Experimental Research: Why and How Companies Use It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2021

Experimental research is a method of gathering information and data on a subject through observation in controlled settings. Experimentation is a useful form of analysis that professionals use in a variety of industries. Since it occurs in several forms, understanding the benefits of each form can help you better use experimental research in your professional career. In this article, we define experimental research, learn the benefits of using it, discover the different types and provide helpful examples.

What is experimental research?

Experimental research is a form of comparative analysis in which you observe two or more groups that are experiencing different conditions. By assessing results from both groups, you can determine correlations between the variables applied to the groups and their effects on each. Also known as the scientific approach, experimental research is an effective method of finding preferable ways of accomplishing a task for providing a service.

Related: Types of Research: Definitions and Examples

Benefits of experimental research

Experimental research provides you with more information when making professional decisions, which can allow you to complete better and more profitable actions. There are many benefits to 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 in order to provide results that are as applicable as possible to your professional goals.

Related: 10 Types of Variables in Research and Statistics

Broad application across fields

Because experimental research provides significant control, it is also extremely 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 provides you with 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 are trying to gather, you can devise an experiment that isolates for that data in order to provide the precise results you require. This allows experimental research to act as an efficient method of gaining information on a topic.

Actionable results

Experimental research is well suited to providing results you can draw conclusions and act upon. It is 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 benefit from completing the experiment.

Establishing cause and effect in markets

Following market trends is an important part of remaining competitive in a professional sector. When studying trend data, however, it is not always readily apparent what is causing the trends to move. When responding to changes in trends, you can only behave reactively, because you need to first see changes in the data in order to respond to them.

Experimental research can be used to identify cause-and-effect relationships within markets. This can help you determine what indicators represent an impending change in the market. When you can accurately predict how trends will shift before the shift occurs, this can provide a significant professional advantage against your peers, as it allows you to capitalize on the new conditions and maximize your benefits first. When used to identify a developing market, acting early can have an amplified effect as it allows you to claim a larger share of the market, giving you an advantage in the future.

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 how to apply it, the more capable you become of using it within other frameworks and types of analysis. This helps to raise the effectiveness of your other research and data analysis as well, amplifying the benefit that experimental research provides.

Related: Designing an Experiment: A How-To Guide

Types of experimental research

There are three different types of experimental research, broken down by key elements related to how you conduct the experiment. Within the three types, there can also exist subdivisions that are similarly affected by behaviors within the experiment. The three types of experimental research are:

Pre-experimental research

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

  • One-shot case study research design: In this form of experimental research, experimenters use a single group subjected to a stimulus and tested at the end of the application. This allows the researcher 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 for performance with and without application, in order for researchers to draw conclusions 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 for the subjects receiving the stimuli against those who did not.

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

Quasi-experimental research

Quasi-experimental research is similar to true experimental research and can be applied 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 commonly occurs because of rules or regulations which prevent researchers from applying random allocations in some settings, such as research at a university with rules which prevent it.

True experimental research

True experimental research is the premier 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, in order to provide more reliable results. There are three 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 does not receive the stimuli being tested, while the second group is subjected to the stimuli researchers are assessing. Researchers perform tests at the end of the experiment in order to determine the practical results of being exposed to the stimuli.

Pretest-posttest control group design

Although similar to the previous design, under this structure researchers provide tests to the participants both before and after the non-control group receives exposure to the stimuli. Because researchers test groups twice, it provides multiple methods of assessing the results. Researchers can examine changes in performance for the non-control group, and may also determine if changes can be associated with undergoing the same test a second time by checking if the control group also changed, which researchers can then use to make adjustments as needed when analyzing the data.

Soloman 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 and post-test or pre-and post-test. By providing researchers with a more exhaustive set of data with more ways of differentiating between groups, it can enhance the researchers' ability to reach conclusions based on the resulting data.

Experimental research examples

Experimental research has broad usage and can provide meaningful information to professionals in nearly any field. These examples show ways in which a researcher may use experimental research in order to gather valuable insight that can help to steer future performance by a company in order to make it more productive or profitable.

Testing marketing options

A company seeking to market a new product may opt to run two different versions of advertisements, also called split testing, as part of a marketing campaign. The company then tracks the performance of both in order to determine which is more effective and transfer the marketing budget to the more effective option.

For example, the spread of digital advertising has made this form of testing even more common as it is now easier to run with advertising platforms and social media networks often providing detailed breakdowns of ad performances for companies. This allows for the quick assessment of different options in order to optimize the marketing plan. After multiple rounds of testing, a company may determine more effective options for introducing new advertisements.

Targeting different demographics

Another popular execution of split testing is experimental research by altering the demographics targeted with a campaign for a product or service. While changing the advertisements performed, the company examines which groups produce the best results when exposed to the advertising campaign in order to adjust the focus of current and future marketing plans for the product. This is another style of research where modern tools can provide significant sources of data in order to guide companies as they make their marketing comparisons.

Trying different product designs

Experimental research is often a critical part of the product development phase of introducing a new product to the market. When designing a product, researchers may use experimental methods to produce multiple prototypes and conduct experiments designed to test the performance and capabilities of each in order to find the most effective design.

Companies may also use experimental research in the form of market testing with multiple designs of a product. By allowing sample groups to experience the different product designs, a researcher can assess which option presents the highest appeal to prospective customers in order to help the company influence its development to best meet the existing market.

Developing new solutions

A company may employ experimental research when working to develop new solutions to an existing problem. An 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.

Explore more articles