In research, there are several methods to determine the best way to describe our reality.. Experimental research is the most popular method, thanks to its high control over variables and its ability to establish cause and effect relationships.
There are many disciplines in which this method is used, being fundamental in sciences such as psychology, sociology, chemistry and pharmacy, among others.
In this article we will see the advantages and disadvantages of this method., Describing some examples applied in various disciplines.
Benefits of experimental research
Below, we have summarized the benefits of experimental research.
1. Variables control
This method makes it possible to isolate the variables to be studied and to modify them according to the objective of the study.. Variables can also be combined to study how they interact with each other.
Thanks to this, experimental research allows the greatest control of variables.
2. Identification of the cause and effect relationship
By studying the variables in isolation, the direct relation can be easily established. between an action incorporated by the researcher and the results obtained.
3. There are no study limits
Any subject can be approached using the experimental methodYou just need to know how to enter it in the experimental design and extract the variables to analyze.
4. Results can be duplicated
By controlling the variables and the context in which the experiment is carried out, this can be reproduced and repeated as many times as desired.
Also, another research group can perform the same experiment following the author’s directions and duplicate their results.
5. They can be combined with other research methods
Ensure that the results obtained are reliableIt is advantageous to combine experimental research with other methods.
In doing so, one can compare the search results and see if there are any striking discrepancies.
Despite all the advantages that we have seen in the previous points, experimental research can also have drawbacks and weaknesses.
1. Non-operational aspects
Love, happiness, and other abstract ideas are hard to study. That is, unlike variables such as length, height, temperature, and the like, emotions, for example, cannot be accurately measured.
2. Artificial situations
The situations are created in the laboratory according to the objective to be studied. These situations are very well controlled and can hardly represent a real situation.
Due to this artificiality, variables which in nature always occur together may be excluded.
3. Human error
We humans are imperfect, and if the experimentation is rigorous, it may be that the experimenter himself is wrong in measuring the variables.
While human error is not necessarily too serious an event, in more serious cases it may mean having to invalidate all results and it becomes necessary to repeat the study.
4. The environment influences the participants
If the laboratory or any other place where the study is carried out presents distraction factor or which may alter the participant’s mood, their responses will be affected.
5. The manipulation of variables may not be objective
It is possible that, either because of a researcher’s bias or intentionally, the results are manipulated and interpreted to confirm the hypotheses to be verified in the study.
6. It may take a long time
Scientific research requires many steps. First you have to choose the object of study, then you have to find out what are its variables, then you have to make an experimental design and there are still some steps left.
Going through all these phases means needing a lot of time. In addition, once the experiment has started, errors may be detected which must be corrected and data collection is interrupted.
Obtaining participants for the sample is a long process, and there is no guarantee that they will end up performing the experiment.
7. Ethical issues
Throughout history there have been cases of experiments that have sparked controversy because they rubbed off ethical violations.
To give an example, Nazi doctors experimented with concentration camp prisoners in an inhuman and cruel way, without any objection to torturing and killing them.
Another ethical aspect to consider is animal testing. Many environmentalists and animal rights activists are totally opposed to the use of animals for scientific purposes, although it can mean saving human lives as it does with pharmaceutical research.
8. Research does not offer a real explanation
On many occasions, experimental research aims to answer questions related to very specific aspects. As no real situation is studied, neither can one get a precise explanation of why certain phenomena occur in nature.
It is good to know what influences a given variable in isolation, as it makes prediction easier, but in nature, that same variable is not given separately from the rest.
9. Strange variables cannot always be controlled
Although one of the main advantages of experimental research is that it achieves better control over strange variables, that does not mean that they cannot be overlooked.
10. The sample may not be representative.
Although this is a rare occurrence, the truth is that it can happen that the participants have very different characteristics relative to the population from which they were extracted.
For example, let’s say we want to study the extent to which young women are obsessed with being thin. We have decided that our sample will be between 18 and 25 years old and we will recruit them from our own city.
The predictable thing would be to find women with diverse concerns – some will care a lot about their weight while others don’t see it as a key aspect of their lives.
In our research, we had a sample composed predominantly of obese women, a factor that clearly raises a concern for weight in terms of health.
11. Groups may not be comparable
If the study compares two or more groups, they may not be comparable for different reasons.
Consider the following example: Suppose we want to study how athletic performance is influenced by the gender variable. We managed to recruit 30 men and 30 women and all passed the same physical tests.
It turns out that all of these people were already playing sports before participating in the study, it turns out that most women do contemporary dance, and most men play soccer.
By analyzing the results of physical tests, we find that men have more endurance and strength while women exhibit higher levels of coordination and flexibility.
Based on this, we do not know whether it is the type of sport or the gender variable that influenced the qualitative differences in sports performance.
- Neuman, WL and Neuman, WL (2006). Social research methods: qualitative and quantitative approaches.
- Punch, KF (2013). Introduction to social research: quantitative and qualitative approaches. wise