Experimental Design

Ethics, Integrity, and the Scientific Method
  • Jonathan LewisEmail author
Reference work entry


Experimental design is one aspect of a scientific method. A well-designed, properly conducted experiment aims to control variables in order to isolate and manipulate causal effects and thereby maximize internal validity, support causal inferences, and guarantee reliable results. Traditionally employed in the natural sciences, experimental design has become an important part of research in the social and behavioral sciences. Experimental methods are also endorsed as the most reliable guides to policy effectiveness. Through a discussion of some of the central concepts associated with experimental design, including controlled variation and randomization, this chapter will provide a summary of key ethical issues that tend to arise in experimental contexts. In addition, by exploring assumptions about the nature of causation and by analyzing features of causal relationships, systems, and inferences in social contexts, this chapter will summarize the ways in which experimental design can undermine the integrity of not only social and behavioral research but policies implemented on the basis of such research.


Experimental design Randomization Controlled variation Deception Informed consent Causal relationship Causal inference Reliability Internal validity External validity Validity 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ethics, School of Theology, Philosophy and Music, Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesDublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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