This book, from SAGE’s Evaluation in Practice series, considers variants of experimental evaluation designs, including those that are not commonly used but could be with much greater frequency. It also includes instructions for how to set up such experiments within program processes to learn about the effects of improvement efforts.

The Basic Experimental Design Defined

In experimental evaluations a lottery-like process randomly divides those eligible for treatment into two groups: a treatment group assigned to receive the program or policy that defines the intervention and a control group excluded from the program or policy for research purposes. The control group provides a powerful comparison group—or counterfactual—that tells us what would have happened in the absence of treatment.

Generally, in order to establish a cause-and-effect relationship, three criteria must be met (e.g., Babbie, 2016): The two events must be correlated, cause must precede effect in time, and no other explanation must exist. The first two of these are straightforward to judge, and it is the third that poses a research design challenge that impact evaluations aim ...

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