Relevance to English Studies
Situations in English Studies that Might Encourage use of Experimental Methods
Whenever a researcher would like to see if a causal relationship exists between groups, experimental and quasi-experimental research can be a viable research tool. Researchers in English Studies might use experimentation when they believe a relationship exists between two variables, and they want to show that these two variables have a significant correlation (or causal relationship).
A benefit of experimentation is the ability to control variables, such as the amount of treatment, when it is given, to whom and so forth. Controlling variables allows researchers to gain insight into the relationships they believe exist. For example, a researcher has an idea that writing under pseudonyms encourages student participation in newsgroups. Researchers can control which students write under pseudonyms and which do not, then measure the outcomes. Researchers can then analyze results and determine if this particular variable alone causes increased participation.
Experimentation and quasi-experimentation allow for generating transferable results and accepting those results as being dependent upon experimental rigor. It is an effective alternative to generalizability, which is difficult to rely upon in educational research. English scholars, reading results of experiments with a critical eye, ultimately decide if results will be implemented and how. They may even extend that existing research by replicating experiments in the interest of generating new results and benefiting from multiple perspectives. These results will strengthen the study or discredit findings.
Concerns English Scholars Express about Experiments
Experimentation will not result in success in every situation. If there is no correlation between the dependent and independent variable, validity is impossible. Some transferability does exist in all experimental and educational research, but English scholars must ascertain the probability of results, given the issues at hand and questions asked to arrive at conclusions.
More specifically, researchers should carefully consider if a particular method is feasible in humanities studies, and whether it will yield the desired information. Some researchers recommend addressing pertinent issues combining several research methods available: survey, interview, ethnography, case study, content analysis, and experimentation (Lauer and Asher, 1988).