An Introduction to the use of Randomized Control Trials to Evaluate Development Interventions

This guide provides a non-technical introduction to RCTs. It briefly covers what is meant by impact evaluation, before examining the problem of selection bias and how it can be dealt with through experimental and quasi-experimental designs.

Issues regarding designing and implementing a RCT are then discussed before moving on to some criticisms which are commonly made of this approach.


  • Introduction
  • What is impact evaluation?
  • The problem of selection bias
  • Figure 1: Male circumcision and HIV/AIDs prevalience in Africa
  • What to do about selection bias
  • Table 1: Average characterstics by different sample sizes
  • Issues in implementing a RCT
  • Preparing for a RCT
  • Designing the RCT
  • Figure 2: Minimum effect size as a function of number of clusters sampled and sample group size
  • Conducting the RCT
  • Objections to RCTs
  • Summary
  • References


White H. (2011)An introduction to the use of randomized control trials to evaluate development intervention International Initiative for Impact Evaluation 3ie, New Delhi, Global Development Network. Retrieved from

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Evaluation Specialist, Better Evaluation.
Gold Coast, Australia.


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