Field Experiments in Political Science and Public Policy: Practical Lessons in Design and Delivery, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Field Experiments in Political Science and Public Policy

Practical Lessons in Design and Delivery, 1st Edition

By Peter John


208 pages

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Field experiments -- randomized controlled trials -- have become ever more popular in political science, as well as in other disciplines, such as economics, social policy and development. Policy-makers have also increasingly used randomization to evaluate public policies, designing trials of tax reminders, welfare policies and international aid programs to name just a few of the interventions tested in this way. Field experiments have become successful because they assess causal claims in ways that other methods of evaluation find hard to emulate.

Social scientists and evaluators have rediscovered how to design and analyze field experiments, but they have paid much less attention to the challenges of organizing and managing them. Field experiments pose unique challenges and opportunities for the researcher and evaluator which come from working in the field. The research experience can be challenging and at times hard to predict. This book aims to help researchers and evaluators plan and manage their field experiments so they can avoid common pitfalls. It is also intended to open up discussion about the context and backdrop to trials so that these practical aspects of field experiments are better understood.

The book sets out ten steps researchers can use to plan their field experiments, then nine threats to watch out for when they implement them. There are cases studies of voting and political participation, elites, welfare and employment, nudging citizens, and developing countries.


'In this lively and accessible book, Peter John has shared with readers a wealth of practical guidance that comes from years and years of field experimentation in political science and public policy. Every researcher should heed its advice before venturing into the field.' - Donald P. Green, Columbia University, USA

'Experiments are revolutionizing what we think we know about many aspects of politics. This volume contributes nicely to this body of work by extending the focus to critical questions of public policy. This is a timely and important book.' - Costas Panagopoulos, Fordham University, USA

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Experimentation in the Field: Opportunities and Constraints

Chapter Two: Essential Steps for the Design of Field Experiments

Chapter Three: Implementing Field Experiments

Chapter Four: A Brief History of Field Experimentation

Chapter Five: Experiments on Voting and Political Participation

Chapter Six: Experiments on Elites

Chapter Seven: Experiments in Welfare and Employment

Chapter Eight: Nudging Citizens

Chapter Nine: Field Experiments in Developing Countries

Chapter Ten: Conclusion

About the Author

Peter John is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy in the Department of Political Science, University College London. He is an expert in the study of public policy, and has pioneered the use of experiments in the study of civic participation in the UK.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Experimental Political Science

Advisory Board: Howard Lavine (University of Minnesota), Joshua Tucker (NYU), Rick Wilson (Rice University), Elizabeth Zechmeister (Vanderbilt University)

Political scientists are increasingly using experiments to study important political and social phenomena.  The logic of experimentation makes it an appealing and powerful methodological tool that enables scholars to establish causality and probe into the mechanisms underlying observable regularities. Experiments, because of their transparency, also enable researchers to communicate their findings to a broad audience.  Although highly technical knowledge is not necessary for understanding the gist of experiments, experiments must be designed, administered, and analyzed with care and attention to detail. 

The Routledge Studies in Experimental Political Science was developed to publish books that educate readers about the appropriate design and interpretation of experiments and books that showcase innovative and important applications of experimental work. We are particularly interested in scholarly monographs, but proposals for edited volumes will also be considered.

The series will showcase experimental work in political science in at least two ways:

  1. Pedagogy: Books that provide pedagogical guidance on the design, administration, and analysis of experiments, particularly tailored for a political science audience.  Such books would be targeted at advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members.
  2. Applications: Books that use experimental methods, particularly innovative experimental methods, to understand important causal relationships in political and social settings.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / General