Ex Post Facto Research Design

An ex post facto research design is a method in which groups with qualities that already exist are compared on some dependent variable. Also known as “after the fact” research, an ex post facto design is considered quasi-experimental because the subjects are not randomly assigned – they are grouped based on a particular characteristic or trait.

Although differing groups are analyzed and compared in regards to independent and dependent variables it is not a true experiment because it lacks random assignment. The assignment of subjects to different groups is based on whichever variable is of interest to the researchers.

For example, a researcher is interested in how weight influences self-esteem levels in adults. So the participants would be separated into differing groups (underweight, normal weight, overweight) and their self esteem levels measured. This is an ex post facto design because a pre-existing characteristic (weight) was used to form the groups.