Quasi-experimental design and methods

This guide, written by Howard White and Shagun Sabarwal for UNICEF looks at the use of quasi-experimental design and methods in impact evaluation.

The paper provides a brief overview and then provides an outline of when it is appropriate to use and some of the ethical and practical limitations of its use.


"Quasi-experimental research designs, like experimental designs, test causal hypotheses. In both experimental (i.e., randomized controlled trials or RCTs) and quasi-experimental designs, the programme or policy is viewed as an ‘intervention’ in which a treatment – comprising the elements of the programme/policy being evaluated – is tested for how well it achieves its objectives, as measured by a pre specified set of indicators (see Brief No. 7, Randomized Controlled Trials). A quasi-experimental design by definition lacks random assignment, however. Assignment to conditions (treatment versus no treatment or comparison) is by means of self-selection (by which participants choose treatment for themselves) or administrator selection (e.g., by officials, teachers, policymakers and so on) or both of these routes."


  • Quasi-experimental design and methods: a brief description
  • When is it appropriate to use quasi- experimental methods?
  • Quasi-experimental methods for constructing comparison groups
  • Quasi-experimental methods for data analysis
  • Ethical issues and practical limitations
  • Which other methods work well with this one?
  • Presentation of results and analysis
  • Example of good practices
  • Examples of challenges 


White, H., & Sabarwal, S. (2014). Quasi-Experimental Design and Methods. UNICEF. Retrieved from: http://devinfolive.info/impact_evaluation/img/downloads/Quasi-Experimental_Design_and_Methods_ENG.pdf


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