Experimental Research: Definition, Types and Examples

Updated February 3, 2023

Experimentation is a useful form of analysis that professionals use in a variety of industries. Experimental research is a method of gathering information and data on a subject through observation in controlled settings Understanding the benefits of experimental research design can help you better use it in your professional career.

In this article, we define experimental research, discuss the types of experimental research design, explore the advantages of using this research method and share example scenarios.

What is experimental research?

Experimental research is a form of comparative analysis in which you study two or more variables and observe a group under a certain condition or groups experiencing different conditions. By assessing the results of this type of study, you can determine correlations between the variables applied and their effects on each group. Experimental research uses the scientific method to find preferable ways of accomplishing a task for providing a service.

Related: Types of Research: Definitions and Examples

Types of experimental research design

A scientific researcher looks through a microscope while another person makes notes in the foreground. Both are dressed in white coats.

There are three different types of experimental research design, divided by key elements related to how you conduct each experiment. Within these types, there are also subdivisions that the behaviors within the experiment can affect. The three main types of experimental research design are:

1. Pre-experimental research

A pre-experimental research study is an observational approach to performing an experiment. It's the most basic style of experimental research. Free experimental research can occur in one of these design structures:

  • One-shot case study research design: In this form of experimental research, experimenters subject a single group to a stimulus and test them at the end of the application. This allows researchers to gather results for performance by individuals or entities subject to the stimuli being tested.

  • One-group pretest-posttest design: In this type of research, researchers apply a test both before and after the application of the stimuli. This provides a comparison of performance with and without application for researchers to make judgments about the effects of the stimuli on the subjects.

  • Static group comparison design: In a static group comparison, researchers assess two different groups, with only one group receiving the stimuli the researchers are assessing. Testing occurs at the end of the process, allowing the researchers to compare the results from the subjects who received the stimuli against those who didn't.

Related: Evidence-Based vs. Research-Based Programs: Definitions and Differences

2. Quasi-experimental research

Quasi-experimental research is similar to true experimental research, and experimenters can apply it in similar ways. The primary distinction between the two is a lack of randomization when assigning participants to groups in a quasi-experimental study. This usually occurs because of rules or regulations that prevent researchers from applying random allocations in some settings, such as a research study at a university.

Related: Research Design: What It Is (Plus 20 Types)

3. True experimental research

True experimental research is the main method of applying untested research to a subject. Under true experimental conditions, participants receive randomized assignments to different groups in the study. This removes any potential for bias in creating study groups to provide more reliable results. There are a few design structures a researcher may use when performing experimental research, which differ based on the number and style of groups used:

Posttest-only control group design

In this design structure, a researcher divides participants into two groups at random. One group acts as a control and doesn't receive the stimuli being tested, while the second group does receive the stimuli researchers are assessing. Researchers perform tests at the end of the experiment to determine the practical results of being exposed to the stimuli.

Related: What Is a Control in an Experiment? (With Definition and Guide)

Pretest-posttest control group design

Under this structure, researchers provide tests to the participants both before and after the non-control group receives exposure to the stimuli. Researchers test groups twice, so this structure provides multiple methods of assessing the results.

Experimenters can examine changes in performance for the non-control group, and they may also determine if any changes occur due to participants undergoing the same test twice. They may do this by checking if the control group has also changed, which researchers can then use to make adjustments as needed when analyzing the data.

Related: What Is a Control Group? Definition and Examples

Solomon four-group design

This is the most comprehensive design structure for an experimental research project. Under the Solomon four-group design, participants receive an assignment to one of four randomly allocated groups. These groups provide all four possible permutations for both control and non-control groups and post-test or pre- and post-test control groups. Having a comprehensive set of data with multiple ways of differentiating between groups can enhance researchers' abilities to reach conclusions based on the resulting data.

Advantages of using experimental research

Experimental research provides you with more information when making professional decisions, which might allow you to complete better and more profitable actions. There are many advantages of using the experimental research approach, including:

Strong variable control

Experimental research occurs within a controlled setting. This provides you with significant influence over the variables associated with the experiment you conduct. It allows you to tailor and experiment to best match your needs, which can help you gain results that are applicable to your professional goals.

Related: 10 Types of Variables in Research and Statistics

Broad application across fields

Experimental research provides significant control, and it's adaptable across a variety of professional fields. This makes it an effective tool for professionals in all industries to understand. By adapting experimental research to match your professional field, you can use it to gain key information that might give you an advantage over your competitors.

Specific results

When conducting experimental research, your control allows you to specify the type of results your research yields. If you know what information you're trying to gather, you can devise an experiment that isolates that data to provide the precise results needed. This makes experimental research an efficient method of gaining information on a topic.

Actionable results

Experimental research provides results on which you can draw conclusions and act. It's an effective method when seeking to change behaviors or policies in your professional career. Many experiments yield results that show a clear preference for the most effective option based on the variable of the experimental studies. By applying the more effective method revealed, you can benefit from completing the experiment.

Related: 7 Types of Experiments and What They Measure

Early identification of market trends

Following market trends is important for remaining competitive in a professional sector. You can use experimental research to identify cause-and-effect relationships within markets. This can help you determine what indicators represent an impending change in the market.

Accurately predicting how trends may shift can provide a significant professional advantage, as it allows you to use the new conditions to maximize your benefits quickly. When used to identify a developing market, for instance, acting early might allow you to claim a larger share of the market, giving you a potential advantage in the future.

Related: What Is Experiment Marketing? (With Tips and Examples)

Foundational use in further experimentation

Experimental research is a foundational part of many types of analysis. The stronger understanding you have of experimental research and its application, the more capable you may become of using it within other frameworks and types of analysis. This can also help increase the effectiveness of your other research and data analysis.

Related: Designing an Experiment: 8 Steps Plus Experimental Design Types

Experimental research examples

Experimental research has broad usage and can provide meaningful information to professionals in nearly any field. For instance, a researcher may use experimental research to gather valuable insight that can steer a company's performance and make it more productive or profitable. Here are some example scenarios involving experimental research:

Advertisements example

A company seeking to market a new product opts to run two different versions of advertisements as part of a marketing campaign. Using digital advertising through social media networks and advertising platforms allows the company to view detailed breakdowns of ad performance. This allows for the quick assessment of different options to optimize the company's marketing plan.

The company tracks the performance of both advertisements to determine which is more effective. After multiple rounds of testing, the company determines that one advertisement receives more engagement and leads to more purchases than the other. The company then transfers the marketing budget to the better advertisement option.

Demographics example

A company wants to use experimental research to identify the right demographic for its new service. The company gathers different groups of consumers based on age, location and other factors. Researchers then examine which groups produce the best results when exposed to the advertising campaign for the service. This helps the company adjust the focus of both its current and future marketing plans.

Product design example

A company is in the product development phase of introducing a new product to the market. When designing the product, researchers use experimental methods to produce multiple prototypes and conduct experiments to test the performance and capabilities of each design. These experiments help the researchers find the most effective product design for the company.

The company also uses experimental research in the form of market testing with multiple designs of the product. By allowing sample groups to experience the different product designs, the researchers can assess which option presents the highest appeal to prospective customers. This helps the company influence its development to best meet the existing market.

Solutions example

A company employs experimental research when working to develop new solutions to an existing problem. The experiment allows the company to compare the results of different proposed solutions and identify the most effective method of solving the problem. The company can then move forward with its newly optimized behavior patterns.


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