During the past decade, field experiments in the social and behavioral sciences have gained in popularity as the internet has made implementing experiments easier, cheaper, and faster. However, although researchers may have a conceptual knowledge of how experiments work, the actual experience of implementing a field experiment for the first time is often frustrating and time consuming. Researchers without prior experience often struggle with a number of issues such as navigating IRB, obtaining true random sampling and assignment, understanding blocking, and interpreting different types of treatment effects. The initial learning curve may be steep but the rewards are plentiful as experiments produce highly valued original data, lend themselves to causal analysis in ways that traditional survey data cannot, and become easier to implement as a researcher’s experience level increases. This talk will introduce social scientists to the basics of a particular type of field experiment -- the correspondence audit -- and walk through a number of design issues that first time users often struggle with. Dr. Gaddis will provide practical examples from his own and others' work to illuminate some of the pitfalls of this method and help the audience gain confidence in embarking on their own field experiments.
Dr. S. Michael Gaddis is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA whose research focuses on racial discrimination, educational inequality, and mental health. He often uses experiments to examine levels of discrimination in employment and housing as well as the conditions under which racial discrimination occurs. He is editor and contributor to a recent book titled Audit Studies: Behind the Scenes with Theory, Method, and Nuance. His research has been published in top journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Social Forces, Social Science & Medicine, and Sociological Science and has been funded by the National Academy of Education, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.