Campbell et al. on experimentation and quasi-experimentation

Ph.D. Topics : Research and Evaluation Methods

For my Ph.D. comprehensive exam, I not only have to respond thoroughly and knowledgeably to essay questions, I need to cite sources. This part of academic life feels odd to me, this reliance on citing someone else rather than making a good argument. I attended a dissertation defense spring quarter and found it strange that the defender spent a lot of time citing this or that book or article rather than actually intellectually arguing for particular positions. I guess when you’re talking about SEM fit index cutoffs that makes some sense, as one of the best intellectual arguments for them may be the results of a simulation study. But in many other cases, I think you’d want to back up your citation with some rhetoric.

I do agree you need both: you need expert works you can cite and you need to make good arguments. Anyway, if I want to pass my comps, I must learn and memorize the key authorities and works to cite. Ideally I would read and study all these works myself but in absence of the time to do that, at least I can learn more about them than just the authors and dates. It would feel intellectually dishonest to me to cite these works without having a really good idea what they are about and what is in them.

As far as experimental and quasi-experimental design goes, the key authority is clearly Donald Campbell and the three works I see cited over and over are:

  • Campbell, D. & Stanley, J. (1963). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Chicago, IL: Rand-McNally.
  • Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (1979). Quasi-experimentation: Design and analysis issues for field settings. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

These are actually three versions of the same seminal work that began with a book chapter in 1963, was published as a small book in 1966, “greatly expanded” in 1979, and issued in a new edition in 2002, that is “encyclopedic in its coverage” (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 2008).

Campbell & Stanley (1963, 1966) introduced the terms internal validity and external validity while the later Cook & Campbell (1979) edition added statistical conclusion validity and construct validity (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 2008). The first version of this work also introduced the term quasi-experiment.

Here is a pdf of chapters 1 and 14 from the 2002 edition, covering general topics in causation and experimentation as well as a self-critique of their work. I think I’ll print it out and read it.


Rosenthal, R. & Rosnow, R.L. (2008). Essentials of Behavioral Research: Methods and Data Analysis. Boston: McGraw Hill.