Randomisation and chance-based designs in social care research

NIHR School for Social Care Research
Publication year:
vi, 29
Place of publication:

Discusses the effectiveness of chance-based designs (CBDs) in social care research. CBDs allocate participants between interventions at random, thus maximising internal validity. While ‘randomised trials’, as they are called in medicine, are regarded as the ‘gold standard’ of healthcare research and have become the dominant research design in interventions research and in developing ‘evidence-based medicine’ and practice, they are less widely used in social care research in the UK and are generally viewed with suspicion, especially by critics who equate them with drug trials. The paper argues that pragmatic CBDs, i.e., designs which simply attempt to estimate in normal practice whether the benefits of new approaches, typically more complex interventions, outweigh their costs have enhanced research on complex interventions in health care, notably at the interface with social care. The paper also discusses the ethical implications of denying ‘control’ participants access to the new intervention, emphasising the value of resorting to the naturalistic rigour of a pragmatic CBD to inform the best use of scarce resources and recommending that all participants receive at least current ‘best practice’. (Edited publisher abstract)

Subject terms:
research methods, evidence-based practice, randomised controlled trials, social care, intervention, cost effectiveness, evaluation;
Content type:
Register/Log in to view this resource
Series name:
Methods Review
Series no:

Key to icons

  • Free resource Free resource
  • Journal article Journal article
  • Book Book
  • Digital media Digital media
  • Journal Journal

Give us your feedback

Social Care Online continues to be developed in response to user feedback.

Contact us with your comments and for any problems using the website.

Sign up/login for more

Register/login to access resource links, advanced search and email alerts