Experimental Strategy: Pre-Experimental Planning

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Authored by: James N. Cawse, Ph.D.;Cawse and Effect LLC

The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.    Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

To get the most useful information out of experimental program, a few hours of thought and preparation at the beginning are worth days or weeks of agony at the end. Far too rarely do experimenters go through a systematic process of defining their problem before rushing into the lab or operation to "get something done". The following is a guide to slow you down for those crucial first hours. The Japanese have the maxim "aim slow, shoot fast"; it seems to work much better than the old slogan "ready, fire, aim". In order to guide the process of defining the experiment, Montgomery introduced a DOE Master Guide in 1993[1] which is updated here for high throughput experimentation[2]. The DOE Master Guide Sheet is designed to be discussed and filled out by the project team. The team should have representation of all the key disciplines involved: engineers, scientists, operators, managers, and process experts. If all the elements on the sheet are discussed and filled in with care, the team should be well prepared to design and carry out the experiment. Do not expect the completed Master Guide to only fill one page! It is presented in abbreviated form here, with detailed discussion in the links. In addition, the Master Guide is very useful at the end of the experiment as an outline for the final report.

Master Guide Sheet

Project Team:
Project Title:


Factor (units)

Type (Quantitative,Qualitative, Formulation)

Normal Level & Range

Measurement Precision & setting error

Proposed Settings

Ease of Adjustment




Expected Level and Range

Actual Response Measured

Measurement method: speed, precision, & accuracy

Relationship of response to Objective


Other Factors

Factor (units)

Type (nuisance, constant, blocking)

Measurement Precision

Strategy for dealing with this factor

Anticipated Effects



  1. Montgomery, D.C., and Coleman, D.E., Technometrics 1993,35, 1-12.
  2. J. N. Cawse, Ed., Experimental Design for Combinatorial and High Throughput Materials Development, Wiley-Interscience, 2002.
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