cause-and-effect relationship

cause-and-effect relationship

Research that tests the cause-and-effect relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable faces any number of challenges in the effort to determine the cause-effect relationship between any two factors. This is true when using any of the research designs already discussed: survey research, observation research, documentary or secondary analysis research, and experimental research.


When the independent variable is some specific “social policy” or a designated “program,” then the research becomes evaluation research and the goal is to evaluate the degree to which the policy or program, as the independent variable, has “caused” the desired effects in the dependent variable for which the policy or program was intended. As was the case in all other types of research design, the key question remains: did the independent variable cause a change in the dependent variable? And, if so, how much change did it cause? Because evaluation research is focused on measuring the causal effects of a new policy or of a new program as the independent variable, evaluation research also illustrates the importance of monitoring and affirming the integrity of the independent variable.


It also has been reported in class and in the textbook that evaluation research often can benefit from including various aspects of survey research, observation research, document and secondary data analysis, and experimental research designs. In light of these discussions in the text and lectures:


Identify and discuss the strongest possible design for an evaluation of a new program about to be implemented in Phoenix. This 4-month program is designed for at-risk youth, ages 13-16, from across the City of Phoenix, based on referrals from Phoenix school guidance counselors and assistant principals. The program plans to admit as many as 50 youth each month for a year, and the goal is to reduce the likelihood that those youth who complete the program will commit a crime before age 18.


The strongest evaluation design will incorporate aspects of all the other research designs, in some form or another. In order to earn full points on your assignment, you should:


A.   Identify, and discuss the best design for an evaluation for the program from above.

a.      Explain the advantages and disadvantages to your design – if any

B.    Discuss how your design may or may not address the basic issues related to external validity and internal validity.

a.      If you find your design does not address these issues of external and internal validity, explain why it does not.

C.    Lastly, discuss “how” your design elements help us learn as much as possible about the true effect of this program on the youth who participate in it.

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