Multivariate Experimental Design

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  • 0:06 Experimental Design
  • 1:00 Variables
  • 2:17 Multivariate Design
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Most research studies only have one dependent variable. But what if a researcher wants to study more than one dependent variable? In this lesson, we'll look at multivariate research designs and how they differ from factorial designs.

Experimental Design

Mandy is a psychologist. She's interested in how gender affects people's experiences in math class. Do girls get better grades than boys? Do they enjoy the class better than boys? Mandy believes gender plays a role in the outcome of a college math class. In order to test her hypothesis that girls get better grades and enjoy the class better than boys, Mandy needs to design a research study.

Experimental design is the process whereby a researcher makes decisions about how to answer their research questions. For example, should Mandy choose between grades and enjoyment, or study them both? How should she measure her variables? These are questions that Mandy will answer in the experimental design portion of the research process. Let's look closer at the types of variables and one particular type of experimental design: multivariate design.


Before we get into multivariate design, it's important to understand the difference in independent and dependent variables. Independent variables are variables that do not depend on other variables to change. They are independent of the other variables in the study, and that's where they get their name from. For example, in Mandy's study, her independent variable is gender. A person won't change gender because they did well in a math class. That would be crazy!

But a dependent variable changes value depending on what other variables do. Their values are dependent upon the independent variables. For example, a girl might do better in the math class than a boy does. The variable of grade is dependent on gender for its value.

In Mandy's case, her independent variable of gender is what it is. There's nothing that Mandy can do to change that. But sometimes, researchers manipulate the independent variable to see what happens to the dependent variable. For example, what if Mandy had some students take the math class in a noisy room that faced the street and others take it in a quiet room that faced the courtyard? In that case, Mandy is manipulating her independent variable (level of noise) to see if it affects her dependent variable (outcome of the course).

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