Basic Principles of Experimental Designs

There are three basic principles of experimental designs: Randomization, Replication, and Local Control. Each of them is described below in brief:

(1) Randomization: This is the first principle of an experimental design. This process randomly assigns treatments to the experimental units. It implies that every allotment of treatments ends up with the same probability. When dividing research participants into the different groups, random assignment ensures that every participant has an equal chance of being assigned to both the experimental group and the control group. Randomizations purpose is to remove bias and other sources of extraneous variation, which are uncontrollable. It is the basis of any valid statistical test. Therefore, the treatments must be assigned randomly to the experimental units.

(2) Replication: This is the second principle of an experimental design. It is a repetition of the basic experiment. In all experiments, some variation exists because the experimental units, such as, individuals or plots of land, cannot be physically identical. This variation is removable by using a number of experimental units. Therefore, the basic experiment is performed repeatedly. Researchers repeat the same studies on different research participants to see if they produce the same statistically significant results each time. A replicate is an individual repetition. Its number, shape, and size are influenced by the nature of the experimental material. Replication helps in: obtaining an accurate estimate of the experimental error; decreasing the experimental error, thereby increasing precision; and obtaining a more precise estimate of the mean treatment effect.

(3) Local Control: Randomization and Replication do not remove all extraneous sources of variation. A more refined experimental technique is required for that. A design should be chosen such that all the extraneous sources of variation come under control. For this purpose, local control, which refers to the amount of balancing, blocking and grouping of the experimental units, is used. Balancing implies that the treatments should be assigned to the experimental units such that the result is a balanced arrangement of treatments. Blocking means that, similar experimental units should be collected together to form a relatively homogeneous group. The main purpose of local control is to increase the efficiency of an experimental design by minimizing the experimental error. In this case, local control should not be confused with the word control. Control in experimental design is used for a treatment. It does not receive any treatment, but the effectiveness of other treatments should be found through comparison.


Research Design in Hypothesis-Testing Research Studies

In hypothesis-testing research studies, also known as experimental studies, the researcher generally tests the hypotheses of causal relationships among variables. Besides, such type of studies needs those kinds of procedures, which will not only reduce the bias and increase reliability, but will also approve the drawing inferences about causality. Hence, when we discuss about the research design in such studies, we usually mean the experimental designs.

Experimental designs were discovered and developed by Professor R. A. Fisher, who was working at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, at the Centre for Agricultural Research in England. In fact, the study of experimental designs originated in agricultural research. Professor Fisher divided the agricultural fields/plots into different blocks and conducted experiments in each of them. Consequently, whatever information was collected from this, he found them to be very reliable. In this way, he was inspired to develop certain experimental designs to test the hypotheses about scientific investigations. In recent time, the experimental designs are being used in researches related to phenomena of several disciplines. Besides, since experimental designs originated in the context of agricultural operations, we still use, although in a technical sense, several agricultural terms, such as, treatment, yield, plot, block, etc., in the experimental designs.