Pre-Experimental Research Designs
The simplest of the group research designs involve the assessment of the functioning of a single group of persons who receive social work services. These methods are called pre-experimental designs. Tightly controlled studies done in laboratory or special treatment settings are known as efficacy studies, and are used to demonstrate if a given treatment can produce positive results under ideal conditions. Outcome studies done with more clinically representative clients and therapists, in real world agency settings, are known as effectiveness studies. Ideally the latter are conducted after the former, under conditions of increasing complexity, so as to determine treatments that work well in real-world contexts. Among the pre-experimental designs are the one group posttreatment-only study and the one group pretest-posttest design. Various ways in which these designs can be strengthened are presented, along with descriptions of published articles illustrating their use in social work and other human service settings. The limitations of these designs are also discussed, as is a review of the major threats to internal validity that can inhibit causal inferences.
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