Principles and Methods of Social Research

By William D. Crano; Marilynn B. Brewer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
4

DESIGNING EXPERIMENTS: VARIATIONS
ON THE BASICS
Chapter 2 introduced the concepts of internal and external validity, two important forms of experimental validity, and provided some information on the basic structure of the experiment in light of internal validity requirements. This chapter expands on this basic structure to consider variations in the ways in which experiments can be designed, set up, and executed.
VARIATIONS IN EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN
To summarize our earlier discussion, the classic “true” experimental design (Campbell & Stanley, l963) involves the following steps:
1. Obtaining a pool of participants.
2. Pretesting them on the dependent variable of interest.
3. Randomly assigning each participant to experimental or control groups.1
4. Carefully controlling for differences in the application of the experimental treatment between the two groups.
5. Remeasuring both groups on the dependent variable at some time following the experimental treatment.

These steps are diagrammed in Figure 4.1. Variations on this basic structure include elimination of the pretest, the addition of multiple experimental treatments, and the repeated

____________________
1
In much of our discussion, we assume that experiments are conducted with individual persons as the unit of analysis. However, in some cases, experimental treatments are delivered not to individuals (independently assigned) but to groups of persons (e.g., small work groups or even whole classrooms). In this case, the group, rather then the component individuals, becomes the unit of analysis. More discussion of the issue of randomizing individuals or groups is provided in chapters 5 and 17.

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