Research Designs - Types

Common Research Designs


The three broad types of research designs are:

  • True Experimental
  • Quasi-Experimental
  • Non-Experimental




True Experimental Design

One group gets the intervention or program and another group does not. Participants are randomly assigned to each group, meaning everyone has an equal chance of receiving the intervention. This is important because it helps to support that any changes observed or measured in the participants are likely due to the intervention or program. Qualities of a True Experimental Design:

  • Random selection
  • Includes a control group
  • Helps to establish cause and effect
  • Considered the most rigorous type of research design


Quasi-Experimental Design

This design is often used when randomization of participants to an intervention or control group is not feasible or practical. Qualities of Quasi-Experimental Design: 

  • Does not include randomization of participants
  • May include a comparison group
  • Individuals in the control or comparison group may have similar qualities/characteristics as the individuals in the intervention group


Non–Experimental Design

This type of design is often used when random assignment is not possible and a control or comparison group is not available or practical. If a change in participants is measured or observed, this design does not necessarily tell us what caused the change in program participants, only that a change occurred. Qualities of Non-Experimental Design:

  • Does not include randomization of participants
  • May not include a control or comparison group
  • Feasible and practical to implement in a real program
  • Cost-effective



To learn more about threats to validity in research designs, read the following page: Threats to Validity of your Design


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