Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Replication and Psychology: Show me the Data!

During the research methods unit, we often talk with students about "replication" being a final step in the scientific method. One issue I never thought much about is: how often do researchers actually try to replicate each others' results?

Brian Nosek from the University of Virginia is shouldering this considerable task. He and others are working on "The Reproducibility Project," and they are going to try to replicate every study published in three psychology journals over one year.

It's a big project, and it will be fascinating to see how it works out. Replication is a vital "check" that can help prevent fale reports (like the odd, sad case of Diederik Stapel) and can help refine theories through better operational definitions and more specific findings.

We psychology teachers have an opportunity: in many sciences, students have to wait until grad school until they have the training and access to equipment that can replicate important studies. But in psychology, our high school students might be able to do it! Some social psychology, memory, and other studies could be replicated with effort and care in high school settings. What if we could help complete this "science loop?" What if some of our students were able to identify an important nuance of  an operational definition? This could be a "shortcut" route into an great research project for students - instead of developing their own hypothesis/literature review/etc., students could "adopt" the first part of someone else's study and see if they can replicate their findings.

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posted by Rob McEntarffer

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