Ever wondered why scientists across the world are being lauded for discovering the Covid-19 vaccine so early? It’s because every government knows that vaccines are a result of experimental research design and it takes years of collected data to make one. It takes a lot of time to compare formulas and combinations with an array of possibilities across different age groups, genders and physical conditions. With their efficiency and meticulousness, scientists redefined the meaning of experimental research when they discovered a vaccine in less than a year.
What Is Experimental Research?
Experimental research is a scientific method of conducting research using two variables: independent and dependent. Independent variables can be manipulated to apply to dependent variables and the effect is measured. This measurement usually happens over a significant period of time to establish conditions and conclusions about the relationship between these two variables.
Experimental research is widely implemented in education, psychology, social sciences and physical sciences. Experimental research is based on observation, calculation, comparison and logic. Researchers collect quantitative data and perform statistical analyses of two sets of variables. This method collects necessary data to focus on facts and support sound decisions. It’s a helpful approach when time is a factor in establishing cause-and-effect relationships or when an invariable behavior is seen between the two.
Now that we know the meaning of experimental research, let’s look at its characteristics, types and advantages.
Characteristics Of Experimental Research Design
The hypothesis is at the core of an experimental research design. Researchers propose a tentative answer after defining the problem and then test the hypothesis to either confirm or disregard it. Here are a few characteristics of experimental research:
- Dependent variables are manipulated or treated while independent variables are exerted on dependent variables as an experimental treatment. Extraneous variables are variables generated from other factors that can affect the experiment and contribute to change. Researchers have to exercise control to reduce the influence of these variables by randomization, making homogeneous groups and applying statistical analysis techniques.
- Researchers deliberately operate independent variables on the subject of the experiment. This is known as manipulation.
- Once a variable is manipulated, researchers observe the effect an independent variable has on a dependent variable. This is key for interpreting results.
- A researcher may want multiple comparisons between different groups with equivalent subjects. They may replicate the process by conducting sub-experiments within the framework of the experimental design.
Experimental research is equally effective in non-laboratory settings as it is in labs. It helps in predicting events in an experimental setting. It generalizes variable relationships so that they can be implemented outside the experiment and applied to a wider interest group.
Types Of Experimental Research Design
The way a researcher assigns subjects to different groups determines the types of experimental research design.
Pre-experimental Research Design
In a pre-experimental research design, researchers observe a group or various groups to see the effect an independent variable has on the dependent variable to cause change. There is no control group as it is a simple form of experimental research. It’s further divided into three categories:
- A one-shot case study research design is a study where one dependent variable is considered. It’s a posttest study as it’s carried out after treating what presumably caused the change.
- One-group pretest-posttest design is a study that combines both pretest and posttest studies by testing a single group before and after administering the treatment.
- Static-group comparison involves studying two groups by subjecting one to treatment while the other remains static. After post-testing all groups the differences are observed.
This design is practical but lacks in certain areas of true experimental criteria.
True Experimental Research Design
This design depends on statistical analysis to approve or disregard a hypothesis. It’s an accurate design that can be conducted with or without a pretest on a minimum of two dependent variables assigned randomly. It is further classified into three types:
- The posttest-only control group design involves randomly selecting and assigning subjects to two groups: experimental and control. Only the experimental group is treated, while both groups are observed and post-tested to draw a conclusion from the difference between the groups.
- In a pretest-posttest control group design, two groups are randomly assigned subjects. Both groups are presented, the experimental group is treated and both groups are post-tested to measure how much change happened in each group.
- Solomon four-group design is a combination of the previous two methods. Subjects are randomly selected and assigned to four groups. Two groups are tested using each of the previous methods.
True experimental research design should have a variable to manipulate, a control group and random distribution.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Experimental Research
With experimental research, we can test ideas in a controlled environment before marketing. It acts as the best method to test a theory as it can help in making predictions about a subject and drawing conclusions. Let’s look at some of the advantages that make experimental research useful:
- It allows researchers to have a stronghold over variables and collect desired results.
- Results are usually specific.
- The effectiveness of the research isn’t affected by the subject.
- Findings from the results usually apply to similar situations and ideas.
- Cause and effect of a hypothesis can be identified, which can be further analyzed for in-depth ideas.
- It’s the ideal starting point to collect data and lay a foundation for conducting further research and building more ideas.
- Medical researchers can develop medicines and vaccines to treat diseases by collecting samples from patients and testing them under multiple conditions.
- It can be used to improve the standard of academics across institutions by testing student knowledge and teaching methods before analyzing the result to implement programs.
- Social scientists often use experimental research design to study and test behavior in humans and animals.
- Software development and testing heavily depend on experimental research to test programs by letting subjects use a beta version and analyzing their feedback.
Even though it’s a scientific method, it has a few drawbacks. Here are a few disadvantages of this research method:
- Human error is a concern because the method depends on controlling variables. Improper implementation nullifies the validity of the research and conclusion.
- Eliminating extraneous variables (real-life scenarios) produces inaccurate conclusions.
- The process is time-consuming and expensive
- In medical research, it can have ethical implications by affecting patients’ well-being.
- Results are not descriptive and subjects can contribute to response bias.
Experimental research design is a sophisticated method that investigates relationships or occurrences among people or phenomena under a controlled environment and identifies the conditions responsible for such relationships or occurrences
Examples Of Experimental Research
Experimental research can be used in any industry to anticipate responses, changes, causes and effects. Here are some examples of experimental research:
- This research method can be used to evaluate employees’ skills. Organizations ask candidates to take tests before filling a post. It is used to screen qualified candidates from a pool of applicants. This allows organizations to identify skills at the time of employment. After training employees on the job, organizations further evaluate them to test impact and improvement. This is a pretest-posttest control group research example where employees are ‘subjects’ and the training is ‘treatment’.
- Educational institutions follow the pre-experimental research design to administer exams and evaluate students at the end of a semester. Students are the dependent variables and lectures are independent. Since exams are conducted at the end and not the beginning of a semester, it’s easy to conclude that it’s a one-shot case study research.
- To evaluate the teaching methods of two teachers, they can be assigned two student groups. After teaching their respective groups on the same topic, a posttest can determine which group scored better and who is better at teaching. This method can have its drawbacks as certain human factors, such as attitudes of students and effectiveness to grasp a subject, may negatively influence results.
Experimental research is considered a standard method that uses observations, simulations and surveys to collect data. One of its unique features is the ability to control extraneous variables and their effects. It’s a suitable method for those looking to examine the relationship between cause and effect in a field setting or in a laboratory. Although experimental research design is a scientific approach, research is not entirely a scientific process. As much as managers need to know what is experimental research, they have to apply the correct research method, depending on the aim of the study.
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