Experimental research

The experimental method is the most scientific of all the research methods. It aims to establish cause and effect by manipulating an independent variable and measuring the effect via the dependent variable. An example of a social experiment is Darley et al – diffusion of responsibility.

Experiments are often done in laboratories, false settings however some are done in the field. Field experiments still crucially have the manipulation of the independent variable and measure of the dependent variable. The following video demonstrates a field experiment on helping behaviour.

A further example of a field experiment which links to our education topic can be accessed below.


In class we will PERVERT this research method and apply it to examination questions.

We will discuss the Hawthorne effect but before class just have a watch if the follow video to understand the phenomenon.

The comparative method is similar to the experimental method in regards to its positivist approach. However it doesn’t set up false situations but it collects data about different societies or social groups in the real world or even the same society at different times and aims to show the differences between the groups that could explain behaviour within the group. Durkheim’s suicide study takes this approach and he was able to identify the potential cause of suicide could be the difference found in religious beliefs between societies.