Evaluating the Pedagogical Effectiveness of Study Preregistration in the Undergraduate Dissertation

Madeleine Pownall*, Charlotte R. Pennington, Emma Norris, Marie Juanchich, David Smailes, Sophie Russell, Debbie Gooch, Thomas Rhys Evans, Sofia Persson, Matthew H. C. Mak, Loukia Tzavella, Rebecca Monk, Thomas Gough, Christopher S. Y. Benwell, Mahmoud Elsherif, Emily Farran, Thomas Gallagher-Mitchell, Luke T. Kendrick, Julia Bahnmueller, Emily NordmannMirela Zaneva, Katie Gilligan-Lee, Marina Bazhydai, Andrew Jones, Jemma Sedgmond, Iris Holzleitner, James Reynolds, Jo Moss, Daniel Farrelly, Adam J. Parker, Kait Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Research shows that questionable research practices (QRPs) are present in undergraduate final-year dissertation projects. One entry-level Open Science practice proposed to mitigate QRPs is “study preregistration,” through which researchers outline their research questions, design, method, and analysis plans before data collection and/or analysis. In this study, we aimed to empirically test the effectiveness of preregistration as a pedagogic tool in undergraduate dissertations using a quasi-experimental design. A total of 89 UK psychology students were recruited, including students who preregistered their empirical quantitative dissertation (n = 52; experimental group) and students who did not (n = 37; control group). Attitudes toward statistics, acceptance of QRPs, and perceived understanding of Open Science were measured both before and after dissertation completion. Exploratory measures included capability, opportunity, and motivation to engage with preregistration, measured at Time 1 only. This study was conducted as a Registered Report; Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/9hjbw (date of in-principle acceptance: September 21, 2021). Study preregistration did not significantly affect attitudes toward statistics or acceptance of QRPs. However, students who preregistered reported greater perceived understanding of Open Science concepts from Time 1 to Time 2 compared with students who did not preregister. Exploratory analyses indicated that students who preregistered reported significantly greater capability, opportunity, and motivation to preregister. Qualitative responses revealed that preregistration was perceived to improve clarity and organization of the dissertation, prevent QRPs, and promote rigor. Disadvantages and barriers included time, perceived rigidity, and need for training. These results contribute to discussions surrounding embedding Open Science principles into research training.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science
Volume6
Issue number4
Early online date21 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • reproducibility
  • research training
  • dissertations
  • preregistration
  • undergraduate training
  • Open Science

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