Experimental research is the type of research design most familiar to individuals in the physical sciences and a host of other fields. According to Anderson (1979), this is mainly because experimental research is a classical scientific experiment, similar to those performed in high school science classes.

Beginning to Understand Experimental Research

Imagine taking two samples of the same plant and exposing one of them to sunlight, while the other stays away from sunlight. Let the plant exposed to sunlight be called sample A, while the second is called sample B.

If after the duration of the investigation, we find that sample A grows and sample B dies, even though both get wet regularly and receive the same treatment. Therefore, we can conclude that sunlight helps the growth of all similar plants.

If you don’t have enough data to back up your decisions, you must first determine the facts. Experimental research gathers the data needed to help you make better decisions.

When can experimental research be conducted?

Experimental research can be conducted in the following situations:

Invariable behavior between cause and effect.

You want to understand the importance of cause and effect.

Types of experimental research design

The classic definition of experimental design is: “The methods used to collect data in experimental studies”.

There are three main types of experimental design: pre-experimental, true experimental, and quasi-experimental. How research subjects are classified, based on conditions or groups, determines the type of design.

Pre-experimental research design

A group, or several groups, are kept under observation after applying the cause and effect factors. This research is conducted to understand whether more in-depth research is needed for these particular groups.

You can break down pre-experimental research into three types:

Group case study research design

Pre-test-post-test research design of a group

Comparison of static groups

True experimental research design

True experimental research relies on statistical analysis to prove or disprove a hypothesis, making it the most accurate form of research. In a true experiment, three factors must be met:

There is a Control Group, which will not be subjected to changes, and an Experimental Group, which will experience the changed variables.

Random distribution

This method of experimental research is common in the physical sciences.

Quasi-experimental research design

The word “quasi” indicates similarity. The difference between the two is the assignment of a control group. In this research, an independent variable is manipulated, but participants in a group are not randomly assigned.

Advantages of experimental research

It is vital for testing new ideas or theories.

Experimental research allows you to test your idea in a controlled environment before bringing it to market. It is also the best method to test your theory, thanks to the following advantages:

Researchers have greater control over the variables to obtain the desired results.

The topic or industry does not influence the effectiveness of experimental research. Any industry can apply it for research purposes.

The results are specific.

After analyzing the results, you can apply your conclusions to similar ideas or situations.

You can identify the cause and effect of a hypothesis. Researchers can continue to analyze this relationship to determine deeper insights.

Experimental research is an ideal starting point. The data you collect is a foundation on which to build more ideas and conduct more research.

True experimental research design

True experimental research design relies on statistical analysis to approve or disprove a hypothesis. It is the most accurate type of experimental design and can be carried out with or without a pre-test on at least 2 randomly assigned dependent subjects.

Also, 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 includes:

The control group design a posteriori

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 subjected to a subsequent test and a conclusion is drawn of the difference between these groups.

The pretest-postest control group design

In this control group design, subjects are randomly assigned to the two groups, both are presented, but only the experimental group is treated. After close observation, both groups are subjected to a subsequent test to measure the degree of change in each group.

Solomonic design of four groups

This is the combination of the control groups only pretest and pretest-postest. In this case, randomly selected subjects are placed in 4 groups.

The first two groups are tested with the postest-only method, while the other two are tested with the pretest-postest method.

Examples of experimental research

According to Winn (1986), the most basic example of experimental research is laboratory experiments, the nature of which may vary depending on the research topic.

Administration of exams at the end of the semester

During the semester, students in a class are taught on certain courses and administered an exam at the end of the semester. In this case, the students are the dependent subjects or variables, while the classes are the independent variables treated on the subjects.

In this research only a group of carefully selected subjects is considered, which makes it an example of pre-experimental research design. We will also note that the tests are only done at the end of the semester, and not at the beginning.

Which makes it easier for us to conclude that this is unique case study research.

Assessment of employee skills

Before hiring an employee, organizations conduct tests that serve to discard the least qualified candidates from the pool of qualified applicants. In this way, organizations can determine an employee’s skill set at the time of hiring.

In the course of employment, organizations also carry out employee training to improve their productivity and, in general, grow the organization. At the end of each training, a subsequent evaluation is carried out to check the impact of the training on employees’ skills and see if they can be improved.

Here, the subject is the employee, while the treatment is the training provided. This is an example of experimental pretest-postest control group research.

Evaluation of the teaching method

Imagine a case in which the students assigned to each teacher are carefully selected, probably due to the personal request of the parents or stubbornness and intelligence.

By evaluating the effectiveness of each teacher’s teaching method in this way, we can conclude after conducting a subsequent test.

However, this can be influenced by factors such as a student’s natural sweetness. For example, a very intelligent student will grasp more easily than his peers, regardless of the teaching method.

What are the characteristics of experimental research?


Experimental research contains dependent, independent, and strange variables. Dependent variables are the variables that are treated or manipulated and are sometimes called the object of the investigation.

The independent variables are the experimental treatment that is exerted on the dependent variables. Finally, the strange variables, on the other hand, are other factors that affect the experiment and that can also contribute to the change.


The stage is the place where the experiment is performed.

Other experiments are carried out in a less controllable environment. The choice of environment used in the research depends on the nature of the experiment being conducted.


Experimental research can include multiple independent variables, e.g. time, skills, test results, etc.

Why use experimental research design?

Some uses of experimental research design are highlighted below.


Experimental research is used to provide the right treatment for diseases. In most cases, instead of directly using patients as a research subject, researchers take a sample of the bacteria from the patient’s body and treat them with the developed antibacterial.

The changes observed during this period are recorded and evaluated to determine their effectiveness. This process can be carried out using different experimental research methods.


Apart from science subjects such as chemistry and physics, which involve teaching students to conduct experimental research, it can also be used to improve the level of an academic institution. This includes testing students’ knowledge on different topics, creating better teaching methods, and implementing other programs that help students learn.


During the product development phase, one of the main goals of the product team is to create a great user experience with the product. Therefore, before launching the final design of the product, a potential interaction with the product takes place.

What are the disadvantages of experimental research?

It is very prone to human error due to its reliance on a variable control that may not be well implemented. These errors could eliminate the validity of the experiment and the research conducted.

Controlling strange variables can create unreal situations. The elimination of real-life variables will lead to inaccurate conclusions. This can also result in researchers controlling for variables to suit their personal preferences.

It’s a time-consuming process. A lot of time is spent testing the dependent variables and waiting for the effect of manipulating them to manifest.

It’s expensive.

It is very risky and can have ethical complications that cannot be ignored. This is common in medical research, where failed trials can lead to the death of a patient or the deterioration of their state of health.

The results of the experimental research are not descriptive.

Response bias can also be supplied by the subject of the conversation.

What are the methods of data collection in experimental research?

Data collection methods in experimental research, according to Fortune (1994), are the different ways of collecting data 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. Measure and observe the variables of interest without modifying the existing conditions.

When investigating the effect of social interaction on human behavior, subjects are observed to be placed in 2 different environments throughout the research. No matter what kind of absurd behavior the subject exhibits during this period, his condition will not change.

This can be a very risky thing in medical cases because it can lead to death or worse medical conditions.


This procedure uses a mathematical, physical, or computer model to reproduce a real-life process or situation. It is frequently used when the real situation is too expensive, dangerous or impractical to reproduce in real life.

This method is commonly used in engineering and operations research for learning purposes and sometimes as a tool to estimate the possible outcomes of real research. Common situational software includes Simulink, MATLAB, and Simul8.

Not all types of experimental research can be carried out using simulation as a data collection tool. It is very impractical for many laboratory-based investigations involving chemical processes.


A survey consists of a group of questions prepared by the researcher, which must be answered by the research subject.

Surveys can be shared with respondents both physically and electronically. When survey data is collected, the type of data collected depends on the respondent, and researchers have limited control over it.

Differences between experimental and non-experimental research

In experimental research, the researcher can control and manipulate the research environment, including the predictor variable that can be modified. 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 environment, where strange variables cannot be eliminated.

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 strange variables also influence the changes of the research subject, making it difficult to pinpoint a particular variable as the cause of a given change.


Experimental research designs are often considered the norm in research designs. This is partly due to the misconception that research is equivalent to scientific experiments, a component of experimental research design.

One of the singularities of experimental research is its ability to control the effect of foreign variables.

Experimental research is suitable for research aimed at examining cause-effect relationships, e.g. explanatory research. It can be carried out in the laboratory or in the field, depending on the objective of the research being carried out.

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You might also be interested in: Surveys and their use in Research

Bibliographic References

Anderson, J. A. (1979, Nov. 10-13). Research as argument: the experimental form. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Antonio, TX.

Fortune, J.C., & Hutson, B. A. (1994, March/April). Selecting models for measuring change when true experimental conditions do not exist. Journal of Educational Research, 197-206.

Winn, B. (1986, January 16-21). Emerging trends in educational technology research. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Educational Communication Technology.

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