Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs
- LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0053
- LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0053
In strengthening social work’s ability to improve lives and communities, experimental design can play a critical role in helping stakeholders better understand what works in achieving positive impacts. Experimental design studies aim to test whether a specific “intervention” (or “treatment”) causes change in specific outcomes. Experiments test for this cause-and-effect relationship by exposing a group of research participants to the intervention and observing for any differences in changes of behavior between the intervention group and another group that does not receive the intervention. The group that does not receive the intervention is typically called a “control” or “comparison” group. Notably some literature reserves the term “experimental design” for studies in which participants are randomly assigned to intervention or control groups. Other literature, however, defines the term more broadly to include what some would classify as “quasi-experimental” or “nonrandomized” trials in which an intervention is applied to one group in order to detect changes but assignment to groups occurs through a method of selection other than randomization. This bibliography will consider experimental design in the broader context of both randomized and nonrandomized trials, but it will also supply references that clarify the special ability of randomized controlled trials to reduce bias and strengthen the credibility of experimental findings that guarantee causality. The field of experimental design includes considerable diversity with respect to specific methods, applications, and perspectives. This bibliography aims to organize some of the foremost texts and papers concerning experimental design to provide readers with (a) useful introductions to experimental design and basic principles, (b) practical references for specific audiences or topics of interest, and (c) a rounded tour of the views and debates surrounding experimental design.
This section presents texts and papers that aim to introduce the purpose and principles of experimental design to a wider audience. Chalmers 2003 provides a good first read that articulates cause for the evidence-based practice movement from which experimental design has gained increasing momentum. Rubin and Babbie 2008, particularly chapter 10, offers an introduction to experimental design and critical concepts with the intention of reaching a social work student audience. Baker 2000 provides similar material applied for use by developmental impact researchers. Eccles, et al. 2003 and Kendall 2003, though geared toward a health care readership, provide useful summaries of key concepts in experimental design for unfamiliar readers. Oakley, et al. 2003, Rosen, et al. 2006, and Sibbald and Roland 1998 articulate nontechnical cases for general audiences for the applicability and value of experimental design. For the advanced student, Kirk 2003 is a most useful text, as it provides a more sophisticated presentation of the topic area.
Baker, Judy L. 2000. Evaluating the impact of development projects on poverty: A handbook for practitioners. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Available free online, this handbook offers a user-friendly overview of the impact of evaluation issues and approaches in which experimental design is often situated. Different types of experimental and quasi-experimental designs are discussed.
Chalmers, Iain. 2003. Trying to do more good than harm in policy and practice: The role of rigorous, transparent, up-to-date evaluations. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 589.1: 22–40.
Chalmers articulates a case for increasing the development and use of rigorous, transparent, and up-to-date experimental designs to improve the processes by which we make decisions about whether and how to intervene in the lives of others. He further argues for systematically reviewing the state of research on a given topic prior to initiating new trials.
Eccles, Martin, Jeremy Grimshaw, Marion Campbell, and Craig Ramsay. 2003. Research designs for studies evaluating the effectiveness of change and improvement strategies. Quality and Safety in Health Care 12.1: 47–52.
This article briefly surveys different kinds of experimental designs for evaluation of more complex, behavioral interventions and in doing so introduces readers to key concepts and terms.
Kendall, Jonathan M. 2003. Designing a research project: Randomised controlled trials and their principles. Emergency Medicine Journal 20.2: 164–168.
This article provides a basic, nontechnical summary introduction to the features and applicability of randomized designs for an unfamiliar audience.
Kirk, Roger E. 2003. Experimental design. In Handbook of psychology, Vol. 2, Research methods in psychology. Edited by John A. Schinka, and Wayne F. Velicer, 3–32. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Though brief, this overview introduces readers to more complex categories of experimental design (for example, hierarchical designs in which multiple treatments are nested within each other) relevant to readers interested in a more advanced introduction to approaches. Kirk characterizes experimental design by random assignment of participants.
Oakley, Ann, Vicki Strange, Tami Toroyan, Meg Wiggins, Ian Roberts, and Judith Stephenson. 2003. Using random allocation to evaluate social interventions: Three recent U.K. examples. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 589.1: 170–189.
Oakley and colleagues argue for the applicability of robust experimental design to social interventions as it has been popularly used in health and medicine. The paper provides three examples of randomized controlled trials with social interventions in the United Kingdom to illustrate strategies for conducting successful experimental trials.
Rosen, Laura, Orly Manor, Dan Engelhard, and David Zucker. 2006. In defense of the randomized controlled trial for health promotion research. American Journal of Public Health 96.7: 1181–1186.
This paper discusses the value of experimental design in evaluating health promotion interventions and responds to common criticisms of experimental design with suggestions for tailoring strategies and approaches to meet different conditions rather than abandoning experimental design altogether.
Rubin, Allen, and Earl R. Babbie. 2008. Research methods for social work. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks Cole.
This textbook, which can serve as a general textbook for graduate and upper-level undergraduate social work students on research methods, dedicates chapter 10 to experimental design, which could be used as an introductory read to the topic. Unique to this edition from previous versions, the authors make explicit links to the material throughout the book to the evidence-based practice movement.
Sibbald, Bonnie, and Martin Roland. 1998. Understanding controlled trials: Why are randomised controlled trials important? British Medical Journal 316.7126: 201.
This brief note discusses the features of experimental design that make it useful and authoritative for evaluating intervention impacts.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- Adolescent Depression
- Adolescent Pregnancy
- Adoption Home Study Assessments
- Adult Protective Services in the United States
- African Americans
- Aging, Physical Health and
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse Problems
- Alcohol and Drug Problems, Prevention of Adolescent and Yo...
- Alcohol Problems: Practice Interventions
- Alcohol Use Disorder
- Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias
- Anti-Oppressive Practice
- Asian Americans
- Asian-American Youth
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Baccalaureate Social Workers
- Behavioral Health
- Behavioral Social Work Practice
- Bereavement Practice
- Brief Therapies in Social Work: Task-Centered Model and So...
- Bullying and Social Work Intervention
- Canadian Social Welfare, History of
- Case Management in Mental Health in the United States
- Child Poverty
- Child Welfare
- Child Welfare and Child Protection in Europe, History of
- Children of Incarcerated Parents
- Chronic Illness
- Clinical Social Work Practice with Adult Lesbians
- Cognitive Behavior Therapies with Diverse and Stressed Pop...
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Community Development
- Community Policing
- Community-Based Participatory Research
- Community-Needs Assessment
- Comparative Social Work
- Conflict Resolution
- Council on Social Work Education
- Counseling Female Offenders
- Criminal Justice
- Crisis Interventions
- Cultural Competence and Ethnic Sensitive Practice
- Culture, Ethnicity, Substance Use, and Substance Use Disor...
- Dementia Care, Ethical Aspects of
- Depression and Cancer
- Development and Infancy (Birth to Age Three)
- Direct Practice in Social Work
- Domestic Violence Among Immigrants
- Eating Disorders
- Ecological Framework
- Economic Evaluation
- Elder Mistreatment
- End-of-Life Decisions
- Epigenetics for Social Workers
- Ethics and Values in Social Work
- Evidence-based Social Work Practice
- Evidence-based Social Work Practice: Finding Evidence
- Evidence-based Social Work Practice: Issues, Controversies...
- Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs
- Families with Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Parents
- Family Caregiving
- Family Group Conferencing
- Family Policy
- Family Services
- Family Therapy
- Family Violence
- Fathering Among Families Served By Child Welfare
- Field Education
- Financing Health-Care Delivery in the United States
- Forensic Social Work
- Foster Care
- Gay Men
- Generalist Practice and Advanced Generalist Practice
- Group Work
- Group Work across Populations, Challenges, and Settings
- Group Work, Research, Best Practices, and Evidence-based
- Harm Reduction
- Health Care Reform
- Health Disparities
- Health Social Work
- History of Social Work and Social Welfare, 1950-1980
- History of Social Work and Social Welfare, pre-1900
- History of Social Work from 1980-2014
- History of Social Work in China
- History of Social Work in Northern Ireland
- History of Social Work in the Republic of Ireland
- History of Social Work in the United Kingdom
- HIV/AIDS Prevention with Adolescents
- Homelessness Outside the United States
- Human Needs
- Human Trafficking, Victims of
- Immigrant Policy in the United States
- Immigrants and Refugees
- Immigrants and Refugees: Evidence-based Social Work Practi...
- Impaired Professionals
- Implementation Science and Practice
- Indigenous Peoples
- Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employmen...
- International Social Welfare
- International Social Work
- International Social Work and Education
- International Social Work and Social Welfare in Southern A...
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy
- Intervention with Traumatized Populations
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Juvenile Justice
- Korean Americans
- Latinos and Latinas
- Law, Social Work and the
- Life Span
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Management and Administration in Social Work
- Maternal Mental Health
- Measurement, Scales, and Indices
- Medical Illness
- Men: Health and Mental Health Care
- Mental Health
- Mental Health Diagnosis and the Addictive Substance Disord...
- Mental Health Needs of Older People, Assessing the
- Mental Illness: Children
- Mental Illness: Elders
- Middle East and North Africa, International Social Work an...
- Military Social Work
- Mixed Methods Research
- Motivational Interviewing
- Native Americans
- Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
- Neighborhood Social Cohesion
- Neuroscience and Social Work
- Nicotine Dependence
- Occupational Social Work
- Organizational Development and Change
- Pain Management
- Palliative Care
- Palliative Care: Evolution and Scope of Practice
- Parent Training
- Philosophy of Science and Social Work
- Physical Disabilities
- Police Social Work
- Positive Youth Development
- Postmodernism and Social Work
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Practice Interventions and Aging
- Practice Interventions with Adolescents
- Practice Research
- Primary Prevention in the 21st Century
- Productive Engagement of Older Adults
- Profession, Social Work
- Psychiatric Rehabilitation
- Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Theory
- Psychopathology and Social Work Practice
- Psychopharmacology and Social Work Practice
- Psychosocial Framework
- Psychosocial Intervention with Women
- Qualitative Research
- Race and Racism
- Religiously Affiliated Agencies
- Reproductive Health
- Research Ethics
- Restorative Justice
- Risk Assessment in Child Protection Services
- Risk Management in Social Work
- Rural Social Work Practice
- School Social Work
- School Violence
- School-Based Delinquency Prevention
- Services and Programs for Pregnant and Parenting Youth
- Severe and Persistent Mental Illness: Adults
- Sexual Assault
- Single-System Research Designs
- Social Development
- Social Insurance and Social Justice
- Social Intervention Research
- Social Justice and Social Work
- Social Movements
- Social Planning
- Social Policy
- Social Security in the United States (OASDHI)
- Social Work Education and Research
- Social Work Regulation
- Social Work Research Methods
- Solution-Focused Therapy
- Strategic Planning
- Strengths Perspective
- Strengths-Based Models in Social Work
- Supplemental Security Income
- Survey Research
- Systematic Review Methods
- Task-Centered Practice
- Technology, Human Relationships, and Human Interaction
- Technology in Social Work
- Terminal Illness
- Transdisciplinary Science
- Translational Science and Social Work
- United States, History of Social Welfare in the
- Veteran Services
- Victim Services
- Welfare State Reform in France
- Welfare State Theory
- Women and Macro Social Work Practice
- Women's Health Care
- Work and Family in the German Welfare State
- Working with Non-Voluntary and Mandated Clients
- Young and Adolescent Lesbians
- Youth at Risk
- Youth Services