and colleagues (2008) considered the disparate results of an RCT (Women’s Health Initiative) and an observational study (Nurses’ Health Study) of the effectiveness of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy. When the observational study was analyzed using propensity score methods with participants who met the same eligibility criteria and the same intention-to-treat causal effect was estimated, discrepancies were minimal. Finally, Shadish and colleagues (2008) randomly assigned student participants to an RCT or observational study (self-selection) of the effects of math or vocabulary training. They found little difference in the estimates of causal effects after adjusting for an extensive set of baseline covariates in the observational study.

The results of the small number of focused comparisons of randomized and nonrandomized designs to date are encouraging. Additional research comparing treatment effect estimates for randomized and nonrandomized designs using similar treatments, populations of participants, and effect size estimates is needed to determine the generality of this finding.


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