Causal-comparative research is a family of research designs used to examine potential causes for observed differences found among existing groups. Causal-comparative research is useful for the study of causes where experimental assignment or manipulation is infeasible, unethical, or in some way prohibited. It is frequently used with large-scale survey data such as Programme for International Student Assessment or National Assessment of Educational Progress but also common in smaller scale studies. It is similar to correlational research designs, except that the independent variable to be tested is categorical (e.g., school or class membership) and the analysis explicitly attempts to test causality. Although some scholars debate the conceptual distinction between causal-comparative and correlational designs in education research and recommend merging correlational and causal-comparative under the heading “nonexperimental ...
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