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Random selection is how you draw the sample of people for your study from a population. Random assignment is how you assign the sample that you draw to different groups or treatments in your study.
It is possible to have both random selection and assignment in a study. Let's say you drew a random sample of 100 clients from a population list of 1000 current clients of your organization. That is random sampling. Now, let's say you randomly assign 50 of these clients to get some new additional treatment and the other 50 to be controls. That's random assignment.
It is also possible to have only one of these (random selection or random assignment) but not the other in a study. For instance, if you do not randomly draw the 100 cases from your list of 1000 but instead just take the first 100 on the list, you do not have random selection. But you could still randomly assign this nonrandom sample to treatment versus control. Or, you could randomly select 100 from your list of 1000 and then nonrandomly (haphazardly) assign them to treatment or control.
And, it's possible to have neither random selection nor random assignment. In a typical nonequivalent groups design in education you might nonrandomly choose two 5th grade classes to be in your study. This is nonrandom selection. Then, you could arbitrarily assign one to get the new educational program and the other to be the control. This is nonrandom (or nonequivalent) assignment.
Random selection is related to sampling. Therefore it is most related to the external validity (or generalizability) of your results. After all, we would randomly sample so that our research participants better represent the larger group from which they're drawn. Random assignment is most related to design. In fact, when we randomly assign participants to treatments we have, by definition, an experimental design. Therefore, random assignment is most related to internal validity. After all, we randomly assign in order to help assure that our treatment groups are similar to each other (i.e., equivalent) prior to the treatment.
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Copyright ©2006, William M.K. Trochim, All Rights Reserved
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Last Revised: 10/20/2006
The Journal of Experimental Education
Description:The Journal of Experimental Education publishes basic and applied-research studies that use the range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies found in the behavioral, cognitive, and social sciences. The journal features articles that seek to improve knowledge of how learning and instructional, motivational, and social processes affect educational outcomes across all ages and education levels, including public and private education in the United States and abroad. The Journal of Experimental Education also reports methodological or statistical findings that enhance the interpretation of educational data. The journal – essential reading for researchers and practitioners interested in advancing educational research and its use to improve teaching, learning, and schooling – is divided into three distinct sections: Learning and Instruction; Motivation and Social Processes; and Measurement, Statistics, and Research Design.
Coverage: 1932-2010 (Vol. 1, No. 1 - Vol. 78, No. 4)
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