Quasi-experimental studies are research designs that evaluate human behavior. Sociologists and psychologists often perform quasi-experimental research to study individuals within the same environment facing similar circumstances. Although circumstances or environments are the same, the groups or individuals have very different experiences based on a variety of factors. Quasi-experimental research studies these factors and the effects that they have on the outcome.
Countless quasi-experimental topics focus on a person's environment or social setting. For example, a sociologist may research two boys of the same age who live in the same poor neighborhood, attend the same schools and have access to the same opportunities. If one boy is on his way to Harvard University after graduation and the other is a high-school dropout who sells drugs, quasi-experimental research can evaluate the variables that led to these outcomes.
Quasi-experimental designs help researchers determine the trends that lead to specific outcomes in certain neighborhoods, schools or within specific ethnic groups. These trends allow sociologists or psychologists to develop statistical data on a variety of topics. These statistics are included in countless psychological journals, textbooks and research publications. Community programs, politicians and neighborhood activists may use the data to make changes that will affect individuals or communities positively.
Many social scientists consider quasi-experimental studies to be meaningless because so many influences affect the results of an experiment, and quasi-experimental research is not detailed enough to determine each influential factor. Some researchers believe that it is impossible to conduct accurate experiments on human behavior. However, social scientists who use quasi-experimental research generally perform experiments that use stimuli that they can control or manipulate to get more accurate results.
When to Use Quasi-Experimental Research
Social scientists use this form of research in situations where they cannot randomly assign individuals to treatment groups. For example, researchers who study the effects of drug abuse on pregnant women cannot randomly ask a drug-free pregnant woman to participate in the study. Pre-existing situations must be present for quasi-experiments to take place. The studies can focus on serious issues that can lead to detrimental outcomes, or they can be fun experiments that evaluate why people behave a certain way in specific social settings.
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