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Experimental and Nonexperimental Research Designs

The choice of study design is a crucial stage, during which the quality of research and the accuracy of its findings are determined. Experimental and nonexperimental methods are two popular designs, which are widely used in the modern academic environment. The primary difference between them lies in the presence of variable control manipulation (Ross, 2019). The authors of experimental research alter the environment in which test subjects are observed. This way, it is possible to examine a range of conditions and their effect in the context of the study’s subject matter. At the same time, nonexperimental research design implies that all subjects are placed in the natural environment. Such studies do not manipulate the environment to any extent, which enables objective, real practice-based results.

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Accordingly, it is possible to suggest that experimental research is associated with a higher level of control. Scholars determine the exact surroundings and the factors, which influence the course of the study in this scenario. On the contrary, nonexperimental studies exhibit less control over the environment, and the practical value of results compensates for the overall passive role of researchers. Such frameworks are actively utilized in a variety of areas, especially social sciences and education. For example, in the study by Leventhal and Dupéré (2019), a two-stage research model is used. First, nonexperimental research reveals certain tendencies in socioeconomic disparities’ influence on children, leading to hypotheses. Next, an experimental study is conducted to test the assumptions in practice in a controlled environment. At the same time, Steiner and Wong (2018) examined the correspondence of both methods’ findings in the context of within-study comparisons. Accordingly, the interchangeability of experimental and nonexperimental designs serves as an area of interest for scholars. However, they continue to be used as separate instruments, testing various theories and hypotheses in specific settings in the spheres of psychology, social sciences, and education.


Leventhal, T., & Dupéré, V. (2019). Neighborhood effects on children’s development in experimental and nonexperimental research. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, 1, 149-176. Web.

Ross, A. S. (2019). Experimental and nonexperimental designs in social psychology. Routledge.

Steiner, P. M., & Wong, V. C. (2018). Assessing correspondence between experimental and nonexperimental estimates in within-study comparisons. Evaluation Review, 42(2), 214–247. Web.

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