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? 

  • Variables

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.

  • Setting

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.

  • 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, it's 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.

  • Simulations: This procedure uses a 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.

  • Surveys: 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 surveys. It has relevant features that will aid the data collection process and can also be used in other aspects of experimental research.

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Differences between Experimental and Non-Experimental Research 

  • 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.

  • 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
  • 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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