Experimental Research – Definition

Experimental research is any research conducted with a scientific approach, where a set of variables are kept constant while the other set of variables are being measured as the subject of experiment.

Experimental research is one of the founding quantitative research methods.

The simplest example of an experimental research is conducting a laboratory test. As long as research is being conducted under scientifically acceptable conditions – it qualifies as an experimental research.  A true experimental research is considered to be successful only when the researcher confirms that a change in the dependent variable is solely due to the manipulation of the independent variable.

It is important for an experimental research to establish cause and effect of a phenomenon, which means, it should be definite that effects observed from an experiment are due to the cause. As naturally, occurring event can be confusing for researchers to establish conclusions. For instance, if a cardiology student conducts research to understand the effect of food on cholesterol and derives that most heart patients are non-vegetarians or have diabetes. They are aspects (causes) which can result in a heart attack (effect).

Experimental research is conducted in the following situations:

  • Time is a vital factor for establishing a relationship between cause and effect.
  • Invariable behavior between cause and effect.
  • The eminence of cause-effect relationship is as per desirability.

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Types of Experimental Research Design

There are three primary types of experimental research design:

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

The different types of experimental research design are based on the how the researcher classifies the subjects according to various conditions and groups.

1. Pre-Experimental Research Design: This is the simplest form of experimental research design. A group, or various groups, are kept under observation after factors are considered for cause and effect. It is usually conducted to understand whether further investigation needs to be carried out on the target group/s, due to which it is considered to be cost-effective.

The pre-experimental research design is further bifurcated into three types:

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

2. True Experimental Research Design: True experimental research is the most accurate form of experimental research design as it relies on statistical analysis to prove or disprove a hypothesis. It is the only type of Experimental Design that can establish a cause-effect relationship within a group/s. In a true experiment, there are three factors which need to be satisfied:

  • Control Group (Group of participants for research that are familiar to the Experimental group but experimental research rules do not apply to them.) and Experimental Group (Research participants on whom experimental research rules do apply.)
  • Variable which can be manipulated by the researcher
  • Random distribution

This experimental research method is commonly implemented in physical sciences.

3. Quasi-Experimental Research Design: The word “Quasi” indicates resemblance. A quasi-experimental research design is similar to experimental research but is not exactly that. The difference between the two the assignment of a control group. In this research design, an independent variable is manipulated but the participants of a group are not randomly assigned as per conditions. The independent variable is manipulated before calculating the dependent variable and so, directionality problem is eliminated. Quasi-research is used in field settings where random assignment is either irrelevant or not required.

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Advantages of Experimental Research

  • Researchers have a stronger hold over variables to obtain desired results.
  • Subject or industry is not a criterion for experimental research due to which any industry can implement it for research purposes.
  • Results are extremely specific.
  • Once the results are analyzed, they can be applied to various other similar aspects.
  • Cause and effect of a hypothesis can be derived so that researchers can analyze greater details.
  • Experimental research can be used in association with other research methods.

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