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Nonexperimental research: strengths, weaknesses and issues of precision

Thomas G. Reio Jr (Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 6 September 2016

Abstract

Purpose

Nonexperimental research, defined as any kind of quantitative or qualitative research that is not an experiment, is the predominate kind of research design used in the social sciences. How to unambiguously and correctly present the results of nonexperimental research, however, remains decidedly unclear and possibly detrimental to applied disciplines such as human resource development. To clarify issues about the accurate reporting and generalization of nonexperimental research results, this paper aims to present information about the relative strength of research designs, followed by the strengths and weaknesses of nonexperimental research. Further, some possible ways to more precisely report nonexperimental findings without using causal language are explored. Next, the researcher takes the position that the results of nonexperimental research can be used cautiously, yet appropriately, for making practice recommendations. Finally, some closing thoughts about nonexperimental research and the appropriate use of causal language are presented.

Design/methodology/approach

A review of the extant social science literature was consulted to inform this paper.

Findings

Nonexperimental research, when reported accurately, makes a tremendous contribution because it can be used for conducting research when experimentation is not feasible or desired. It can be used also to make tentative recommendations for practice.

Originality/value

This article presents useful means to more accurately report nonexperimental findings through avoiding causal language. Ways to link nonexperimental results to making practice recommendations are explored.

Keywords

Citation

Reio, T.G. (2016), "Nonexperimental research: strengths, weaknesses and issues of precision", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 40 No. 8/9, pp. 676-690. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-07-2015-0058

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited