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The prefix quasi means “resembling.” Thus quasi-experimental research is research that resembles experimental research but is not true experimental research. Recall with a true between-groups experiment, random assignment to conditions is used to ensure the groups are equivalent and with a true within-subjects design counterbalancing is used to guard against order effects. Quasi-experiments are missing one of these safeguards. Although an independent variable is manipulated, either a control group is missing or participants are not randomly assigned to conditions (Cook & Campbell, 1979)[1].

Because the independent variable is manipulated before the dependent variable is measured, quasi-experimental research eliminates the directionality problem associated with non-experimental research. But because either counterbalancing techniques are not used or participants are not randomly assigned to conditions—making it likely that there are other differences between conditions—quasi-experimental research does not eliminate the problem of confounding variables. In terms of internal validity, therefore, quasi-experiments are generally somewhere between non-experimental studies and true experiments.

Quasi-experiments are most likely to be conducted in field settings in which random assignment is difficult or impossible. They are often conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment—perhaps a type of psychotherapy or an educational intervention. There are many different kinds of quasi-experiments, but we will discuss just a few of the most common ones in this chapter. 

  1. Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (1979). Quasi-experimentation: Design & analysis issues in field settings. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

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