Design: This is the combination of the pretest-only and the pretest-posttest control groups. In this case, the randomly selected subjects are placed into 4 groups.

The first two of these groups are tested using the posttest-only method, while the other two are tested using the pretest-posttest method.

Examples of Experimental Research

Experimental research examples are different, depending on the type of experimental research design that is being considered. The most basic example of experimental research is laboratory experiments, which may differ in nature depending on the subject of research.

Administering Exams After The End of Semester

During the semester, students in a class are lectured on particular courses and an exam is administered at the end of the semester. In this case, the students are the subjects or dependent variables while the lectures are the independent variables treated on the subjects.

Only one group of carefully selected subjects are considered in this research, making it a pre-experimental research design example. We will also notice that tests are only carried out at the end of the semester, and not at the beginning.

Further making it easy for us to conclude that it is a one-shot case study research. 

Employee Skill Evaluation

Before employing a job seeker, organizations conduct tests that are used to screen out less qualified candidates from the pool of qualified applicants. This way, organizations can determine an employee’s skill set at the point of employment.

In the course of employment, organizations also carry out employee training to improve employee productivity and generally grow the organization. Further evaluation is carried out at the end of each training to test the impact of the training on employee skills, and test for improvement.

Here, the subject is the employee, while the treatment is the training conducted. This is a pretest-posttest control group experimental research example.

Evaluation of Teaching Method

Let us consider an academic institution that wants to evaluate the teaching method of 2 teachers to determine which is best. Imagine a case whereby the students assigned to each teacher is carefully selected probably due to personal request by parents or due to stubbornness and smartness.

This is a no equivalent group design example because the samples are not equal. By evaluating the effectiveness of each teacher’s teaching method this way, we may conclude after a post-test has been carried out.

However, this may be influenced by factors like the natural sweetness of a student. For example, a very smart student will grab more easily than his or her peers irrespective of the method of teaching.

What are the Characteristics of Experimental Research?  

Experimental research contains dependent, independent and extraneous variables. The dependent variables are the variables being treated or manipulated and are sometimes called the subject of the research.

The independent variables are the experimental treatment being exerted on the dependent variables. Extraneous variables, on the other hand, are other factors affecting the experiment that may also contribute to the change.

The setting is where the experiment is carried out. Many experiments are carried out in the laboratory, where control can be exerted on the extraneous variables, thereby eliminating them. 

Other experiments are carried out in a less controllable setting. The choice of setting used in research depends on the nature of the experiment being carried out.

  • Multivariable

Experimental research may include multiple independent variables, e.g. time, skills, test scores, etc.

Why Use Experimental Research Design?  

Experimental research design can be majorly used in physical sciences, social sciences, education, and psychology. It is used to make predictions and draw conclusions on a subject matter. 

Some uses of experimental research design are highlighted below.

  • Medicine: Experimental research is used to provide the proper treatment for diseases. In most cases, rather than directly using patients as the research subject, researchers take a sample of the bacteria from the patient’s body and are treated with the developed antibacterial

The changes observed during this period are recorded and evaluated to determine its effectiveness. This process can be carried out using different experimental research methods.

  • Education: Asides from science subjects like Chemistry and Physics which involves teaching students how to perform experimental research, it can also be used in improving the standard of an academic institution. This includes testing students’ knowledge on different topics, coming up with better teaching methods, and the implementation of other programs that will aid student learning.
  • Human Behavior: Social scientists are the ones who mostly use experimental research to test human behaviour. For example, consider 2 people randomly chosen to be the subject of the social interaction research where one person is placed in a room without human interaction for 1 year.

The other person is placed in a room with a few other people, enjoying human interaction. There will be a difference in their behaviour at the end of the experiment.

  • UI/UX: During the product development phase, one of the major aims of the product team is to create a great user experience with the product. Therefore, before launching the final product design, potential are brought in to interact with the product.

For example, when finding it difficult to choose how to position a button or feature on the app interface, a random sample of product testers are allowed to test the 2 samples and how the button positioning influences the user interaction is recorded.

What are the Disadvantages of Experimental Research?  

  • It is highly prone to human error due to its dependency on variable control which may not be properly implemented. These errors could eliminate the validity of the experiment and the research being conducted.
  • Exerting control of extraneous variables may create unrealistic situations. Eliminating real-life variables will result in inaccurate conclusions. This may also result in researchers controlling the variables to suit his or her personal preferences.
  • It is a time-consuming process. So much time is spent on testing dependent variables and waiting for the effect of the manipulation of dependent variables to manifest.
  • It is expensive. 
  • It is very risky and may have ethical complications that cannot be ignored. This is common in medical research, where failed trials may lead to a patient’s death or a deteriorating health condition.
  • Experimental research results are not descriptive.
  • Response bias can also be supplied by the subject of the conversation.
  • Human responses in experimental research can be difficult to measure. 

What are the Data Collection Methods in Experimental Research?  

Data collection methods in experimental research are the different ways in which data can be collected for experimental research. They are used in different cases, depending on the type of research being carried out.

1. Observational Study

This type of study is carried out over a long period. It measures and observes the variables of interest without changing existing conditions.

When researching the effect of social interaction on human behavior, the subjects who are placed in 2 different environments are observed throughout the research. No matter the kind of absurd behavior that is exhibited by the subject during this period, its condition will not be changed.

This may be a very risky thing to do in medical cases because it may lead to death or worse medical conditions.

2. Simulations

This procedure uses mathematical, physical, or computer models to replicate a real-life process or situation. It is frequently used when the actual situation is too expensive, dangerous, or impractical to replicate in real life.

This method is commonly used in engineering and operational research for learning purposes and sometimes as a tool to estimate possible outcomes of real research. Some common situation software are Simulink, MATLAB, and Simul8.

Not all kinds of experimental research can be carried out using simulation as a data collection tool . It is very impractical for a lot of laboratory-based research that involves chemical processes.

A survey is a tool used to gather relevant data about the characteristics of a population and is one of the most common data collection tools. A survey consists of a group of questions prepared by the researcher, to be answered by the research subject.

Surveys can be shared with the respondents both physically and electronically. When collecting data through surveys, the kind of data collected depends on the respondent, and researchers have limited control over it.

Formplus is the best tool for collecting experimental data using survey s. It has relevant features that will aid the data collection process and can also be used in other aspects of experimental research.

Differences between Experimental and Non-Experimental Research 

1. In experimental research, the researcher can control and manipulate the environment of the research, including the predictor variable which can be changed. On the other hand, non-experimental research cannot be controlled or manipulated by the researcher at will.

This is because it takes place in a real-life setting, where extraneous variables cannot be eliminated. Therefore, it is more difficult to conclude non-experimental studies, even though they are much more flexible and allow for a greater range of study fields.

2. The relationship between cause and effect cannot be established in non-experimental research, while it can be established in experimental research. This may be because many extraneous variables also influence the changes in the research subject, making it difficult to point at a particular variable as the cause of a particular change

3. Independent variables are not introduced, withdrawn, or manipulated in non-experimental designs, but the same may not be said about experimental research.


Experimental research designs are often considered to be the standard in research designs. This is partly due to the common misconception that research is equivalent to scientific experiments—a component of experimental research design.

In this research design, one or more subjects or dependent variables are randomly assigned to different treatments (i.e. independent variables manipulated by the researcher) and the results are observed to conclude. One of the uniqueness of experimental research is in its ability to control the effect of extraneous variables.

Experimental research is suitable for research whose goal is to examine cause-effect relationships, e.g. explanatory research. It can be conducted in the laboratory or field settings, depending on the aim of the research that is being carried out. 


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Experimental Research: What it is + Types of designs

Experimental Research Design

Any research conducted under scientifically acceptable conditions uses experimental methods. The success of experimental studies hinges on researchers confirming the change of a variable is based solely on the manipulation of the constant variable. The research should establish a notable cause and effect.

What is Experimental Research?

Experimental research is a study conducted with a scientific approach using two sets of variables. The first set acts as a constant, which you use to measure the differences of the second set. Quantitative research methods , for example, are experimental.

If you don’t have enough data to support your decisions, you must first determine the facts. This research gathers the data necessary to help you make better decisions.

You can conduct experimental research in the following situations:

  • Time is a vital factor in establishing a relationship between cause and effect.
  • Invariable behavior between cause and effect.
  • You wish to understand the importance of cause and effect.

Experimental Research Design Types

The classic experimental design definition is: “The methods used to collect data in experimental studies.”

There are three primary types of experimental design:

  • Pre-experimental research design
  • True experimental research design
  • Quasi-experimental research design

The way you classify research subjects based on conditions or groups determines the type of research design  you should use.

0 1. Pre-Experimental Design

A group, or various groups, are kept under observation after implementing cause and effect factors. You’ll conduct this research to understand whether further investigation is necessary for these particular groups.

You can break down pre-experimental research further into three types:

  • One-shot Case Study Research Design
  • One-group Pretest-posttest Research Design
  • Static-group Comparison

0 2. True Experimental Design

It relies on statistical analysis to prove or disprove a hypothesis, making it the most accurate form of research. Of the types of experimental design, only true design can establish a cause-effect relationship within a group. In a true experiment, three factors need to be satisfied:

  • There is a Control Group, which won’t be subject to changes, and an Experimental Group, which will experience the changed variables.
  • A variable that can be manipulated by the researcher
  • Random distribution

This experimental research method commonly occurs in the physical sciences.

0 3. Quasi-Experimental Design

The word “Quasi” indicates similarity. A quasi-experimental design is similar to an experimental one, but it is not the same. The difference between the two is the assignment of a control group. In this research, an independent variable is manipulated, but the participants of a group are not randomly assigned. Quasi-research is used in field settings where random assignment is either irrelevant or not required.

Importance of Experimental Design

Experimental research is a powerful tool for understanding cause-and-effect relationships. It allows us to manipulate variables and observe the effects, which is crucial for understanding how different factors influence the outcome of a study.

But the importance of experimental research goes beyond that. It’s a critical method for many scientific and academic studies. It allows us to test theories, develop new products, and make groundbreaking discoveries.

For example, this research is essential for developing new drugs and medical treatments. Researchers can understand how a new drug works by manipulating dosage and administration variables and identifying potential side effects.

Similarly, experimental research is used in the field of psychology to test theories and understand human behavior. By manipulating variables such as stimuli, researchers can gain insights into how the brain works and identify new treatment options for mental health disorders.

It is also widely used in the field of education. It allows educators to test new teaching methods and identify what works best. By manipulating variables such as class size, teaching style, and curriculum, researchers can understand how students learn and identify new ways to improve educational outcomes.

In addition, experimental research is a powerful tool for businesses and organizations. By manipulating variables such as marketing strategies, product design, and customer service, companies can understand what works best and identify new opportunities for growth.

Advantages of Experimental Research

When talking about this research, we can think of human life. Babies do their own rudimentary experiments (such as putting objects in their mouths) to learn about the world around them, while older children and teens do experiments at school to learn more about science.

Ancient scientists used this research to prove that their hypotheses were correct. For example, Galileo Galilei and Antoine Lavoisier conducted various experiments to discover key concepts in physics and chemistry. The same is true of modern experts, who use this scientific method to see if new drugs are effective, discover treatments for diseases, and create new electronic devices (among others).

It’s vital to test new ideas or theories. Why put time, effort, and funding into something that may not work?

This research allows you to test your idea in a controlled environment before marketing. It also provides the best method to test your theory thanks to the following advantages:

Advantages of experimental research

  • Researchers have a stronger hold over variables to obtain desired results.
  • The subject or industry does not impact the effectiveness of experimental research. Any industry can implement it for research purposes.
  • The results are specific.
  • After analyzing the results, you can apply your findings to similar ideas or situations.
  • You can identify the cause and effect of a hypothesis. Researchers can further analyze this relationship to determine more in-depth ideas.
  • Experimental research makes an ideal starting point. The data you collect is a foundation for building more ideas and conducting more action research .

Whether you want to know how the public will react to a new product or if a certain food increases the chance of disease, experimental research is the best place to start. Begin your research by finding subjects using  QuestionPro Audience  and other tools today.



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14.1 What is experimental design and when should you use it?

Learning objectives.

Learners will be able to…

  • Describe the purpose of experimental design research
  • Describe nomethetic causality and the logic of experimental design
  • Identify the characteristics of a basic experiment
  • Discuss the relationship between dependent and independent variables in experiments
  • Identify the three major types of experimental designs

Pre-awareness check (Knowledge)

What are your thoughts on the phrase ‘experiment’ in the realm of social sciences? In an experiment, what is the independent variable?

The basics of experiments

In social work research, experimental design is used to test the effects of treatments, interventions, programs, or other conditions to which individuals, groups, organizations, or communities may be exposed to. There are a lot of experiments social work researchers can use to explore topics such as treatments for depression, impacts of school-based mental health on student outcomes, or prevention of abuse of people with disabilities. The American Psychological Association defines an experiment   as:

a series of observations conducted under controlled conditions to study a relationship with the purpose of drawing causal inferences about that relationship. An experiment involves the manipulation of an independent variable , the measurement of a dependent variable , and the exposure of various participants to one or more of the conditions being studied. Random selection of participants and their random assignment to conditions also are necessary in experiments .

In experimental design, the independent variable is the intervention, treatment, or condition that is being investigated as a potential cause of change (i.e., the experimental condition ). The effect, or outcome, of the experimental condition is the dependent variable. Trying out a new restaurant, dating a new person – we often call these things “experiments.” However, a true social science experiment would include recruitment of a large enough sample, random assignment to control and experimental groups, exposing those in the experimental group to an experimental condition, and collecting observations at the end of the experiment.

Social scientists use this level of rigor and control to maximize the internal validity of their research. Internal validity is the confidence researchers have about whether the independent variable (e.g, treatment) truly produces a change in the dependent, or outcome, variable. The logic and features of experimental design are intended to help establish causality and to reduce threats to internal validity , which we will discuss in Section 14.5 .

Experiments attempt to establish a nomothetic causal relationship between two variables—the treatment and its intended outcome.  We discussed the four criteria for establishing nomothetic causality in Section 4.3 :

  • plausibility,
  • covariation,
  • temporality, and
  • nonspuriousness.

Experiments should establish plausibility , having a plausible reason why their intervention would cause changes in the dependent variable. Usually, a theory framework or previous empirical evidence will indicate the plausibility of a causal relationship.

Covariation can be established for causal explanations by showing that the “cause” and the “effect” change together.  In experiments, the cause is an intervention, treatment, or other experimental condition. Whether or not a research participant is exposed to the experimental condition is the independent variable. The effect in an experiment is the outcome being assessed and is the dependent variable in the study. When the independent and dependent variables covary, they can have a positive association (e.g., those exposed to the intervention have increased self-esteem) or a negative association (e.g., those exposed to the intervention have reduced anxiety).

Since researcher controls when the intervention is administered, they can be assured that changes in the independent variable (the treatment) happens before changes in the dependent variable (the outcome). In this way, experiments assure temporality .

Finally, one of the most important features of experiments is that they allow researchers to eliminate spurious variables to support the criterion of nonspuriousness . True experiments are usually conducted under strictly controlled conditions. The intervention is given in the same way to each person, with a minimal number of other variables that might cause their post-test scores to change.

The logic of experimental design

How do we know that one phenomenon causes another? The complexity of the social world in which we practice and conduct research means that causes of social problems are rarely cut and dry. Uncovering explanations for social problems is key to helping clients address them, and experimental research designs are one road to finding answers.

Just because two phenomena are related in some way doesn’t mean that one causes the other. Ice cream sales increase in the summer, and so does the rate of violent crime; does that mean that eating ice cream is going to make me violent? Obviously not, because ice cream is great. The reality of that association is far more complex—it could be that hot weather makes people more irritable and, at times, violent, while also making people want ice cream. More likely, though, there are other social factors not accounted for in the way we just described this association.

As we have discussed, experimental designs can help clear up at least some of this fog by allowing researchers to isolate the effect of interventions on dependent variables by controlling extraneous variables . In true experimental design (discussed in the next section) and quasi-experimental design, researchers accomplish this w ith a control group or comparison group and the experimental group . The experimental group is sometimes called the treatment group because people in the experimental group receive the treatment or are exposed to the experimental condition (but we will call it the experimental group in this chapter.) The control/comparison group does not receive the treatment or intervention. Instead they may receive what is known as “treatment as usual” or perhaps no treatment at all.

different types of research experimental design

In a well-designed experiment, the control group should look almost identical to the experimental group in terms of demographics and other relevant factors. What if we want to know the effect of CBT on social anxiety, but we have learned in prior research that men tend to have a more difficult time overcoming social anxiety? We would want our control and experimental groups to have a similar portions of men, since ostensibly, both groups’ results would be affected by the men in the group. If your control group has 5 women, 6 men, and 4 non-binary people, then your experimental group should be made up of roughly the same gender balance to help control for the influence of gender on the outcome of your intervention. (In reality, the groups should be similar along other dimensions, as well, and your group will likely be much larger.) The researcher will use the same outcome measures for both groups and compare them, and assuming the experiment was designed correctly, get a pretty good answer about whether the intervention had an effect on social anxiety.

Random assignment [/pb_glossary], also called randomization, entails using a random process to decide which participants are put into the control or experimental group (which participants receive an intervention and which do not). By randomly assigning participants to a group, you can reduce the effect of extraneous variables on your research because there won’t be a systematic difference between the groups.

Do not confuse random assignment with random sampling . Random sampling is a method for selecting a sample from a population and is rarely used in psychological research. Random assignment is a method for assigning participants in a sample to the different conditions, and it is an important element of all experimental research in psychology and other related fields. Random sampling helps a great deal with external validity, or generalizability , whereas random assignment increases internal validity .

Other Features of Experiments that Help Establish Causality

To control for spuriousness (as well as meeting the three other criteria for establishing causality), experiments try to control as many aspects of the research process as possible: using control groups, having large enough sample sizes, standardizing the treatment, etc. Researchers in large experiments often employ clinicians or other research staff to help them. Researchers train their staff members exhaustively, provide pre-scripted responses to common questions, and control the physical environment of the experiment so each person who participates receives the exact same treatment. Experimental researchers also document their procedures, so that others can review them and make changes in future research if they think it will improve on the ability to control for spurious variables.

An interesting example is Bruce Alexander’s (2010) Rat Park experiments. Much of the early research conducted on addictive drugs, like heroin and cocaine, was conducted on animals other than humans, usually mice or rats. The scientific consensus up until Alexander’s experiments was that cocaine and heroin were so addictive that rats, if offered the drugs, would consume them repeatedly until they perished. Researchers claimed this behavior explained how addiction worked in humans, but Alexander was not so sure. He knew rats were social animals and the experimental procedure from previous experiments did not allow them to socialize. Instead, rats were kept isolated in small cages with only food, water, and metal walls. To Alexander, social isolation was a spurious variable, causing changes in addictive behavior not due to the drug itself. Alexander created an experiment of his own, in which rats were allowed to run freely in an interesting environment, socialize and mate with other rats, and of course, drink from a solution that contained an addictive drug. In this environment, rats did not become hopelessly addicted to drugs. In fact, they had little interest in the substance. To Alexander, the results of his experiment demonstrated that social isolation was more of a causal factor for addiction than the drug itself.

One challenge with Alexander’s findings is that subsequent researchers have had mixed success replicating his findings (e.g., Petrie, 1996; Solinas, Thiriet, El Rawas, Lardeux, & Jaber, 2009). Replication involves conducting another researcher’s experiment in the same manner and seeing if it produces the same results. If the causal relationship is real, it should occur in all (or at least most) rigorous replications of the experiment.



To allow for easier replication, researchers should describe their experimental methods diligently. Researchers with the Open Science Collaboration (2015) [1] conducted the Reproducibility Project , which caused a significant controversy regarding the validity of psychological studies. The researchers with the project attempted to reproduce the results of 100 experiments published in major psychology journals since 2008. What they found was shocking. Although 97% of the original studies reported significant results, only 36% of the replicated studies had significant findings. The average effect size in the replication studies was half that of the original studies. The implications of the Reproducibility Project are potentially staggering, and encourage social scientists to carefully consider the validity of their reported findings and that the scientific community take steps to ensure researchers do not cherry-pick data or change their hypotheses simply to get published.


Let’s return to Alexander’s Rat Park study and consider the implications of his experiment for substance use professionals.  The conclusions he drew from his experiments on rats were meant to be generalized to the population. If this could be done, the experiment would have a high degree of external validity , which is the degree to which conclusions generalize to larger populations and different situations. Alexander argues his conclusions about addiction and social isolation help us understand why people living in deprived, isolated environments may become addicted to drugs more often than those in more enriching environments. Similarly, earlier rat researchers argued their results showed these drugs were instantly addictive to humans, often to the point of death.

Neither study’s results will match up perfectly with real life. There are clients in social work practice who may fit into Alexander’s social isolation model, but social isolation is complex. Clients can live in environments with other sociable humans, work jobs, and have romantic relationships; does this mean they are not socially isolated? On the other hand, clients may face structural racism, poverty, trauma, and other challenges that may contribute to their social environment. Alexander’s work helps understand clients’ experiences, but the explanation is incomplete. Human existence is more complicated than the experimental conditions in Rat Park.

Effectiveness versus Efficacy

Social workers are especially attentive to how social context shapes social life. This consideration points out a potential weakness of experiments. They can be rather artificial. When an experiment demonstrates causality under ideal, controlled circumstances, it establishes the efficacy of an intervention.

How often do real-world social interactions occur in the same way that they do in a controlled experiment? Experiments that are conducted in community settings by community practitioners are less easily controlled than those conducted in a lab or with researchers who adhere strictly to research protocols delivering the intervention. When an experiment demonstrates causality in a real-world setting that is not tightly controlled, it establishes the effectiveness of the intervention.

The distinction between efficacy and effectiveness demonstrates the tension between internal and external validity. Internal validity and external validity are conceptually linked. Internal validity refers to the degree to which the intervention causes its intended outcomes, and external validity refers to how well that relationship applies to different groups and circumstances than the experiment. However, the more researchers tightly control the environment to ensure internal validity, the more they may risk external validity for generalizing their results to different populations and circumstances. Correspondingly, researchers whose settings are just like the real world will be less able to ensure internal validity, as there are many factors that could pollute the research process. This is not to suggest that experimental research findings cannot have high levels of both internal and external validity, but that experimental researchers must always be aware of this potential weakness and clearly report limitations in their research reports.

Types of Experimental Designs

Experimental design is an umbrella term for a research method that is designed to test hypotheses related to causality under controlled conditions. Table 14.1 describes the three major types of experimental design (pre-experimental, quasi-experimental, and true experimental) and presents subtypes for each. As we will see in the coming sections, some types of experimental design are better at establishing causality than others. It’s also worth considering that true experiments, which most effectively establish causality , are often difficult and expensive to implement. Although the other experimental designs aren’t perfect, they still produce useful, valid evidence and may be more feasible to carry out.

Table 14.1. Types of experimental design and their basic characteristics.
A. One-group pretest posttest A. Pre- and posttests are administered, but no comparison group XXXX
B. One-shot case study B. No pretest What is the average level of loneliness among graduates of a peer support training program? What percent of graduates rate their social support as “good” or “excellent”?
C. Nonequivalent comparison group design C. Similar to classical experimental design only without random assignment XXXX
D. Static-group design D. No pretest, posttest administered after the intervention


E. Natural experiments E. Naturally occurring event becomes “experimental condition”; observational study in which some cases are exposed to condition (which becomes the “experimental condition”) and others are not; changes in “experimental” group can be assessed;  
( ) XXXX
F. Classical experimental design F. Pre- and posttest; control group
G. Posttest only control group G. Does not use a pretest and assumes random assignment results in equivalent groups
H. Solomon four group design H. Random assignment, two experimental and two control groups, pretests for half of the groups and posttests for all

Key Takeaways

  • Experimental designs are useful for establishing causality, but some types of experimental design do this better than others.
  • Experiments help researchers isolate the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable by controlling for the effect of extraneous variables .
  • Experiments use a control/comparison group and an experimental group to test the effects of interventions. These groups should be as similar to each other as possible in terms of demographics and other relevant factors.
  • True experiments have control groups with randomly assigned participants; quasi-experimental types of experiments have comparison groups to which participants are not randomly assigned; pre-experimental designs do not have a comparison group.


  • Think about the research project you’ve been designing so far. How might you use a basic experiment to answer your question? If your question isn’t explanatory, try to formulate a new explanatory question and consider the usefulness of an experiment.
  • Why is establishing a simple relationship between two variables not indicative of one causing the other?


Imagine you are interested in studying child welfare practice. You are interested in learning more about community-based programs aimed to prevent child maltreatment and to prevent out-of-home placement for children.

  • Think about the research project stated above. How might you use a basic experiment to look more into this research topic? Try to formulate an explanatory question and consider the usefulness of an experiment.
  • Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349 (6251), aac4716. Doi: 10.1126/science.aac4716 ↵

an operation or procedure carried out under controlled conditions in order to discover an unknown effect or law, to test or establish a hypothesis, or to illustrate a known law.

treatment, intervention, or experience that is being tested in an experiment (the independent variable) that is received by the experimental group and not by the control group.

Ability to say that one variable "causes" something to happen to another variable. Very important to assess when thinking about studies that examine causation such as experimental or quasi-experimental designs.

circumstances or events that may affect the outcome of an experiment, resulting in changes in the research participants that are not a result of the intervention, treatment, or experimental condition being tested

causal explanations that can be universally applied to groups, such as scientific laws or universal truths

as a criteria for causal relationship, the relationship must make logical sense and seem possible

when the values of two variables change at the same time

as a criteria for causal relationship, the cause must come before the effect

an association between two variables that is NOT caused by a third variable

variables and characteristics that have an effect on your outcome, but aren't the primary variable whose influence you're interested in testing.

the group of participants in our study who do not receive the intervention we are researching in experiments with random assignment

the group of participants in our study who do not receive the intervention we are researching in experiments without random assignment

in experimental design, the group of participants in our study who do receive the intervention we are researching

The ability to apply research findings beyond the study sample to some broader population,

This is a synonymous term for generalizability - the ability to apply the findings of a study beyond the sample to a broader population.

performance of an intervention under ideal and controlled circumstances, such as in a lab or delivered by trained researcher-interventionists

The performance of an intervention under "real-world" conditions that are not closely controlled and ideal

the idea that one event, behavior, or belief will result in the occurrence of another, subsequent event, behavior, or belief

Doctoral Research Methods in Social Work Copyright © by Mavs Open Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Experimental design: Guide, steps, examples

Last updated

27 April 2023

Reviewed by

Miroslav Damyanov

Short on time? Get an AI generated summary of this article instead

Experimental research design is a scientific framework that allows you to manipulate one or more variables while controlling the test environment. 

When testing a theory or new product, it can be helpful to have a certain level of control and manipulate variables to discover different outcomes. You can use these experiments to determine cause and effect or study variable associations. 

This guide explores the types of experimental design, the steps in designing an experiment, and the advantages and limitations of experimental design. 

Make research less tedious

Dovetail streamlines research to help you uncover and share actionable insights

  • What is experimental research design?

You can determine the relationship between each of the variables by: 

Manipulating one or more independent variables (i.e., stimuli or treatments)

Applying the changes to one or more dependent variables (i.e., test groups or outcomes)

With the ability to analyze the relationship between variables and using measurable data, you can increase the accuracy of the result. 

What is a good experimental design?

A good experimental design requires: 

Significant planning to ensure control over the testing environment

Sound experimental treatments

Properly assigning subjects to treatment groups

Without proper planning, unexpected external variables can alter an experiment's outcome. 

To meet your research goals, your experimental design should include these characteristics:

Provide unbiased estimates of inputs and associated uncertainties

Enable the researcher to detect differences caused by independent variables

Include a plan for analysis and reporting of the results

Provide easily interpretable results with specific conclusions

What's the difference between experimental and quasi-experimental design?

The major difference between experimental and quasi-experimental design is the random assignment of subjects to groups. 

A true experiment relies on certain controls. Typically, the researcher designs the treatment and randomly assigns subjects to control and treatment groups. 

However, these conditions are unethical or impossible to achieve in some situations.

When it's unethical or impractical to assign participants randomly, that’s when a quasi-experimental design comes in. 

This design allows researchers to conduct a similar experiment by assigning subjects to groups based on non-random criteria. 

Another type of quasi-experimental design might occur when the researcher doesn't have control over the treatment but studies pre-existing groups after they receive different treatments.

When can a researcher conduct experimental research?

Various settings and professions can use experimental research to gather information and observe behavior in controlled settings. 

Basically, a researcher can conduct experimental research any time they want to test a theory with variable and dependent controls. 

Experimental research is an option when the project includes an independent variable and a desire to understand the relationship between cause and effect. 

  • The importance of experimental research design

Experimental research enables researchers to conduct studies that provide specific, definitive answers to questions and hypotheses. 

Researchers can test Independent variables in controlled settings to:

Test the effectiveness of a new medication

Design better products for consumers

Answer questions about human health and behavior

Developing a quality research plan means a researcher can accurately answer vital research questions with minimal error. As a result, definitive conclusions can influence the future of the independent variable. 

Types of experimental research designs

There are three main types of experimental research design. The research type you use will depend on the criteria of your experiment, your research budget, and environmental limitations. 

Pre-experimental research design

A pre-experimental research study is a basic observational study that monitors independent variables’ effects. 

During research, you observe one or more groups after applying a treatment to test whether the treatment causes any change. 

The three subtypes of pre-experimental research design are:

One-shot case study research design

This research method introduces a single test group to a single stimulus to study the results at the end of the application. 

After researchers presume the stimulus or treatment has caused changes, they gather results to determine how it affects the test subjects. 

One-group pretest-posttest design

This method uses a single test group but includes a pretest study as a benchmark. The researcher applies a test before and after the group’s exposure to a specific stimulus. 

Static group comparison design

This method includes two or more groups, enabling the researcher to use one group as a control. They apply a stimulus to one group and leave the other group static. 

A posttest study compares the results among groups. 

True experimental research design

A true experiment is the most common research method. It involves statistical analysis to prove or disprove a specific hypothesis . 

Under completely experimental conditions, researchers expose participants in two or more randomized groups to different stimuli. 

Random selection removes any potential for bias, providing more reliable results. 

These are the three main sub-groups of true experimental research design:

Posttest-only control group design

This structure requires the researcher to divide participants into two random groups. One group receives no stimuli and acts as a control while the other group experiences stimuli.

Researchers perform a test at the end of the experiment to observe the stimuli exposure results.

Pretest-posttest control group design

This test also requires two groups. It includes a pretest as a benchmark before introducing the stimulus. 

The pretest introduces multiple ways to test subjects. For instance, if the control group also experiences a change, it reveals that taking the test twice changes the results.

Solomon four-group design

This structure divides subjects into two groups, with two as control groups. Researchers assign the first control group a posttest only and the second control group a pretest and a posttest. 

The two variable groups mirror the control groups, but researchers expose them to stimuli. The ability to differentiate between groups in multiple ways provides researchers with more testing approaches for data-based conclusions. 

Quasi-experimental research design

Although closely related to a true experiment, quasi-experimental research design differs in approach and scope. 

Quasi-experimental research design doesn’t have randomly selected participants. Researchers typically divide the groups in this research by pre-existing differences. 

Quasi-experimental research is more common in educational studies, nursing, or other research projects where it's not ethical or practical to use randomized subject groups.

  • 5 steps for designing an experiment

Experimental research requires a clearly defined plan to outline the research parameters and expected goals. 

Here are five key steps in designing a successful experiment:

Step 1: Define variables and their relationship

Your experiment should begin with a question: What are you hoping to learn through your experiment? 

The relationship between variables in your study will determine your answer.

Define the independent variable (the intended stimuli) and the dependent variable (the expected effect of the stimuli). After identifying these groups, consider how you might control them in your experiment. 

Could natural variations affect your research? If so, your experiment should include a pretest and posttest. 

Step 2: Develop a specific, testable hypothesis

With a firm understanding of the system you intend to study, you can write a specific, testable hypothesis. 

What is the expected outcome of your study? 

Develop a prediction about how the independent variable will affect the dependent variable. 

How will the stimuli in your experiment affect your test subjects? 

Your hypothesis should provide a prediction of the answer to your research question . 

Step 3: Design experimental treatments to manipulate your independent variable

Depending on your experiment, your variable may be a fixed stimulus (like a medical treatment) or a variable stimulus (like a period during which an activity occurs). 

Determine which type of stimulus meets your experiment’s needs and how widely or finely to vary your stimuli. 

Step 4: Assign subjects to groups

When you have a clear idea of how to carry out your experiment, you can determine how to assemble test groups for an accurate study. 

When choosing your study groups, consider: 

The size of your experiment

Whether you can select groups randomly

Your target audience for the outcome of the study

You should be able to create groups with an equal number of subjects and include subjects that match your target audience. Remember, you should assign one group as a control and use one or more groups to study the effects of variables. 

Step 5: Plan how to measure your dependent variable

This step determines how you'll collect data to determine the study's outcome. You should seek reliable and valid measurements that minimize research bias or error. 

You can measure some data with scientific tools, while you’ll need to operationalize other forms to turn them into measurable observations.

  • Advantages of experimental research

Experimental research is an integral part of our world. It allows researchers to conduct experiments that answer specific questions. 

While researchers use many methods to conduct different experiments, experimental research offers these distinct benefits:

Researchers can determine cause and effect by manipulating variables.

It gives researchers a high level of control.

Researchers can test multiple variables within a single experiment.

All industries and fields of knowledge can use it. 

Researchers can duplicate results to promote the validity of the study .

Replicating natural settings rapidly means immediate research.

Researchers can combine it with other research methods.

It provides specific conclusions about the validity of a product, theory, or idea.

  • Disadvantages (or limitations) of experimental research

Unfortunately, no research type yields ideal conditions or perfect results. 

While experimental research might be the right choice for some studies, certain conditions could render experiments useless or even dangerous. 

Before conducting experimental research, consider these disadvantages and limitations:

Required professional qualification

Only competent professionals with an academic degree and specific training are qualified to conduct rigorous experimental research. This ensures results are unbiased and valid. 

Limited scope

Experimental research may not capture the complexity of some phenomena, such as social interactions or cultural norms. These are difficult to control in a laboratory setting.


Experimental research can be expensive, time-consuming, and require significant resources, such as specialized equipment or trained personnel.

Limited generalizability

The controlled nature means the research findings may not fully apply to real-world situations or people outside the experimental setting.

Practical or ethical concerns

Some experiments may involve manipulating variables that could harm participants or violate ethical guidelines . 

Researchers must ensure their experiments do not cause harm or discomfort to participants. 

Sometimes, recruiting a sample of people to randomly assign may be difficult. 

  • Experimental research design example

Experiments across all industries and research realms provide scientists, developers, and other researchers with definitive answers. These experiments can solve problems, create inventions, and heal illnesses. 

Product design testing is an excellent example of experimental research. 

A company in the product development phase creates multiple prototypes for testing. With a randomized selection, researchers introduce each test group to a different prototype. 

When groups experience different product designs , the company can assess which option most appeals to potential customers. 

Experimental research design provides researchers with a controlled environment to conduct experiments that evaluate cause and effect. 

Using the five steps to develop a research plan ensures you anticipate and eliminate external variables while answering life’s crucial questions.

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An introduction to different types of study design

Posted on 6th April 2021 by Hadi Abbas


Study designs are the set of methods and procedures used to collect and analyze data in a study.

Broadly speaking, there are 2 types of study designs: descriptive studies and analytical studies.

Descriptive studies

  • Describes specific characteristics in a population of interest
  • The most common forms are case reports and case series
  • In a case report, we discuss our experience with the patient’s symptoms, signs, diagnosis, and treatment
  • In a case series, several patients with similar experiences are grouped.

Analytical Studies

Analytical studies are of 2 types: observational and experimental.

Observational studies are studies that we conduct without any intervention or experiment. In those studies, we purely observe the outcomes.  On the other hand, in experimental studies, we conduct experiments and interventions.

Observational studies

Observational studies include many subtypes. Below, I will discuss the most common designs.

Cross-sectional study:

  • This design is transverse where we take a specific sample at a specific time without any follow-up
  • It allows us to calculate the frequency of disease ( p revalence ) or the frequency of a risk factor
  • This design is easy to conduct
  • For example – if we want to know the prevalence of migraine in a population, we can conduct a cross-sectional study whereby we take a sample from the population and calculate the number of patients with migraine headaches.

Cohort study:

  • We conduct this study by comparing two samples from the population: one sample with a risk factor while the other lacks this risk factor
  • It shows us the risk of developing the disease in individuals with the risk factor compared to those without the risk factor ( RR = relative risk )
  • Prospective : we follow the individuals in the future to know who will develop the disease
  • Retrospective : we look to the past to know who developed the disease (e.g. using medical records)
  • This design is the strongest among the observational studies
  • For example – to find out the relative risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among smokers, we take a sample including smokers and non-smokers. Then, we calculate the number of individuals with COPD among both.

Case-Control Study:

  • We conduct this study by comparing 2 groups: one group with the disease (cases) and another group without the disease (controls)
  • This design is always retrospective
  •  We aim to find out the odds of having a risk factor or an exposure if an individual has a specific disease (Odds ratio)
  •  Relatively easy to conduct
  • For example – we want to study the odds of being a smoker among hypertensive patients compared to normotensive ones. To do so, we choose a group of patients diagnosed with hypertension and another group that serves as the control (normal blood pressure). Then we study their smoking history to find out if there is a correlation.

Experimental Studies

  • Also known as interventional studies
  • Can involve animals and humans
  • Pre-clinical trials involve animals
  • Clinical trials are experimental studies involving humans
  • In clinical trials, we study the effect of an intervention compared to another intervention or placebo. As an example, I have listed the four phases of a drug trial:

I:  We aim to assess the safety of the drug ( is it safe ? )

II: We aim to assess the efficacy of the drug ( does it work ? )

III: We want to know if this drug is better than the old treatment ( is it better ? )

IV: We follow-up to detect long-term side effects ( can it stay in the market ? )

  • In randomized controlled trials, one group of participants receives the control, while the other receives the tested drug/intervention. Those studies are the best way to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment.

Finally, the figure below will help you with your understanding of different types of study designs.

A visual diagram describing the following. Two types of epidemiological studies are descriptive and analytical. Types of descriptive studies are case reports, case series, descriptive surveys. Types of analytical studies are observational or experimental. Observational studies can be cross-sectional, case-control or cohort studies. Types of experimental studies can be lab trials or field trials.

References (pdf)

You may also be interested in the following blogs for further reading:

An introduction to randomized controlled trials

Case-control and cohort studies: a brief overview

Cohort studies: prospective and retrospective designs

Prevalence vs Incidence: what is the difference?

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you are amazing one!! if I get you I’m working with you! I’m student from Ethiopian higher education. health sciences student

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Very informative and easy understandable

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You are my kind of doctor. Do not lose sight of your objective.

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Wow very erll explained and easy to understand

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I’m Khamisu Habibu community health officer student from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa university teaching hospital Bauchi, Nigeria, I really appreciate your write up and you have make it clear for the learner. thank you

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well understood,thank you so much

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Well understood…thanks

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Simply explained. Thank You.

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Thanks a lot for this nice informative article which help me to understand different study designs that I felt difficult before

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That’s lovely to hear, Mona, thank you for letting the author know how useful this was. If there are any other particular topics you think would be useful to you, and are not already on the website, please do let us know.

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it is very informative and useful.

thank you statistician

Fabulous to hear, thank you John.

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Thanks for this information

Thanks so much for this information….I have clearly known the types of study design Thanks

That’s so good to hear, Mirembe, thank you for letting the author know.

' src=

Very helpful article!! U have simplified everything for easy understanding

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I’m a health science major currently taking statistics for health care workers…this is a challenging class…thanks for the simified feedback.

That’s good to hear this has helped you. Hopefully you will find some of the other blogs useful too. If you see any topics that are missing from the website, please do let us know!

' src=

Hello. I liked your presentation, the fact that you ranked them clearly is very helpful to understand for people like me who is a novelist researcher. However, I was expecting to read much more about the Experimental studies. So please direct me if you already have or will one day. Thank you

Dear Ay. My sincere apologies for not responding to your comment sooner. You may find it useful to filter the blogs by the topic of ‘Study design and research methods’ – here is a link to that filter: https://s4be.cochrane.org/blog/topic/study-design/ This will cover more detail about experimental studies. Or have a look on our library page for further resources there – you’ll find that on the ‘Resources’ drop down from the home page.

However, if there are specific things you feel you would like to learn about experimental studies, that are missing from the website, it would be great if you could let me know too. Thank you, and best of luck. Emma

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Great job Mr Hadi. I advise you to prepare and study for the Australian Medical Board Exams as soon as you finish your undergrad study in Lebanon. Good luck and hope we can meet sometime in the future. Regards ;)

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You have give a good explaination of what am looking for. However, references am not sure of where to get them from.

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Home » Research Design – Types, Methods and Examples

Research Design – Types, Methods and Examples

Table of Contents

Research Design

Research Design


Research design refers to the overall strategy or plan for conducting a research study. It outlines the methods and procedures that will be used to collect and analyze data, as well as the goals and objectives of the study. Research design is important because it guides the entire research process and ensures that the study is conducted in a systematic and rigorous manner.

Types of Research Design

Types of Research Design are as follows:

Descriptive Research Design

This type of research design is used to describe a phenomenon or situation. It involves collecting data through surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and observations. The aim of descriptive research is to provide an accurate and detailed portrayal of a particular group, event, or situation. It can be useful in identifying patterns, trends, and relationships in the data.

Correlational Research Design

Correlational research design is used to determine if there is a relationship between two or more variables. This type of research design involves collecting data from participants and analyzing the relationship between the variables using statistical methods. The aim of correlational research is to identify the strength and direction of the relationship between the variables.

Experimental Research Design

Experimental research design is used to investigate cause-and-effect relationships between variables. This type of research design involves manipulating one variable and measuring the effect on another variable. It usually involves randomly assigning participants to groups and manipulating an independent variable to determine its effect on a dependent variable. The aim of experimental research is to establish causality.

Quasi-experimental Research Design

Quasi-experimental research design is similar to experimental research design, but it lacks one or more of the features of a true experiment. For example, there may not be random assignment to groups or a control group. This type of research design is used when it is not feasible or ethical to conduct a true experiment.

Case Study Research Design

Case study research design is used to investigate a single case or a small number of cases in depth. It involves collecting data through various methods, such as interviews, observations, and document analysis. The aim of case study research is to provide an in-depth understanding of a particular case or situation.

Longitudinal Research Design

Longitudinal research design is used to study changes in a particular phenomenon over time. It involves collecting data at multiple time points and analyzing the changes that occur. The aim of longitudinal research is to provide insights into the development, growth, or decline of a particular phenomenon over time.

Structure of Research Design

The format of a research design typically includes the following sections:

  • Introduction : This section provides an overview of the research problem, the research questions, and the importance of the study. It also includes a brief literature review that summarizes previous research on the topic and identifies gaps in the existing knowledge.
  • Research Questions or Hypotheses: This section identifies the specific research questions or hypotheses that the study will address. These questions should be clear, specific, and testable.
  • Research Methods : This section describes the methods that will be used to collect and analyze data. It includes details about the study design, the sampling strategy, the data collection instruments, and the data analysis techniques.
  • Data Collection: This section describes how the data will be collected, including the sample size, data collection procedures, and any ethical considerations.
  • Data Analysis: This section describes how the data will be analyzed, including the statistical techniques that will be used to test the research questions or hypotheses.
  • Results : This section presents the findings of the study, including descriptive statistics and statistical tests.
  • Discussion and Conclusion : This section summarizes the key findings of the study, interprets the results, and discusses the implications of the findings. It also includes recommendations for future research.
  • References : This section lists the sources cited in the research design.

Example of Research Design

An Example of Research Design could be:

Research question: Does the use of social media affect the academic performance of high school students?

Research design:

  • Research approach : The research approach will be quantitative as it involves collecting numerical data to test the hypothesis.
  • Research design : The research design will be a quasi-experimental design, with a pretest-posttest control group design.
  • Sample : The sample will be 200 high school students from two schools, with 100 students in the experimental group and 100 students in the control group.
  • Data collection : The data will be collected through surveys administered to the students at the beginning and end of the academic year. The surveys will include questions about their social media usage and academic performance.
  • Data analysis : The data collected will be analyzed using statistical software. The mean scores of the experimental and control groups will be compared to determine whether there is a significant difference in academic performance between the two groups.
  • Limitations : The limitations of the study will be acknowledged, including the fact that social media usage can vary greatly among individuals, and the study only focuses on two schools, which may not be representative of the entire population.
  • Ethical considerations: Ethical considerations will be taken into account, such as obtaining informed consent from the participants and ensuring their anonymity and confidentiality.

How to Write Research Design

Writing a research design involves planning and outlining the methodology and approach that will be used to answer a research question or hypothesis. Here are some steps to help you write a research design:

  • Define the research question or hypothesis : Before beginning your research design, you should clearly define your research question or hypothesis. This will guide your research design and help you select appropriate methods.
  • Select a research design: There are many different research designs to choose from, including experimental, survey, case study, and qualitative designs. Choose a design that best fits your research question and objectives.
  • Develop a sampling plan : If your research involves collecting data from a sample, you will need to develop a sampling plan. This should outline how you will select participants and how many participants you will include.
  • Define variables: Clearly define the variables you will be measuring or manipulating in your study. This will help ensure that your results are meaningful and relevant to your research question.
  • Choose data collection methods : Decide on the data collection methods you will use to gather information. This may include surveys, interviews, observations, experiments, or secondary data sources.
  • Create a data analysis plan: Develop a plan for analyzing your data, including the statistical or qualitative techniques you will use.
  • Consider ethical concerns : Finally, be sure to consider any ethical concerns related to your research, such as participant confidentiality or potential harm.

When to Write Research Design

Research design should be written before conducting any research study. It is an important planning phase that outlines the research methodology, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques that will be used to investigate a research question or problem. The research design helps to ensure that the research is conducted in a systematic and logical manner, and that the data collected is relevant and reliable.

Ideally, the research design should be developed as early as possible in the research process, before any data is collected. This allows the researcher to carefully consider the research question, identify the most appropriate research methodology, and plan the data collection and analysis procedures in advance. By doing so, the research can be conducted in a more efficient and effective manner, and the results are more likely to be valid and reliable.

Purpose of Research Design

The purpose of research design is to plan and structure a research study in a way that enables the researcher to achieve the desired research goals with accuracy, validity, and reliability. Research design is the blueprint or the framework for conducting a study that outlines the methods, procedures, techniques, and tools for data collection and analysis.

Some of the key purposes of research design include:

  • Providing a clear and concise plan of action for the research study.
  • Ensuring that the research is conducted ethically and with rigor.
  • Maximizing the accuracy and reliability of the research findings.
  • Minimizing the possibility of errors, biases, or confounding variables.
  • Ensuring that the research is feasible, practical, and cost-effective.
  • Determining the appropriate research methodology to answer the research question(s).
  • Identifying the sample size, sampling method, and data collection techniques.
  • Determining the data analysis method and statistical tests to be used.
  • Facilitating the replication of the study by other researchers.
  • Enhancing the validity and generalizability of the research findings.

Applications of Research Design

There are numerous applications of research design in various fields, some of which are:

  • Social sciences: In fields such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology, research design is used to investigate human behavior and social phenomena. Researchers use various research designs, such as experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational designs, to study different aspects of social behavior.
  • Education : Research design is essential in the field of education to investigate the effectiveness of different teaching methods and learning strategies. Researchers use various designs such as experimental, quasi-experimental, and case study designs to understand how students learn and how to improve teaching practices.
  • Health sciences : In the health sciences, research design is used to investigate the causes, prevention, and treatment of diseases. Researchers use various designs, such as randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, and case-control studies, to study different aspects of health and healthcare.
  • Business : Research design is used in the field of business to investigate consumer behavior, marketing strategies, and the impact of different business practices. Researchers use various designs, such as survey research, experimental research, and case studies, to study different aspects of the business world.
  • Engineering : In the field of engineering, research design is used to investigate the development and implementation of new technologies. Researchers use various designs, such as experimental research and case studies, to study the effectiveness of new technologies and to identify areas for improvement.

Advantages of Research Design

Here are some advantages of research design:

  • Systematic and organized approach : A well-designed research plan ensures that the research is conducted in a systematic and organized manner, which makes it easier to manage and analyze the data.
  • Clear objectives: The research design helps to clarify the objectives of the study, which makes it easier to identify the variables that need to be measured, and the methods that need to be used to collect and analyze data.
  • Minimizes bias: A well-designed research plan minimizes the chances of bias, by ensuring that the data is collected and analyzed objectively, and that the results are not influenced by the researcher’s personal biases or preferences.
  • Efficient use of resources: A well-designed research plan helps to ensure that the resources (time, money, and personnel) are used efficiently and effectively, by focusing on the most important variables and methods.
  • Replicability: A well-designed research plan makes it easier for other researchers to replicate the study, which enhances the credibility and reliability of the findings.
  • Validity: A well-designed research plan helps to ensure that the findings are valid, by ensuring that the methods used to collect and analyze data are appropriate for the research question.
  • Generalizability : A well-designed research plan helps to ensure that the findings can be generalized to other populations, settings, or situations, which increases the external validity of the study.

Research Design Vs Research Methodology

Research DesignResearch Methodology
The plan and structure for conducting research that outlines the procedures to be followed to collect and analyze data.The set of principles, techniques, and tools used to carry out the research plan and achieve research objectives.
Describes the overall approach and strategy used to conduct research, including the type of data to be collected, the sources of data, and the methods for collecting and analyzing data.Refers to the techniques and methods used to gather, analyze and interpret data, including sampling techniques, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques.
Helps to ensure that the research is conducted in a systematic, rigorous, and valid way, so that the results are reliable and can be used to make sound conclusions.Includes a set of procedures and tools that enable researchers to collect and analyze data in a consistent and valid manner, regardless of the research design used.
Common research designs include experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, and descriptive studies.Common research methodologies include qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches.
Determines the overall structure of the research project and sets the stage for the selection of appropriate research methodologies.Guides the researcher in selecting the most appropriate research methods based on the research question, research design, and other contextual factors.
Helps to ensure that the research project is feasible, relevant, and ethical.Helps to ensure that the data collected is accurate, valid, and reliable, and that the research findings can be interpreted and generalized to the population of interest.

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The 3 Types Of Experimental Design

The 3 Types Of Experimental Design

Dave Cornell (PhD)

Dr. Cornell has worked in education for more than 20 years. His work has involved designing teacher certification for Trinity College in London and in-service training for state governments in the United States. He has trained kindergarten teachers in 8 countries and helped businessmen and women open baby centers and kindergartens in 3 countries.

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The 3 Types Of Experimental Design

Chris Drew (PhD)

This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

different types of research experimental design

Experimental design refers to a research methodology that allows researchers to test a hypothesis regarding the effects of an independent variable on a dependent variable.

There are three types of experimental design: pre-experimental design, quasi-experimental design, and true experimental design.

Experimental Design in a Nutshell

A typical and simple experiment will look like the following:

  • The experiment consists of two groups: treatment and control.
  • Participants are randomly assigned to be in one of the groups (‘conditions’).
  • The treatment group participants are administered the independent variable (e.g. given a medication).
  • The control group is not given the treatment.
  • The researchers then measure a dependent variable (e.g improvement in health between the groups).

If the independent variable affects the dependent variable, then there should be noticeable differences on the dependent variable between the treatment and control conditions.

The experiment is a type of research methodology that involves the manipulation of at least one independent variable and the measurement of at least one dependent variable.

If the independent variable affects the dependent variable, then the researchers can use the term “causality.”

Types of Experimental Design

1. pre-experimental design.

A researcher may use pre-experimental design if they want to test the effects of the independent variable on a single participant or a small group of participants.

The purpose is exploratory in nature , to see if the independent variable has any effect at all.

The pre-experiment is the simplest form of an experiment that does not contain a control condition.

However, because there is no control condition for comparison, the researcher cannot conclude that the independent variable causes change in the dependent variable.

Examples include:

  • Action Research in the Classroom: Action research in education involves a teacher conducting small-scale research in their classroom designed to address problems they and their students currently face.
  • Case Study Research : Case studies are small-scale, often in-depth, studies that are notusually generalizable.
  • A Pilot Study: Pilot studies are small-scale studies that take place before the main experiment to test the feasibility of the project.
  • Ethnography: An ethnographic research study will involve thick research of a small cohort to generate descriptive rather than predictive results.

2. Quasi-Experimental Design

The quasi-experiment is a methodology to test the effects of an independent variable on a dependent variable. However, the participants are not randomly assigned to treatment or control conditions. Instead, the participants already exist in representative sample groups or categories, such as male/female or high/low SES class.

Because the participants cannot be randomly assigned to male/female or high/low SES, there are limitations on the use of the term “causality.”

Researchers must refrain from inferring that the independent variable caused changes in the dependent variable because the participants existed in already formed categories before the study began.

  • Homogenous Representative Sampling: When the research participant group is homogenous (i.e. not diverse) then the generalizability of the study is diminished.
  • Non-Probability Sampling: When researchers select participants through subjective means such as non-probability sampling, they are engaging in quasi-experimental design and cannot assign causality.
See more Examples of Quasi-Experimental Design

3. True Experimental Design

A true experiment involves a design in which participants are randomly assigned to conditions, there exists at least two conditions (treatment and control) and the researcher manipulates the level of the independent variable (independent variable).

When these three criteria are met, then the observed changes in the dependent variable (dependent variable) are most likely caused by the different levels of the independent variable.

The true experiment is the only research design that allows the inference of causality .

Of course, no study is perfect, so researchers must also take into account any threats to internal validity that may exist such as confounding variables or experimenter bias.

  • Heterogenous Sample Groups: True experiments often contain heterogenous groups that represent a wide population.
  • Clinical Trials: Clinical trials such as those required for approval of new medications are required to be true experiments that can assign causality.
See More Examples of Experimental Design

Experimental Design vs Observational Design

Experimental design is often contrasted to observational design. Defined succinctly, an experimental design is a method in which the researcher manipulates one or more variables to determine their effects on another variable, while observational design involves the observation and analysis of a subject without influencing their behavior or conditions.

Observational design primarily involves data collection without direct involvement from the researcher. Here, the variables aren’t manipulated as they would be in an experimental design.

An example of an observational study might be research examining the correlation between exercise frequency and academic performance using data from students’ gym and classroom records.

The key difference between these two designs is the degree of control exerted in the experiment . In experimental studies, the investigator controls conditions and their manipulation, while observational studies only allow the observation of conditions as independently determined (Althubaiti, 2016).

Observational designs cannot infer causality as well as experimental designs; but they are highly effective at generating descriptive statistics.

Observational DesignExperimental Design
A research approach where the investigator observes without intervening, often in natural settings.A research approach where the investigator manipulates one variable and observes the effect on another variable.
The researcher does not control or manipulate variables, but only observes them as they naturally occur.The researcher has complete control over the variables being studied, including the manipulation of the independent variable.
There is no intervention or manipulation by the researcher.The researcher intentionally introduces an intervention or treatment.
To identify patterns and relationships in naturally occurring data.To determine cause-and-effect relationships between variables.
Observing behaviors in their natural environments, conducting surveys, etc.Conducting a clinical trial to determine the efficacy of a new drug, using a control and treatment group, etc.
Useful when manipulation is unethical or impractical; Can provide rich, real-world data.Can establish causality; Can be controlled for confounding factors.
Cannot establish causality; Potential for confounding variables.May lack ecological validity (real-world application); Can be costly and time-consuming.
Typically collected , but can also be quantitative.Typically collected , but can also be qualitative.

For more, read: Observational vs Experimental Studies

Generally speaking, there are three broad categories of experiments. Each one serves a specific purpose and has associated limitations . The pre-experiment is an exploratory study to gather preliminary data on the effectiveness of a treatment and determine if a larger study is warranted.

The quasi-experiment is used when studying preexisting groups, such as people living in various cities or falling into various demographic categories. Although very informative, the results are limited by the presence of possible extraneous variables that cannot be controlled.

The true experiment is the most scientifically rigorous type of study. The researcher can manipulate the level of the independent variable and observe changes, if any, on the dependent variable. The key to the experiment is randomly assigning participants to conditions. Random assignment eliminates a lot of confounds and extraneous variables, and allows the researchers to use the term “causality.”

For More, See: Examples of Random Assignment

Baumrind, D. (1991). Parenting styles and adolescent development. In R. M. Lerner, A. C. Peterson, & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Adolescence (pp. 746–758). New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (1979). Quasi-experimentation: Design & analysis issues in field settings . Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Loftus, E. F., & Palmer, J. C. (1974). Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 13 (5), 585–589.

Matthew L. Maciejewski (2020) Quasi-experimental design. Biostatistics & Epidemiology, 4 (1), 38-47. https://doi.org/10.1080/24709360.2018.1477468

Thyer, Bruce. (2012). Quasi-Experimental Research Designs . Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195387384.001.0001


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Study/Experimental/Research Design: Much More Than Statistics

Kenneth l. knight.

Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

The purpose of study, experimental, or research design in scientific manuscripts has changed significantly over the years. It has evolved from an explanation of the design of the experiment (ie, data gathering or acquisition) to an explanation of the statistical analysis. This practice makes “Methods” sections hard to read and understand.

To clarify the difference between study design and statistical analysis, to show the advantages of a properly written study design on article comprehension, and to encourage authors to correctly describe study designs.


The role of study design is explored from the introduction of the concept by Fisher through modern-day scientists and the AMA Manual of Style . At one time, when experiments were simpler, the study design and statistical design were identical or very similar. With the complex research that is common today, which often includes manipulating variables to create new variables and the multiple (and different) analyses of a single data set, data collection is very different than statistical design. Thus, both a study design and a statistical design are necessary.


Scientific manuscripts will be much easier to read and comprehend. A proper experimental design serves as a road map to the study methods, helping readers to understand more clearly how the data were obtained and, therefore, assisting them in properly analyzing the results.

Study, experimental, or research design is the backbone of good research. It directs the experiment by orchestrating data collection, defines the statistical analysis of the resultant data, and guides the interpretation of the results. When properly described in the written report of the experiment, it serves as a road map to readers, 1 helping them negotiate the “Methods” section, and, thus, it improves the clarity of communication between authors and readers.

A growing trend is to equate study design with only the statistical analysis of the data. The design statement typically is placed at the end of the “Methods” section as a subsection called “Experimental Design” or as part of a subsection called “Data Analysis.” This placement, however, equates experimental design and statistical analysis, minimizing the effect of experimental design on the planning and reporting of an experiment. This linkage is inappropriate, because some of the elements of the study design that should be described at the beginning of the “Methods” section are instead placed in the “Statistical Analysis” section or, worse, are absent from the manuscript entirely.

Have you ever interrupted your reading of the “Methods” to sketch out the variables in the margins of the paper as you attempt to understand how they all fit together? Or have you jumped back and forth from the early paragraphs of the “Methods” section to the “Statistics” section to try to understand which variables were collected and when? These efforts would be unnecessary if a road map at the beginning of the “Methods” section outlined how the independent variables were related, which dependent variables were measured, and when they were measured. When they were measured is especially important if the variables used in the statistical analysis were a subset of the measured variables or were computed from measured variables (such as change scores).

The purpose of this Communications article is to clarify the purpose and placement of study design elements in an experimental manuscript. Adopting these ideas may improve your science and surely will enhance the communication of that science. These ideas will make experimental manuscripts easier to read and understand and, therefore, will allow them to become part of readers' clinical decision making.


The terms study design, experimental design, and research design are often thought to be synonymous and are sometimes used interchangeably in a single paper. Avoid doing so. Use the term that is preferred by the style manual of the journal for which you are writing. Study design is the preferred term in the AMA Manual of Style , 2 so I will use it here.

A study design is the architecture of an experimental study 3 and a description of how the study was conducted, 4 including all elements of how the data were obtained. 5 The study design should be the first subsection of the “Methods” section in an experimental manuscript (see the Table ). “Statistical Design” or, preferably, “Statistical Analysis” or “Data Analysis” should be the last subsection of the “Methods” section.

Table. Elements of a “Methods” Section

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The “Study Design” subsection describes how the variables and participants interacted. It begins with a general statement of how the study was conducted (eg, crossover trials, parallel, or observational study). 2 The second element, which usually begins with the second sentence, details the number of independent variables or factors, the levels of each variable, and their names. A shorthand way of doing so is with a statement such as “A 2 × 4 × 8 factorial guided data collection.” This tells us that there were 3 independent variables (factors), with 2 levels of the first factor, 4 levels of the second factor, and 8 levels of the third factor. Following is a sentence that names the levels of each factor: for example, “The independent variables were sex (male or female), training program (eg, walking, running, weight lifting, or plyometrics), and time (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 15, 20, or 30 weeks).” Such an approach clearly outlines for readers how the various procedures fit into the overall structure and, therefore, enhances their understanding of how the data were collected. Thus, the design statement is a road map of the methods.

The dependent (or measurement or outcome) variables are then named. Details of how they were measured are not given at this point in the manuscript but are explained later in the “Instruments” and “Procedures” subsections.

Next is a paragraph detailing who the participants were and how they were selected, placed into groups, and assigned to a particular treatment order, if the experiment was a repeated-measures design. And although not a part of the design per se, a statement about obtaining written informed consent from participants and institutional review board approval is usually included in this subsection.

The nuts and bolts of the “Methods” section follow, including such things as equipment, materials, protocols, etc. These are beyond the scope of this commentary, however, and so will not be discussed.

The last part of the “Methods” section and last part of the “Study Design” section is the “Data Analysis” subsection. It begins with an explanation of any data manipulation, such as how data were combined or how new variables (eg, ratios or differences between collected variables) were calculated. Next, readers are told of the statistical measures used to analyze the data, such as a mixed 2 × 4 × 8 analysis of variance (ANOVA) with 2 between-groups factors (sex and training program) and 1 within-groups factor (time of measurement). Researchers should state and reference the statistical package and procedure(s) within the package used to compute the statistics. (Various statistical packages perform analyses slightly differently, so it is important to know the package and specific procedure used.) This detail allows readers to judge the appropriateness of the statistical measures and the conclusions drawn from the data.


Avoid using the term statistical design . Statistical methods are only part of the overall design. The term gives too much emphasis to the statistics, which are important, but only one of many tools used in interpreting data and only part of the study design:

The most important issues in biostatistics are not expressed with statistical procedures. The issues are inherently scientific, rather than purely statistical, and relate to the architectural design of the research, not the numbers with which the data are cited and interpreted. 6

Stated another way, “The justification for the analysis lies not in the data collected but in the manner in which the data were collected.” 3 “Without the solid foundation of a good design, the edifice of statistical analysis is unsafe.” 7 (pp4–5)

The intertwining of study design and statistical analysis may have been caused (unintentionally) by R.A. Fisher, “… a genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science.” 8 Most research did not involve statistics until Fisher invented the concepts and procedures of ANOVA (in 1921) 9 , 10 and experimental design (in 1935). 11 His books became standard references for scientists in many disciplines. As a result, many ANOVA books were titled Experimental Design (see, for example, Edwards 12 ), and ANOVA courses taught in psychology and education departments included the words experimental design in their course titles.

Before the widespread use of computers to analyze data, designs were much simpler, and often there was little difference between study design and statistical analysis. So combining the 2 elements did not cause serious problems. This is no longer true, however, for 3 reasons: (1) Research studies are becoming more complex, with multiple independent and dependent variables. The procedures sections of these complex studies can be difficult to understand if your only reference point is the statistical analysis and design. (2) Dependent variables are frequently measured at different times. (3) How the data were collected is often not directly correlated with the statistical design.

For example, assume the goal is to determine the strength gain in novice and experienced athletes as a result of 3 strength training programs. Rate of change in strength is not a measurable variable; rather, it is calculated from strength measurements taken at various time intervals during the training. So the study design would be a 2 × 2 × 3 factorial with independent variables of time (pretest or posttest), experience (novice or advanced), and training (isokinetic, isotonic, or isometric) and a dependent variable of strength. The statistical design , however, would be a 2 × 3 factorial with independent variables of experience (novice or advanced) and training (isokinetic, isotonic, or isometric) and a dependent variable of strength gain. Note that data were collected according to a 3-factor design but were analyzed according to a 2-factor design and that the dependent variables were different. So a single design statement, usually a statistical design statement, would not communicate which data were collected or how. Readers would be left to figure out on their own how the data were collected.


With the advent of electronic data gathering and computerized data handling and analysis, research projects have increased in complexity. Many projects involve multiple dependent variables measured at different times, and, therefore, multiple design statements may be needed for both data collection and statistical analysis. Consider, for example, a study of the effects of heat and cold on neural inhibition. The variables of H max and M max are measured 3 times each: before, immediately after, and 30 minutes after a 20-minute treatment with heat or cold. Muscle temperature might be measured each minute before, during, and after the treatment. Although the minute-by-minute data are important for graphing temperature fluctuations during the procedure, only 3 temperatures (time 0, time 20, and time 50) are used for statistical analysis. A single dependent variable H max :M max ratio is computed to illustrate neural inhibition. Again, a single statistical design statement would tell little about how the data were obtained. And in this example, separate design statements would be needed for temperature measurement and H max :M max measurements.

As stated earlier, drawing conclusions from the data depends more on how the data were measured than on how they were analyzed. 3 , 6 , 7 , 13 So a single study design statement (or multiple such statements) at the beginning of the “Methods” section acts as a road map to the study and, thus, increases scientists' and readers' comprehension of how the experiment was conducted (ie, how the data were collected). Appropriate study design statements also increase the accuracy of conclusions drawn from the study.


The goal of scientific writing, or any writing, for that matter, is to communicate information. Including 2 design statements or subsections in scientific papers—one to explain how the data were collected and another to explain how they were statistically analyzed—will improve the clarity of communication and bring praise from readers. To summarize:

  • Purge from your thoughts and vocabulary the idea that experimental design and statistical design are synonymous.
  • Study or experimental design plays a much broader role than simply defining and directing the statistical analysis of an experiment.
  • A properly written study design serves as a road map to the “Methods” section of an experiment and, therefore, improves communication with the reader.
  • Study design should include a description of the type of design used, each factor (and each level) involved in the experiment, and the time at which each measurement was made.
  • Clarify when the variables involved in data collection and data analysis are different, such as when data analysis involves only a subset of a collected variable or a resultant variable from the mathematical manipulation of 2 or more collected variables.


Thanks to Thomas A. Cappaert, PhD, ATC, CSCS, CSE, for suggesting the link between R.A. Fisher and the melding of the concepts of research design and statistics.

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Types of Research Designs

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Is it Peer-Reviewed?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism [linked guide]
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper


Before beginning your paper, you need to decide how you plan to design the study .

The research design refers to the overall strategy that you choose to integrate the different components of the study in a coherent and logical way, thereby, ensuring you will effectively address the research problem; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data. Note that your research problem determines the type of design you should use, not the other way around!

De Vaus, D. A. Research Design in Social Research . London: SAGE, 2001; Trochim, William M.K. Research Methods Knowledge Base . 2006.

General Structure and Writing Style

The function of a research design is to ensure that the evidence obtained enables you to effectively address the research problem logically and as unambiguously as possible . In social sciences research, obtaining information relevant to the research problem generally entails specifying the type of evidence needed to test a theory, to evaluate a program, or to accurately describe and assess meaning related to an observable phenomenon.

With this in mind, a common mistake made by researchers is that they begin their investigations far too early, before they have thought critically about what information is required to address the research problem. Without attending to these design issues beforehand, the overall research problem will not be adequately addressed and any conclusions drawn will run the risk of being weak and unconvincing. As a consequence, the overall validity of the study will be undermined.

The length and complexity of describing research designs in your paper can vary considerably, but any well-developed design will achieve the following :

  • Identify the research problem clearly and justify its selection, particularly in relation to any valid alternative designs that could have been used,
  • Review and synthesize previously published literature associated with the research problem,
  • Clearly and explicitly specify hypotheses [i.e., research questions] central to the problem,
  • Effectively describe the data which will be necessary for an adequate testing of the hypotheses and explain how such data will be obtained, and
  • Describe the methods of analysis to be applied to the data in determining whether or not the hypotheses are true or false.

The research design is usually incorporated into the introduction and varies in length depending on the type of design you are using. However, you can get a sense of what to do by reviewing the literature of studies that have utilized the same research design. This can provide an outline to follow for your own paper.

NOTE : Use the SAGE Research Methods Online and Cases and the SAGE Research Methods Videos databases to search for scholarly resources on how to apply specific research designs and methods . The Research Methods Online database contains links to more than 175,000 pages of SAGE publisher's book, journal, and reference content on quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research methodologies. Also included is a collection of case studies of social research projects that can be used to help you better understand abstract or complex methodological concepts. The Research Methods Videos database contains hours of tutorials, interviews, video case studies, and mini-documentaries covering the entire research process.

Creswell, John W. and J. David Creswell. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches . 5th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2018; De Vaus, D. A. Research Design in Social Research . London: SAGE, 2001; Gorard, Stephen. Research Design: Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2013; Leedy, Paul D. and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. Practical Research: Planning and Design . Tenth edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2013; Vogt, W. Paul, Dianna C. Gardner, and Lynne M. Haeffele. When to Use What Research Design . New York: Guilford, 2012.

Video content

Videos in Business and Management , Criminology and Criminal Justice , Education , and Media, Communication and Cultural Studies specifically created for use in higher education.

A literature review tool that highlights the most influential works in Business & Management, Education, Politics & International Relations, Psychology and Sociology. Does not contain full text of the cited works. Dates vary.

Encyclopedias, handbooks, ebooks, and videos published by Sage and CQ Press. 2000 to present

Causal Design

Definition and Purpose

Causality studies may be thought of as understanding a phenomenon in terms of conditional statements in the form, “If X, then Y.” This type of research is used to measure what impact a specific change will have on existing norms and assumptions. Most social scientists seek causal explanations that reflect tests of hypotheses. Causal effect (nomothetic perspective) occurs when variation in one phenomenon, an independent variable, leads to or results, on average, in variation in another phenomenon, the dependent variable.

Conditions necessary for determining causality:

  • Empirical association -- a valid conclusion is based on finding an association between the independent variable and the dependent variable.
  • Appropriate time order -- to conclude that causation was involved, one must see that cases were exposed to variation in the independent variable before variation in the dependent variable.
  • Nonspuriousness -- a relationship between two variables that is not due to variation in a third variable.

What do these studies tell you ?

  • Causality research designs assist researchers in understanding why the world works the way it does through the process of proving a causal link between variables and by the process of eliminating other possibilities.
  • Replication is possible.
  • There is greater confidence the study has internal validity due to the systematic subject selection and equity of groups being compared.

What these studies don't tell you ?

  • Not all relationships are casual! The possibility always exists that, by sheer coincidence, two unrelated events appear to be related [e.g., Punxatawney Phil could accurately predict the duration of Winter for five consecutive years but, the fact remains, he's just a big, furry rodent].
  • Conclusions about causal relationships are difficult to determine due to a variety of extraneous and confounding variables that exist in a social environment. This means causality can only be inferred, never proven.
  • If two variables are correlated, the cause must come before the effect. However, even though two variables might be causally related, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which variable comes first and, therefore, to establish which variable is the actual cause and which is the  actual effect.

Beach, Derek and Rasmus Brun Pedersen. Causal Case Study Methods: Foundations and Guidelines for Comparing, Matching, and Tracing . Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016; Bachman, Ronet. The Practice of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice . Chapter 5, Causation and Research Designs. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2007; Brewer, Ernest W. and Jennifer Kubn. “Causal-Comparative Design.” In Encyclopedia of Research Design . Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 125-132; Causal Research Design: Experimentation. Anonymous SlideShare Presentation ; Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction . Chapter 11, Nonexperimental Research: Correlational Designs. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007; Trochim, William M.K. Research Methods Knowledge Base . 2006.

Cohort Design

Often used in the medical sciences, but also found in the applied social sciences, a cohort study generally refers to a study conducted over a period of time involving members of a population which the subject or representative member comes from, and who are united by some commonality or similarity. Using a quantitative framework, a cohort study makes note of statistical occurrence within a specialized subgroup, united by same or similar characteristics that are relevant to the research problem being investigated, r ather than studying statistical occurrence within the general population. Using a qualitative framework, cohort studies generally gather data using methods of observation. Cohorts can be either "open" or "closed."

  • Open Cohort Studies [dynamic populations, such as the population of Los Angeles] involve a population that is defined just by the state of being a part of the study in question (and being monitored for the outcome). Date of entry and exit from the study is individually defined, therefore, the size of the study population is not constant. In open cohort studies, researchers can only calculate rate based data, such as, incidence rates and variants thereof.
  • Closed Cohort Studies [static populations, such as patients entered into a clinical trial] involve participants who enter into the study at one defining point in time and where it is presumed that no new participants can enter the cohort. Given this, the number of study participants remains constant (or can only decrease).
  • The use of cohorts is often mandatory because a randomized control study may be unethical. For example, you cannot deliberately expose people to asbestos, you can only study its effects on those who have already been exposed. Research that measures risk factors often relies upon cohort designs.
  • Because cohort studies measure potential causes before the outcome has occurred, they can demonstrate that these “causes” preceded the outcome, thereby avoiding the debate as to which is the cause and which is the effect.
  • Cohort analysis is highly flexible and can provide insight into effects over time and related to a variety of different types of changes [e.g., social, cultural, political, economic, etc.].
  • Either original data or secondary data can be used in this design.
  • In cases where a comparative analysis of two cohorts is made [e.g., studying the effects of one group exposed to asbestos and one that has not], a researcher cannot control for all other factors that might differ between the two groups. These factors are known as confounding variables.
  • Cohort studies can end up taking a long time to complete if the researcher must wait for the conditions of interest to develop within the group. This also increases the chance that key variables change during the course of the study, potentially impacting the validity of the findings.
  • Due to the lack of randominization in the cohort design, its external validity is lower than that of study designs where the researcher randomly assigns participants.

Healy P, Devane D. “Methodological Considerations in Cohort Study Designs.” Nurse Researcher 18 (2011): 32-36; Glenn, Norval D, editor. Cohort Analysis . 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005; Levin, Kate Ann. Study Design IV: Cohort Studies. Evidence-Based Dentistry 7 (2003): 51–52; Payne, Geoff. “Cohort Study.” In The SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods . Victor Jupp, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), pp. 31-33; Study Design 101 . Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library. George Washington University, November 2011; Cohort Study . Wikipedia.

Cross-Sectional Design

Cross-sectional research designs have three distinctive features: no time dimension; a reliance on existing differences rather than change following intervention; and, groups are selected based on existing differences rather than random allocation. The cross-sectional design can only measure differences between or from among a variety of people, subjects, or phenomena rather than a process of change. As such, researchers using this design can only employ a relatively passive approach to making causal inferences based on findings.

  • Cross-sectional studies provide a clear 'snapshot' of the outcome and the characteristics associated with it, at a specific point in time.
  • Unlike an experimental design, where there is an active intervention by the researcher to produce and measure change or to create differences, cross-sectional designs focus on studying and drawing inferences from existing differences between people, subjects, or phenomena.
  • Entails collecting data at and concerning one point in time. While longitudinal studies involve taking multiple measures over an extended period of time, cross-sectional research is focused on finding relationships between variables at one moment in time.
  • Groups identified for study are purposely selected based upon existing differences in the sample rather than seeking random sampling.
  • Cross-section studies are capable of using data from a large number of subjects and, unlike observational studies, is not geographically bound.
  • Can estimate prevalence of an outcome of interest because the sample is usually taken from the whole population.
  • Because cross-sectional designs generally use survey techniques to gather data, they are relatively inexpensive and take up little time to conduct.
  • Finding people, subjects, or phenomena to study that are very similar except in one specific variable can be difficult.
  • Results are static and time bound and, therefore, give no indication of a sequence of events or reveal historical or temporal contexts.
  • Studies cannot be utilized to establish cause and effect relationships.
  • This design only provides a snapshot of analysis so there is always the possibility that a study could have differing results if another time-frame had been chosen.
  • There is no follow up to the findings.

Bethlehem, Jelke. "7: Cross-sectional Research." In Research Methodology in the Social, Behavioural and Life Sciences . Herman J Adèr and Gideon J Mellenbergh, editors. (London, England: Sage, 1999), pp. 110-43; Bourque, Linda B. “Cross-Sectional Design.” In  The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods . Michael S. Lewis-Beck, Alan Bryman, and Tim Futing Liao. (Thousand Oaks, CA: 2004), pp. 230-231; Hall, John. “Cross-Sectional Survey Design.” In Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods . Paul J. Lavrakas, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 173-174; Helen Barratt, Maria Kirwan. Cross-Sectional Studies: Design, Application, Strengths and Weaknesses of Cross-Sectional Studies . Healthknowledge, 2009. Cross-Sectional Study . Wikipedia.

Descriptive Design

Descriptive research designs help provide answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, and how associated with a particular research problem; a descriptive study cannot conclusively ascertain answers to why. Descriptive research is used to obtain information concerning the current status of the phenomena and to describe "what exists" with respect to variables or conditions in a situation.

  • The subject is being observed in a completely natural and unchanged natural environment. True experiments, whilst giving analyzable data, often adversely influence the normal behavior of the subject [a.k.a., the Heisenberg effect whereby measurements of certain systems cannot be made without affecting the systems].
  • Descriptive research is often used as a pre-cursor to more quantitative research designs with the general overview giving some valuable pointers as to what variables are worth testing quantitatively.
  • If the limitations are understood, they can be a useful tool in developing a more focused study.
  • Descriptive studies can yield rich data that lead to important recommendations in practice.
  • Appoach collects a large amount of data for detailed analysis.
  • The results from a descriptive research cannot be used to discover a definitive answer or to disprove a hypothesis.
  • Because descriptive designs often utilize observational methods [as opposed to quantitative methods], the results cannot be replicated.
  • The descriptive function of research is heavily dependent on instrumentation for measurement and observation.

Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services . Chapter 5, Flexible Methods: Descriptive Research. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Given, Lisa M. "Descriptive Research." In Encyclopedia of Measurement and Statistics . Neil J. Salkind and Kristin Rasmussen, editors. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2007), pp. 251-254; McNabb, Connie. Descriptive Research Methodologies . Powerpoint Presentation; Shuttleworth, Martyn. Descriptive Research Design , September 26, 2008. Explorable.com website.

Experimental Design

A blueprint of the procedure that enables the researcher to maintain control over all factors that may affect the result of an experiment. In doing this, the researcher attempts to determine or predict what may occur. Experimental research is often used where there is time priority in a causal relationship (cause precedes effect), there is consistency in a causal relationship (a cause will always lead to the same effect), and the magnitude of the correlation is great. The classic experimental design specifies an experimental group and a control group. The independent variable is administered to the experimental group and not to the control group, and both groups are measured on the same dependent variable. Subsequent experimental designs have used more groups and more measurements over longer periods. True experiments must have control, randomization, and manipulation.

  • Experimental research allows the researcher to control the situation. In so doing, it allows researchers to answer the question, “What causes something to occur?”
  • Permits the researcher to identify cause and effect relationships between variables and to distinguish placebo effects from treatment effects.
  • Experimental research designs support the ability to limit alternative explanations and to infer direct causal relationships in the study.
  • Approach provides the highest level of evidence for single studies.
  • The design is artificial, and results may not generalize well to the real world.
  • The artificial settings of experiments may alter the behaviors or responses of participants.
  • Experimental designs can be costly if special equipment or facilities are needed.
  • Some research problems cannot be studied using an experiment because of ethical or technical reasons.
  • Difficult to apply ethnographic and other qualitative methods to experimentally designed studies.

Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services . Chapter 7, Flexible Methods: Experimental Research. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Chapter 2: Research Design, Experimental Designs . School of Psychology, University of New England, 2000; Chow, Siu L. "Experimental Design." In Encyclopedia of Research Design . Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 448-453; "Experimental Design." In Social Research Methods . Nicholas Walliman, editor. (London, England: Sage, 2006), pp, 101-110; Experimental Research . Research Methods by Dummies. Department of Psychology. California State University, Fresno, 2006; Kirk, Roger E. Experimental Design: Procedures for the Behavioral Sciences . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2013; Trochim, William M.K. Experimental Design . Research Methods Knowledge Base. 2006; Rasool, Shafqat. Experimental Research . Slideshare presentation.

Exploratory Design

An exploratory design is conducted about a research problem when there are few or no earlier studies to refer to or rely upon to predict an outcome . The focus is on gaining insights and familiarity for later investigation or undertaken when research problems are in a preliminary stage of investigation. Exploratory designs are often used to establish an understanding of how best to proceed in studying an issue or what methodology would effectively apply to gathering information about the issue.

The goals of exploratory research are intended to produce the following possible insights:

  • Familiarity with basic details, settings, and concerns.
  • Well grounded picture of the situation being developed.
  • Generation of new ideas and assumptions.
  • Development of tentative theories or hypotheses.
  • Determination about whether a study is feasible in the future.
  • Issues get refined for more systematic investigation and formulation of new research questions.
  • Direction for future research and techniques get developed.
  • Design is a useful approach for gaining background information on a particular topic.
  • Exploratory research is flexible and can address research questions of all types (what, why, how).
  • Provides an opportunity to define new terms and clarify existing concepts.
  • Exploratory research is often used to generate formal hypotheses and develop more precise research problems.
  • In the policy arena or applied to practice, exploratory studies help establish research priorities and where resources should be allocated.
  • Exploratory research generally utilizes small sample sizes and, thus, findings are typically not generalizable to the population at large.
  • The exploratory nature of the research inhibits an ability to make definitive conclusions about the findings. They provide insight but not definitive conclusions.
  • The research process underpinning exploratory studies is flexible but often unstructured, leading to only tentative results that have limited value to decision-makers.
  • Design lacks rigorous standards applied to methods of data gathering and analysis because one of the areas for exploration could be to determine what method or methodologies could best fit the research problem.

Cuthill, Michael. “Exploratory Research: Citizen Participation, Local Government, and Sustainable Development in Australia.” Sustainable Development 10 (2002): 79-89; Streb, Christoph K. "Exploratory Case Study." In Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Albert J. Mills, Gabrielle Durepos and Eiden Wiebe, editors. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 372-374; Taylor, P. J., G. Catalano, and D.R.F. Walker. “Exploratory Analysis of the World City Network.” Urban Studies 39 (December 2002): 2377-2394; Exploratory Research . Wikipedia.

Historical Design

The purpose of a historical research design is to collect, verify, and synthesize evidence from the past to establish facts that defend or refute a hypothesis. It uses secondary sources and a variety of primary documentary evidence, such as, diaries, official records, reports, archives, and non-textual information [maps, pictures, audio and visual recordings]. The limitation is that the sources must be both authentic and valid.

  • The historical research design is unobtrusive; the act of research does not affect the results of the study.
  • The historical approach is well suited for trend analysis.
  • Historical records can add important contextual background required to more fully understand and interpret a research problem.
  • There is often no possibility of researcher-subject interaction that could affect the findings.
  • Historical sources can be used over and over to study different research problems or to replicate a previous study.
  • The ability to fulfill the aims of your research are directly related to the amount and quality of documentation available to understand the research problem.
  • Since historical research relies on data from the past, there is no way to manipulate it to control for contemporary contexts.
  • Interpreting historical sources can be very time consuming.
  • The sources of historical materials must be archived consistently to ensure access. This may especially challenging for digital or online-only sources.
  • Original authors bring their own perspectives and biases to the interpretation of past events and these biases are more difficult to ascertain in historical resources.
  • Due to the lack of control over external variables, historical research is very weak with regard to the demands of internal validity.
  • It is rare that the entirety of historical documentation needed to fully address a research problem is available for interpretation, therefore, gaps need to be acknowledged.

Howell, Martha C. and Walter Prevenier. From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods . Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001; Lundy, Karen Saucier. "Historical Research." In The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods . Lisa M. Given, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 396-400; Marius, Richard. and Melvin E. Page. A Short Guide to Writing about History . 9th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2015; Savitt, Ronald. “Historical Research in Marketing.” Journal of Marketing 44 (Autumn, 1980): 52-58;  Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction . Chapter 16, Historical Research. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007.

Longitudinal Design

A longitudinal study follows the same sample over time and makes repeated observations. For example, with longitudinal surveys, the same group of people is interviewed at regular intervals, enabling researchers to track changes over time and to relate them to variables that might explain why the changes occur. Longitudinal research designs describe patterns of change and help establish the direction and magnitude of causal relationships. Measurements are taken on each variable over two or more distinct time periods. This allows the researcher to measure change in variables over time. It is a type of observational study sometimes referred to as a panel study.

  • Longitudinal data facilitate the analysis of the duration of a particular phenomenon.
  • Enables survey researchers to get close to the kinds of causal explanations usually attainable only with experiments.
  • The design permits the measurement of differences or change in a variable from one period to another [i.e., the description of patterns of change over time].
  • Longitudinal studies facilitate the prediction of future outcomes based upon earlier factors.
  • The data collection method may change over time.
  • Maintaining the integrity of the original sample can be difficult over an extended period of time.
  • It can be difficult to show more than one variable at a time.
  • This design often needs qualitative research data to explain fluctuations in the results.
  • A longitudinal research design assumes present trends will continue unchanged.
  • It can take a long period of time to gather results.
  • There is a need to have a large sample size and accurate sampling to reach representativness.

Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services . Chapter 6, Flexible Methods: Relational and Longitudinal Research. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Forgues, Bernard, and Isabelle Vandangeon-Derumez. "Longitudinal Analyses." In Doing Management Research . Raymond-Alain Thiétart and Samantha Wauchope, editors. (London, England: Sage, 2001), pp. 332-351; Kalaian, Sema A. and Rafa M. Kasim. "Longitudinal Studies." In Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods . Paul J. Lavrakas, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 440-441; Menard, Scott, editor. Longitudinal Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002; Ployhart, Robert E. and Robert J. Vandenberg. "Longitudinal Research: The Theory, Design, and Analysis of Change.” Journal of Management 36 (January 2010): 94-120; Longitudinal Study . Wikipedia.

Mixed-Method Design

  • Narrative and non-textual information can add meaning to numeric data, while numeric data can add precision to narrative and non-textual information.
  • Can utilize existing data while at the same time generating and testing a grounded theory approach to describe and explain the phenomenon under study.
  • A broader, more complex research problem can be investigated because the researcher is not constrained by using only one method.
  • The strengths of one method can be used to overcome the inherent weaknesses of another method.
  • Can provide stronger, more robust evidence to support a conclusion or set of recommendations.
  • May generate new knowledge new insights or uncover hidden insights, patterns, or relationships that a single methodological approach might not reveal.
  • Produces more complete knowledge and understanding of the research problem that can be used to increase the generalizability of findings applied to theory or practice.
  • A researcher must be proficient in understanding how to apply multiple methods to investigating a research problem as well as be proficient in optimizing how to design a study that coherently melds them together.
  • Can increase the likelihood of conflicting results or ambiguous findings that inhibit drawing a valid conclusion or setting forth a recommended course of action [e.g., sample interview responses do not support existing statistical data].
  • Because the research design can be very complex, reporting the findings requires a well-organized narrative, clear writing style, and precise word choice.
  • Design invites collaboration among experts. However, merging different investigative approaches and writing styles requires more attention to the overall research process than studies conducted using only one methodological paradigm.
  • Concurrent merging of quantitative and qualitative research requires greater attention to having adequate sample sizes, using comparable samples, and applying a consistent unit of analysis. For sequential designs where one phase of qualitative research builds on the quantitative phase or vice versa, decisions about what results from the first phase to use in the next phase, the choice of samples and estimating reasonable sample sizes for both phases, and the interpretation of results from both phases can be difficult.
  • Due to multiple forms of data being collected and analyzed, this design requires extensive time and resources to carry out the multiple steps involved in data gathering and interpretation.

Burch, Patricia and Carolyn J. Heinrich. Mixed Methods for Policy Research and Program Evaluation . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2016; Creswell, John w. et al. Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences . Bethesda, MD: Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health, 2010Creswell, John W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014; Domínguez, Silvia, editor. Mixed Methods Social Networks Research . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014; Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. Mixed Methods Research: Merging Theory with Practice . New York: Guilford Press, 2010; Niglas, Katrin. “How the Novice Researcher Can Make Sense of Mixed Methods Designs.” International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 3 (2009): 34-46; Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. and Nancy L. Leech. “Linking Research Questions to Mixed Methods Data Analysis Procedures.” The Qualitative Report 11 (September 2006): 474-498; Tashakorri, Abbas and John W. Creswell. “The New Era of Mixed Methods.” Journal of Mixed Methods Research 1 (January 2007): 3-7; Zhanga, Wanqing. “Mixed Methods Application in Health Intervention Research: A Multiple Case Study.” International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 8 (2014): 24-35 .

Observational Design

This type of research design draws a conclusion by comparing subjects against a control group, in cases where the researcher has no control over the experiment. There are two general types of observational designs. In direct observations, people know that you are watching them. Unobtrusive measures involve any method for studying behavior where individuals do not know they are being observed. An observational study allows a useful insight into a phenomenon and avoids the ethical and practical difficulties of setting up a large and cumbersome research project.

  • Observational studies are usually flexible and do not necessarily need to be structured around a hypothesis about what you expect to observe [data is emergent rather than pre-existing].
  • The researcher is able to collect in-depth information about a particular behavior.
  • Can reveal interrelationships among multifaceted dimensions of group interactions.
  • You can generalize your results to real life situations.
  • Observational research is useful for discovering what variables may be important before applying other methods like experiments.
  • Observation research designs account for the complexity of group behaviors.
  • Reliability of data is low because seeing behaviors occur over and over again may be a time consuming task and are difficult to replicate.
  • In observational research, findings may only reflect a unique sample population and, thus, cannot be generalized to other groups.
  • There can be problems with bias as the researcher may only "see what they want to see."
  • There is no possibility to determine "cause and effect" relationships since nothing is manipulated.
  • Sources or subjects may not all be equally credible.
  • Any group that is knowingly studied is altered to some degree by the presence of the researcher, therefore, potentially skewing any data collected.

Atkinson, Paul and Martyn Hammersley. “Ethnography and Participant Observation.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), pp. 248-261; Observational Research . Research Methods by Dummies. Department of Psychology. California State University, Fresno, 2006; Patton Michael Quinn. Qualitiative Research and Evaluation Methods . Chapter 6, Fieldwork Strategies and Observational Methods. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002; Payne, Geoff and Judy Payne. "Observation." In Key Concepts in Social Research . The SAGE Key Concepts series. (London, England: Sage, 2004), pp. 158-162; Rosenbaum, Paul R. Design of Observational Studies . New York: Springer, 2010;Williams, J. Patrick. "Nonparticipant Observation." In The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods . Lisa M. Given, editor.(Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 562-563.

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Design and experimental research of a lifting-type tidal energy capture device.

different types of research experimental design

1. Introduction

2. overview of energy harvesting devices, 2.1. sea area characteristic analysis, 2.2. design of a floating body with a flow velocity increase, 2.3. design of mooring system, 2.4. comparison and analysis of energy capture mechanism, 2.5. overall scheme, 3. theoretical analysis of savonius water turbine, 4. impeller parameters, 4.1. the influence of blade number, 4.2. the influence of stage number, 4.3. the influence of distance from water, 5. results analysis and discussion, 6. conclusions, author contributions, institutional review board statement, informed consent statement, data availability statement, conflicts of interest, nomenclature.

Maximum flow rate
Semi-daily cycle of the power flow
Energy utilization coefficient
Real-time flow rate
Blade sweep area
T Effective time for the impeller to operate in a half-day cycle
Radial projected area of the impeller
Velocity of the water
Impeller power
Concave resistance coefficient
Convex resistance coefficient
Blade tip linear velocity
P Energy of water flow against concave surface per unit time
P Energy of water flow on a convex surface per unit of time
F Force of micro-area on a concave surface
F Force of the micro-area on a convex surface
dwWater action on the impeller per unit of time
Resistance part of the turbine
Driving part of the turbine
Relative fluid velocity
Body effective area
Resistance coefficient
Length of the impeller
Distance of the impeller center from the water surface
Impeller diameter
Phase angle of the impeller
Greek Symbols
Density of seawater (kg/m )
Gravitational acceleration (m/s )
S-type turbineSavonius-type turbine
PLCProgrammable Logic Controller
LabVIEWLaboratory Virtual Instrument Engineering Workbench
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Click here to enlarge figure

Horizontal AxisVertical Axis
ModelNACA airfoil, sheet airfoilS-type water turbineH-type water turbine
Flow directionSingle directionMulti-directionMulti-direction
Adapts to low-flowAirfoil dependentYesNo
Starting torqueSmallBigSmall
Floating volume3m
Floating mass150kg
Turbine diameter0.5m
Blade radius0.15m
Blade thickness0.002m
Turbine height0.61m
Blade shapeSemicircle/
Overlap rate0.15/
Turbine volume0.005m
Moment of inertia of the turbine(0.337, 0.337, 0.16)kg·m
Depth of water2m
Sink length70m
Sink width3.8m
Sink depth3m
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Bao, L.; Wang, Y.; Li, H.; Chen, J.; Huang, F.; Jiang, C. Design and Experimental Research of a Lifting-Type Tidal Energy Capture Device. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2024 , 12 , 1100. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse12071100

Bao L, Wang Y, Li H, Chen J, Huang F, Jiang C. Design and Experimental Research of a Lifting-Type Tidal Energy Capture Device. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering . 2024; 12(7):1100. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse12071100

Bao, Lingjie, Ying Wang, Hao Li, Junhua Chen, Fangping Huang, and Chuhua Jiang. 2024. "Design and Experimental Research of a Lifting-Type Tidal Energy Capture Device" Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 12, no. 7: 1100. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse12071100

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Self-supervised machine learning methods for protein design improve sampling, but not the identification of high-fitness variants

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Machine learning (ML) is changing the world of computational protein design, with data- driven methods surpassing biophysical-based methods in experimental success rates. However, they are most often reported as case studies, lack integration and standardization across platforms, and are therefore hard to objectively compare. In this study, we established a streamlined and diverse toolbox for methods that predict amino acid probabilities inside the Rosetta software framework that allows for the side-by-side comparison of these models. Subsequently, existing protein fitness landscapes were used to benchmark novel self- supervised machine learning methods in realistic protein design settings. We focused on the traditional problems of protein sequence design: sampling and scoring. A major finding of our study is that novel ML approaches are better at purging the sampling space from deleterious mutations. Nevertheless, scoring resulting mutations without model fine-tuning showed no clear improvement over scoring with Rosetta. This study fills an important gap in the field and allows for the first time a comprehensive head-to-head comparison of different ML and biophysical methods. We conclude that ML currently acts as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, biophysical methods in protein design.

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The authors have declared no competing interest.


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Biochar Amendment for the Alleviation of Heavy Metals Stress in Corn ( Zea mays L.) Plants Grown in a Basic Soil

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  • Published: 28 June 2024

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different types of research experimental design

  • Nasibeh Yazdani 1 ,
  • Mehran Hoodaji 1 ,
  • Mahmoud Kalbasi 1 &
  • Elham Chavoshi 1  

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Since environmental contamination, by heavy metals (HMs), affects human health, crop growth and yield production, finding methods, which may mitigate HMs stress is of significance. Due to their chemical properties, biochars of rice straw and date palm, may ameliorate plant uptake of HMs, for example, in corn as the objective of this research. Incubation and greenhouse experiments were conducted. The greenhouse experiment was a factorial on the basis of a complete randomized block design with three replicates investigating corn uptake of HMs affected by biochar type and percentage (0, 4 and 8%), and HMs including cadmium, zinc, lead and copper, as the most important heavy metals. The experimental treatments significantly affected corn uptake of HMs, and depending on the type of HMs, the effects of biochars were different, as date palm was the more effective one. Nevertheless, with increasing biochar percentage, the effectiveness of rice straw increased even at twice the standard level of HMs (a 30% reduction of cadmium uptake). The second level of date palm significantly decreased corn Zn uptake (158.33 mg kg − 1 ) compared with the first level (176.50 mg kg − 1 ). There were positive and significant correlations among the investigated HMs. Soil HMs affected by biochar was also determined. Due to their physicochemical properties (high surface area and abundance of functional groups), the use of rice straw and date palm is recommendable for the amelioration of HMs uptake by corn, since they are able to immobilize HMs and decrease their concentration in the soil.

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Phytoattenuation of Cd, Pb, and Zn in a Slag-contaminated Soil Amended with Rice Straw Biochar and Grown with Energy Maize

different types of research experimental design

Biochar Assisted Phyto-stabilization of Cd and Pb Contaminated Mining Soil Using Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.)

different types of research experimental design

Remediation of multi-metal contaminated soil using biochars from rice husk and maple leaves

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Yazdani, N., Hoodaji, M., Kalbasi, M. et al. Biochar Amendment for the Alleviation of Heavy Metals Stress in Corn ( Zea mays L.) Plants Grown in a Basic Soil. J Soil Sci Plant Nutr (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42729-024-01873-z

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