In experimental research, there are two common designs. They are between and within group design. The difference between these two groups of designs is that between group involves two or more groups in an experiment while within group involves only one group.
This post will focus on between group designs. We will look at the following forms of between group design…
- True/quasi experiment
- Factorial Design
A true experiment is one in which the participants are randomly assigned to different groups. In a quasi experiment, the researcher is not able to randomly assigned participants to different groups.
Random assignment is important in reducing many threats to internal validity. However, there are times when a researcher does not have control over this, such as when they conduct an experiment at a school where classes have already been established. In general, a true experiment is always considered superior methodological to a quasi experiment.
Whether the experiment is a true experiment or a quasi experiment. There is always two groups that are compared in the study. One group is the controlled group, which does not receive the treatment. The other group is called the experimental group, which receives the treatment of the study. It is possible to have more than two groups and several treatments but the minimum for between group designs is two groups.
Another characteristic that true and quasi experiments have in common is the type of formats that the experiment can take. There are two common formats
- Pre- and post test
- Post test only
A pre- and post test involves measuring the groups of the study before the treatment and after the treatment. The desire normally is for the groups to be the same before the treatment and for them to be different statistically after the treatment. The reason for them being different is because of the treatment, at least hopefully.
For example, let’s say you have some bushes and you want to see if the fertilizer you bought makes any difference in the growth of the bushes. You divide the bushes into two groups, one that receives the fertilizer (experimental group), and one that does not (controlled group). You measure the height of the bushes before the experiment to be sure they are the same. Then, you apply the fertilizer to the experimental group and after a period of time you measure the heights of both groups again. If the fertilized bushes grow taller than the control group you can infer that it is because of the fertilizer.
Post-test only design is when the groups are measured only after the treatment. For example, let’s say you have some corn plants and you want to see if the fertilizer you bought makes any difference.in the amount of corn produced. You divide the corn plants into two groups, one that receives the fertilizer (experimental group), and one that does not (controlled group). You apply the fertilizer to the control group and after a period of time you measure the amount of corn produced. If the fertilized corn produces more you can infer that it is because of the fertilizer. You never measure the corn beforehand because they had not produced any corn yet.
Factorial design involves the use of more than one treatment. Returning to the corn example, let’s say you want to see not only how fertilizer affects corn production but also how the amount of water the corn receives affects production as well.
In this example, you are trying to see if there is an interaction effect between fertilizer and water. When water and fertilizer are increased does production increase, is there no increase, or if one goes up and the other goes down does that have an effect?
Between group designs such as true and quasi experiments provide a way for researchers to establish cause and effect. Pre- post test are employed as well as factorial designs to establish relationships between variables