Benefits and Limitations of Experimental Research

Benefits and Limitations of Experimental Research

The following module will discuss the benefits and limitations associated with experimental research.

Learning Objectives

  • List and explain the advantages and benefits of experimental research
  • List and explain the disadvantages and limitations of experimental research


 Before considering the benefits and limitations of experimental research, it is helpful to review experimental research and the terms associated with it, as well as explore the difference between experimental and nonexperimental research. The following video, Non-Experimental and Experimental Research: Differences, Advantages and Disadvantages, describes these different types of research and their pros and cons.

There are many benefits and limitations to experimental research and many of them have been alluded to in previous modules in this series. Following is more detailed discussion regarding both the advantages and the limitations or disadvantages.

Benefits and Advantages

  • Experimental research is the most appropriate way for drawing causal conclusions, regarding interventions or treatments and establishing whether or not one or more factors causes a change in an outcome. This is largely due to the emphasis in controlling extraneous variables. If other variables are controlled, the researcher can say with confidence that manipulation independent variable caused a changed in the dependent variable.
  • It is a basic, straightforward, efficient type of research that can be applied across a variety of disciplines.
  • Experimental research designs are repeatable and therefore, results can be checked and verified.
  • Due to the controlled environment of experimental research, better results are often achieved.
  • In the case of laboratory research, conditions not found in a natural setting can be created in an experimental setting that allows for greater control of extraneous variables. Conditions that may take longer to occur in a natural environment may occur more quickly in an experimental setting.
  • There are many variations of experimental research and the researcher can tailor the experiment while still maintaining the validity of the design.

Limitations and Disadvantages

  • Experimental research can create artificial situations that do not always represent real-life situations. This is largely due to fact that all other variables are tightly controlled which may not create a fully realistic situation.
  • Because the situations are very controlled and do not often represent real life, the reactions of the test subjects may not be true indicators of their behaviors in a non-experimental environment.
  • Human error also plays a key role in the validity of the project as discussed in previous modules.
  • It may not be really possible to control all extraneous variables. The health, mood, and life experiences of the test subjects may influence their reactions and those variables may not even be known to the researcher.
  • The research must adhere to ethical standards in order to be valid. These will be discussed in the next module of this series.
  • Experimental research designs help to ensure internal validity but sometimes at the expense of external validity. When this happens, the results may not be generalizable to the larger population.
  • If an experimental study is conducted in its natural environment, such as a hospital or community, it may not be possible to control the extraneous variables.
  • Experimental research is a powerful tool for determining or verifying causation, but it typically cannot specify “why” the outcome occurred.


Suggested Readings

Bernard, H. R., & Bernard, H. R. (2012). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Sage.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage publications.
Gall, M. D., Borg, W. R., & Gall, J. P. (1996). Educational research: An introduction . Longman Publishing.
Fraenkel, J. R., Wallen, N. E., & Hyun, H. H. (1993). How to design and evaluate research in education (Vol. 7). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Keppel, G. (1991). Design and analysis: A researcher's handbook . Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Lipsey, M. W. (1990). Design sensitivity: Statistical power for experimental research (Vol. 19). Sage.
Neuman, W. L., & Neuman, W. L. (2006). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches.
Punch, K. F. (2013). Introduction to social research: Quantitative and qualitative approaches. Sage.

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