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Field Experiments and Their Critics: essays on the uses and abuses of experimentation in the social sciences

Dawn Teele (ed)
Yale University Press (January 2014)

From David Hume and John Stuart Mill to Max Weber and Émile Durkheim, social scientists have always argued about which tools are most appropriate for analysing the complexities of economic, political, and social life. In recent years, proponents of 'experimental' methods have entered this age-old debate. The growing group of experimentalists insist that the best way to identify relationships of cause and effect in the social world is through randomised interventions. Importantly, they move beyond the inferential limitations imposed by laboratory environments by taking experiments out into the field, testing subjects enmeshed in their every day lives. But not everyone is convinced that field experiments are indeed supreme. Critics claim that these real world interventions involve logical inconsistencies, impose excessive constraints, and raise ethical dilemmas avoided by the tried and true tools of observational research.

This volume frames and interrogates the great debate by presenting the contrasting views of influential researchers in politics, economics, and statistics. Both scholars and students will find enough fodder to decide for themselves.  

  • Dawn Teele is a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Yale University.

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