WHAT IS AN EXPERIMENT? The Oxford English Dictionary (1 992) defines an experiment as "an action or operation undertaken in order to discover something unknown." This requires deliberately varying a factor (often referred to as a "treatment") and observing what happens afterward. However, this is not enough. If an experiment involves observing what happens to person A when treatment B is applied, we would ideally also like to know what would have happened to A duringthe very same time period if B had not been applied. In the language of experiments, this ideal comparison is known as acounterfactual. By comparing experimental results to the counterfactual, researchers could be certain that the treatment, and not some other factor intervening during the same time period, caused the observed effects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)