What is the difference between Research Design and Experimental Design?

I can't see any difference. Both of them need to establish Causality.

Both of them are the arrangement for collection and analysis of data in a manner that aims to achieve the objective in an economical way.

Then where is the difference between them?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Minor point: I'd argue that neither needs to establish causality unless that's your goal. Right now I'm working on a project where we couldn't care less about causality (yet), we just want to find patterns of association. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2014 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @ssdecontrol But our teacher told us: "the main purpose of experimental design is to establish Causality." Is it wrong? $\endgroup$
    – user 31466
    Jun 22, 2014 at 4:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No, I was wrong. Your teacher was right: the entire point of doing an experiment is to establish that the only thing affecting the outcome is the experimental condition. The only reason I can think of for establishing that is to establish causal validity for the observed effect. However, "research design" is much broader because not all research is intended to establish causality. Still: the "point" of anything you do ultimately can't be different from the reason you're doing it. Don't overthink it! $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2014 at 9:31

2 Answers 2


Research design is a more general term including research that doesn't involve experiments (e.g. observational research).


Context is king. If "the king is dead" was writting on a wall does it mean something different than if it is written on the front page of every newspaper on earth?

If you are making a process-production experiment then both time and budget are highly constrained, but you are trying to make a smaller incremental change to find the general direction of improvement.

If you are working with an amazingly complex phenomena, like in a research lab then you need very elaborate, iterated, re-optimized experiments but time is less of an issue. Detailed and effective results are everything. It is a different climate - a different context.

In general the fundamentals are the same, but the budget, level of detail, and time-constraints define the differences in the approach.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.