A flexible use of preregistration templates
Malte Dewies is a PhD candidate at the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences and studies how psychological research can be used for public policy. He is a member of OSCR, actively participates in our events, and has been in contact with the community to discuss preregistration of research using mixed (quantitative/qualitative) methods.
He recently preregistered an exploratory study for which existing templates were insufficient, so he decided to build his own. I asked him to share his experience with the community:
Preregistering my research, I realised, is not only useful for confirmatory research. I was recently challenged as a principal investigator to come up with the research design to evaluate the work of the Behavioural Insights Group Rotterdam (BIG’R). Inspired by comparable teams elsewhere (e.g., in the United Kingdom), BIG’R consists of Rotterdam public servants and behavioural scientists from the Erasmus University Rotterdam who together apply behavioural insights to improve public policy. Being part of BIG’R, I was worried that my personal involvement with it would invite others to speculate how impartial the evaluation would be. “What are his stakes in this evaluation?” or “Isn’t he cherry picking the results?” are obvious and rightful questions to ask.
Because I had some experience with preregistering my research, I realised that registering the design for the evaluation in advance could take away some concerns related to the second question. The only challenge was that none of the available registration forms seemed to fit the purpose of the evaluation. We found them to be predominantly made for singular bits of research (e.g., one single survey rather than multiple surveys) or for confirmatory testing of a hypothesis (e.g., including sections on inference statistics). Our evaluation, however, was intended to be holistic and explorative in nature. We therefore came up with our own format in which we combined multiple existing registration forms:
- Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) registration form;
- OSF Preregistration template;
- pre-registration template from Kern & Gleditsch.
Using our own format we registered the whole research, including study design, materials and methods, and statistical analyses. The time-stamped preregistration can be found on OSF Registries (access requires authorization). It is possible now for others to check for cherry picking or any analysis that deviates from the original intention. I have learned that preregistration has more benefits than just being useful for confirmatory research.
Malte’s proactive use of several existing templates demonstrates that preregistration needs not be seen as a nerve-wracking practice that chains researchers’ imagination, but can be creatively used to fit specific research plans and serve as useful blueprint during study implementation1. In addition, Malte points out how preregistration can be useful not only to improve the transparency of the research process, but also mitigate doubts related to conflicts of interest, a less commonly discussed perk that greatly increases the trustworthiness of the final product.
We hope Malte’s experience will spur more researchers to preregister their studies. For more information, check out this one-pager. If you are affiliated with any school at Erasmus University, contact Antonio for personalized assistance. Also, consider joining OSCR to crowdsource knowledge from our members!
Malte Dewies and Antonio Schettino
The information included in the (custom) preregistration template should be sufficiently precise to assess key theoretical claims and methodological choices, so that any deviations can be identified and promptly reported in a separate section of the final manuscript.↩︎