I am slogging away at grad school and I have a nagging feeling I can be more efficient. I feel like a person who cannot see more than a foot in front of them so I hit a lot of walls. My planning and experiment design could use a lot of work but interacting with my PI only gets me but so far. I am in a new lab so I do not have senior students to consult with either. Are there any good written resources about how to design experiments in a general sense?

Thanks in advance.


I am in biological sciences, but if the comments/answers could be broadened to include all STEM it would be much appreciated.

2nd Update

When I refer to experimental design I am referring to something broader than setting up controls or statistical power. I am doing a poor job of alluding to something broader and more general. What is a good research question and the transition from a neat idea to a framework of experiment that addresses such a question.

To use a chess analogy, I am learning tactical play, forks, skewers, pins etc.... I am getting better at moving pieces, but what is preventing me from taking the next step is the absence of a strategy How do I string these tactics together to win? I come up with cool ideas but I cannot grasp molding and shaping that idea into a series of experiments that tell a short narrative.

I would like to know different styles of this process and strengths and weaknesses of both. I am not getting very far with my local dialogue options so I was hoping people may write about this subject. Hopefully that clarifies my question.

  • 1
    What field is this?
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 11:07
  • @Buffy I updated my post. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 12:10
  • 1
    Still need more information. Is it a statistical study (Applied Statistics books cover that) or a purely biological or pharmacological study of some sort?
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 12:21
  • you would probably get more traction from this question on crossvalidated, e.g. stats.stackexchange.com. I can guess that as a biologist, you are probably going to care about statistical designs which minimize cost and models that account for psuedo-replication.
    – JWH2006
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 12:34
  • Two relevant questions on Crossvalidated: Recommended books on experiment design?, and References for how to plan a study. I didn't see it mentioned in the questions I linked, but David Glass's Experimental Design for Biologists appears to be a well regarded textbook, and suitable too.
    – Anyon
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 13:54


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