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Experimental Methods for Social Policy Research by George W. Fairweather

By George W. Fairweather

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Even though the process of creating and comparing social models as solutions to human problems must be continuously ongoing, it should not be overlooked that a second process in the experimental chain of events takes place after a beneficial model has been discovered through experimentation. This is the process of disseminating the model throughout a particular geographic area—city, county, state, or nation. A social model cannot be beneficial to the problem population unless it can be used by them.

Quite simply, success in social models is so variable and will-of-the-wisp that what is needed is a set of temporal replications which define the outcomes in longitudinal terms. If success is achieved in 90 days and again in 180 days and in one year and once more in two years, the experimenter can say with considerable confidence that the social model is a true long-term success. A researcher should be aware—as a citizen may not be—that hasty ad hoc solutions implemented nationwide on the basis of limited data are no assurance of social achievements.

His carefully recorded observations while "hanging around" with the youthful members of street gangs have shed much light on their social dynamics. Other participant observation work in the area of drugs and prisons, for example, has been done. During the planning of new models, it may also be worthwhile to make use of survey techniques. It may be particularly helpful when the "problem population" is comprised of normal people. For example, in the area of family planning and birth regulation, considerable utilization has been made of survey research to gain further insight into the processes related to family planning choices.

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