Experimental Research: A Step-by-Step Guide
The first image that many people have when thinking about scientific research is undoubtedly scientists carrying out experiments in the laboratory. As we have noted previously, the production of knowledge happens through research. But experimentation is just one of the methods used to make that happen.
At the university, students have contact with different types of research. In some areas, some methods are used more than others. For example, experimental research has been closely associated with the areas of pure and biological sciences because of its recurring use. However, this does not mean that experimental research is not used in human and social sciences.
In this article, we show how scientific research differs from its methods. And let’s go deeper into what experimental research is, its variables, and procedures. Check it out below!
What are the types of scientific research?
Science is a way of not only knowing a phenomenon but verifying its causes, its effects, and, with that, intervening in reality. Scientific knowledge is organized through methods, processes, and analysis techniques. Thus, scientific research is characterized by its rational and systematic procedures. It is in this way that research provides answers to problems observed in reality. Thus, it is established in the field of thought and is linked to action as it intervenes in reality.
Another characteristic fundamental for any scientific research is that it is subject to demonstration and proof. On the other hand, it should be noted that this characteristic does not make the results of research definitive. Scientific knowledge is, in essence, provisional. It can be continuously tested, reformulated, and thus enriched.
With its systematic procedures, scientific research can follow methods that vary according to its approach (qualitative, quantitative), its nature (basic, applied), its objectives (exploratory, descriptive, explanatory), or its procedures.
Types of research procedures
The procedures are the techniques used during the development of the research. Through them, the researcher will be able to collect and analyze data, that is, to carry out the practical part of the research.
Below, we point out the main types of scientific procedures:
- Field research
- Case study
- Participating research
- Action Research
As we noted earlier, these researches are differentiated by their method of scientific investigation. However, this is not to say that an investigation needs to focus on just one type of method.
For example, bibliographic research is a necessary procedure for all types of research projects. It is from there that a researcher will seek a theoretical foundation that will support his work.
What is experimental research?
Experimental research is one that has its procedures based on tests. These tests are conducted exclusively by the researcher (or group of researchers), without any external participation.
Experiments are carried out to establish cause-effect relationships based on some variables investigated by the research. In other words, experimental research selects variables that are believed to influence the object of studies. From the control and observation of the interaction between the object and the variable and its effects, conclusions, and reflections are drawn. Therefore, it is a type of research where the researcher takes an active role, not limited to observing the facts.
Experimental research is carried out in the laboratory, which is characterized as an artificial environment; because the researcher creates its conditions or develops in the field, communities, groups, and organizations are studied live in a real environment.
Data collection, the phase in which the experiment is carried out, gains great attention in this research type. But that does not mean that the other phases are left out. After all, theoretically grounding the research is just as important as experimenting, as well as defining the methodology used and performing the analysis of the results.
The modalities and groups in experimental research
The most common experimental research is divided into two modalities:
1. Experimental research with two homogeneous groups: One group is called experimental, and another is called control. The experiment applies only to the experimental group. Thus, the results are compared to the control group to compare the differences observed between the two groups.
2. Experimental research before and after: Here, the experiment is carried out in a small group, defined according to its characteristics. The data collected after the experiment is compared with the group’s data carried out before the experiment.
Thinking about these two modalities presented, defining how the research participants are selected is also necessary. The participants represent the groups submitted to the tests: control and experimental.
But it is important to remember first that, in both selections pointed out below, participants in their research are chosen based on basic premises; pointed out already in the choice of the theme and the problem studied.
Thus, the selection is made in two ways:
Probabilistic sampling: Participants are randomly selected, regardless of their characteristics.
Non-probabilistic sampling: Participants are selected based on characteristics of interest to the researcher.
The variables of an experiment
Variables play a very important role in experimental research. After all, it is from the effects they cause on the object of studies that we reflect and form our research considerations. Defining the variables, therefore, represents an important step for planning experimental research. Check out the two types of variables and their roles in this type of research:
Dependent Variable (DV)
Dependent is the variable whose effects the researcher wishes to investigate. Thus, it is directly influenced by the manipulation of the independent variable. In general, only one dependent variable is chosen for the study.
Independent Variable (VI)
Independent variables are those that, from their manipulation, caused certain effects on the dependent variable. Thus, it is very common for a study to choose more than one independent variable to experiment with. However, choosing which independent variables to include in the research is a challenge and requires in-depth knowledge of the variables themselves and the process that will follow.
The experimental method procedures
The experimental research is composed of methods and techniques of data collection and analysis. After all, to understand the causes of the phenomenon, research needs to present the most reliable data. In this way, the researcher will be on the right path to analyze your data and obtain information relevant to your investigation. Fulfilling the objectives proposed in the research and confirming or denying the hypotheses raised.
Check out the three fundamental procedures of a scientific experiment:
1. Control of interfering variables
The control of variables is an important feature of experimental research. But this control is not limited to the correct choice of variables and procedures. To perform the control is to test if the chosen independent variable causes the observed effect. Or is there another variable influencing the observed effect?
We must make sure that there are no other variables present in the environment that may be interfering or causing a certain effect on the VI. Thus, we prove that the VI chosen for the experiment is responsible for a certain effect on the DV.
Thus, it is necessary to control the environment and keep the other variables constant during the experiment. In this way, its effects are isolated, without interfering in the relationship between the two variables that one wants to observe in the study. This control is easier to do in the laboratory in an artificial environment.
2. Variation of the cause
The cause variation is another fundamental procedure of the experimental method. When observing an effect between the variables, remove the VI from the environment, and continue observing. Record the results. Then, insert the VI again in the DV environment, but with other configurations. Does DV suffer from the effect of VI under any circumstances or only in a specific configuration? This procedure is to obtain scientific evidence of the effect studied by the research.
3. Measuring the observed effect
Another procedure that is carried out in experimental research is the measurement of the effect. This procedure consists of measuring the effect of VI on DV reliably and validly. However, the measurement depends directly on what type of variables you are using. With that, it is possible to choose an appropriate measurement instrument for the research object.