Essay on the Experimental Method of Sociology

(a) Laboratory Experiments:

In a laboratory experiment the people and any necessary materials are brought into an artificial experiment that can be carefully regulated by a researcher. In laboratory experiments with people, people are recruited, assembled-, and sometimes even paid for engaging in the experiment. This type of experiment is more appropriate when the researcher wants to control the situation in minute detail.

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(b) Field Experiment:

The field experiment takes research out to people instead of bringing people to the research laboratory. It takes place outside the laboratory under somewhat less artificial conditions, say in a prison, hospital, college, or factory. The field experiment is more suitable when the researcher wants to minimise the possibility that people will change their typical behaviour in the artificial laboratory experiment.

The Ways of Experimental Method:

The concept of any experiment is very simple. The researcher has to hold all variables constant, except one, has to vary it and see what happens. In a typical experiment, an independent variable is introduced into a carefully designed situation and its influence on a dependent variable is recorded. This can be illustrated with the help of an example.


Let us say, the researcher is interested in the effects of communal integration in schools on Muslim students’ attitudes and decides to run a small experiment on the subject. The researcher must first measure-the Muslim students’ attitudes, then introduce Hindu and Christian students into the class, and then, after a suitable period, measure the Muslim students’ attitudes again to find out whether any change has taken place.

But actually this procedure is not sufficient to establish a causal link between the two variables. Any changes in the students’ attitudes might have been caused by the coincidental factors—say, communal disturbances in the neighborhood or probably, a mass media campaign against communal ill will or disharmony,-that happened to take place while the experiment was in progress.

The researcher therefore, has to control the situation in such a way that other possible influences cap be discounted. The standard method of doing this would be to divide the Muslim students into two groups whose members are similar in all relevant aspects.

Both groups are then tested on their communal attitudes, but only one group called the experimental group, is exposed to classroom integration. The other group called, the control group, is not subjected to this variable, but its experience is the same in all other respects. Finally, both groups are again tested on their communal attitudes, and any difference between the groups is assumed to be the result of the independent Variable.


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