Random Assignment – A Simple Introduction with Examples

Time to read: 6 Minutes
Random-assignment-Definition

Completing a research or thesis paper is more work than most students imagine. For instance, you must conduct experiments before coming up with conclusions. In experimental studies, the random assignment of participants is a vital element, which this article will discuss.

Random Assignment – In a Nutshell

  • Random assignment is where you randomly place research participants into specific groups.
  • This method eliminates bias in the results by ensuring that all participants have an equal chance of getting into either group.
  • Random assignment is usually used in independent measures or between-group experiment designs.

Definition: Random assignment

Pearson Correlation is a descriptive statistical procedure that describes the measure of linear dependence between two variables. It entails a sample, control group, experimental design, and randomized design. In this statistical procedure, random assignment is used. Random assignment is the random placement of participants into different groups in experimental research.1 2

Importance of random assignment

Random assessment is essential for strengthening the internal validity of experimental research. Internal validity helps make a casual relationship’s conclusions reliable and trustworthy.

In experimental research, researchers isolate independent variables and manipulate them as they assess the impact while managing other variables. To achieve this, an independent variable for diverse member groups is vital. This experimental design is called an independent or between-group design.

Example: Different levels of independent variables

  • In a medical study, you can research the impact of nutrient supplements on the immune (nutrient supplements = independent variable, immune = dependent variable)

Three independent participant levels are applicable here:3

  • Control group (given 0 dosages of iron supplements)
  • The experimental group (low dosage)
  • The second experimental group (high dosage)

This assignment technique in experiments ensures no bias in the treatment sets at the beginning of the trials. Therefore, if you do not use this technique, you won’t be able to exclude any alternate clarifications for your findings.

Example:

In the research experiment above, you can recruit participants randomly by handing out flyers at public spaces like gyms, cafés, and community centers. Then:

  • Place the group from cafés in the control group
  • Community center group in the low prescription trial group
  • Gym group in the high-prescription group1

Even with random participant assignment, other extraneous variables may still create bias in experiment results. However, these variations are usually low, hence should not hinder your research. Therefore, using random placement in experiments is highly necessary, especially where it is ethically required or makes sense for your research subject.

Random assignment vs. random sampling

Simple random sampling is a method of choosing the participants for a study. On the other hand, the random assignment involves sorting the participants selected through random sampling. Another difference between random sampling and random assignment is that the former is used in several types of studies, while the latter is only applied in between-subject experimental designs.

Example:

Your study researches the impact of technology on productivity in a specific company.

In such a case, you have contact with the entire staff. So, you can assign each employee a quantity and apply a random number generator to pick a specific sample.

For instance, from 500 employees, you can pick 200. So, the full sample is 200.4

Random sampling enhances external validity, as it guarantees that the study sample is unbiased, and that an entire population is represented. This way, you can conclude that the results of your studies can be accredited to the autonomous variable.

Example:

After determining the full sample, you can break it down into two groups using random assignment. In this case, the groups are:

  • The control group (does get access to technology)
  • The experimental group (gets access to technology)

Using random assignment assures you that any differences in the productivity results for each group are not biased and will help the company make a decision.

Random assignment vs random sampling

How to use random assignment

Firstly, give each participant a unique number as an identifier. Then, use a specific tool to simplify assigning the participants to the sample groups. Some tools you can use are:

Tools Application
Random number generators: Computer programs to generate numbers from the list of participants
Lottery technique: Place the numbers in a container and draw them randomly for each group
Coin toss: If you have two sets or groups only, you can toss a coin to determine which one will be the regulated or trial group
Roll a dice: If you have three groups, you can roll a dice to determine which participant joins each group.

Random member assignment is a prevailing technique for placing participants in specific groups because each person has a fair opportunity of being put in either group.

Random assignment in block experimental designs

In complex experimental designs, you must group your participants into blocks before using the random assignment technique.

Example:

You can create participant blocks depending on demographic variables, working hours, or scores. However, the blocks imply that you will require a bigger sample to attain high statistical power.

After grouping the participants in blocks, you can use random assignments inside each block to allocate the members to a specific treatment condition. Doing this will help you examine if quality impacts the result of the treatment.

Depending on their unique characteristics, you can also use blocking in experimental matched designs before matching the participants in each block. Then, you can randomly allot each partaker to one of the treatments in the research and examine the results.

When random assignment is not used

As powerful a tool as it is, random assignment does not apply in all situations. Like the following:

Comparing different groups

When the purpose of your study is to assess the differences between the participants, random member assignment may not work.

Example:

If you want to compare teens and the elderly with and without specific health conditions, you must ensure that the participants have specific characteristics. Therefore, you cannot pick them randomly.5

In such a study, the medical condition (quality of interest) is the independent variable, and the participants are grouped based on their ages (different levels). Also, all partakers are tried similarly to ensure they have the medical condition, and their outcomes are tested per group level.1

No ethical justifiability

Another situation where you cannot use random assignment is if it is ethically not permitted.

Example:

If your study involves unhealthy or dangerous behaviors or subjects, such as drug use. Instead of assigning random partakers to sets, you can conduct quasi-experimental research.

When using a quasi-experimental design, you examine the conclusions of pre-existing groups you have no control over, such as existing drug users. While you cannot randomly assign them to groups, you can use variables like their age, years of drug use, or socioeconomic status to group the participants.3

FAQs

It is an experimental research technique that involves randomly placing participants from your samples into different groups. It ensures that every sample member has the same opportunity of being in whichever group (control or experimental group).

You can use this placement technique in experiments featuring an independent measures design. It helps ensure that all your sample groups are comparable.

It can help you enhance your study’s validity. This technique also helps ensure that every sample has an equal opportunity of being assigned to a control or trial group.

You should not use this technique if your study focuses on group comparisons or if it is not legally ethical.

Sources

1 Smith, Thomas. “Random Assignment in Experiments.” AssignmentHelp. September 16, 2021. https://www.totalassignmenthelp.com/blog/random-assignment/.

2 ScienceDirect. “Pearson Correlation.” Accessed October 20, 2022, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/pearson-correlation.

3 Frost, Jim. “Random Assignment in Experiments.” Statistics By Jim. Accessed October 20, 2022. https://statisticsbyjim.com/basics/random-assignment-experiments/.

4 David. “Random Sampling vs. Random Assignment.” Statistics Solutions. Accessed October 20, 2022. https://www.statisticssolutions.com/random-sampling-vs-random-assignment/.

5 Cherry, Kendra. “The Definition of Random Assignment According to Psychology.” April 21, 2020. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-random-assignment-2795800.