The Basics of Social Research

Chapter Eight.  Experiments


    Part Three of this book focuses on a number of different techniques for collecting data.  The first one we've examined is experients.  We'll examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of each method discussed.

    Experiments have a special advantage of isolating the effects attributable to an experimental stimulus.  It is the most controlled form of research we'll study.  And to the extent that an experiment is limited in scope and duration, it is particularly easy for others to replicate.  We gain confidence when different researchers undertake the same or similar study designs and achieve the same results.

    One of the biggest disadvantage of experiments is their artificiality.  There is always a question whether the things we learn in a  controlled, laboratory will hold true in the real world.  (This is one reason why we have so many different research methods.)  Also, while experiments are strong in terms of explanation, they are weak in terms of description.  They are seldom a good source of descriptive data about any meaningful populations.