Figure 1. The hypothetico-deductive model of the scientific method is short-circuited by a range of questionable research practices (red). This example shows the prevalence of such practices in psychological science. Lack of replication impedes the elimination of false discoveries and weakens the evidence base underpinning theory. Low statistical power increases the chances of missing true discoveries and reduces the likelihood that obtained positive effects are real. Exploiting researcher degrees of freedom (p-hacking) manifests in two general forms: collecting data until analyses return statistically significant effects, and selectively reporting analyses that reveal desirable outcomes. HARKing, or hypothesizing after results are known, involves generating a hypothesis from the data and then presenting it as a priori. Publication bias occurs when journals reject manuscripts on the basis that they report negative or undesirable findings. Finally, lack of data sharing prevents detailed meta-analysis and hinders the detection of data fabrication.
Authors of Registered Reports initially submit a Stage 1 manuscript that includes an Introduction, Methods, and the results of any pilot experiments that motivate the research proposal. Following assessment of the protocol by editors and reviewers, the manuscript can then be offered in-principle acceptance (IPA), which means that the journal virtually guarantees publication if the authors conduct the experiment in accordance with their approved protocol. With IPA in hand, the researchers then implement the experiment. Following data collection, they resubmit a Stage 2 manuscript that includes the Introduction and Methods from the original submission plus the Results and Discussion. The Results section includes the outcome of the pre-registered analyses together with any additional unregistered analyses in a separate section titled “Exploratory Analyses”. Authors are also encouraged or required to share their data on a public and freely accessible archive such as OSF or Figshare and are encouraged to share data analysis scripts. The final complete article is published after this process is complete. A published Registered Report will thus appear very similar to a standard research report but will give readers confidence that the hypotheses and main analyses are free of questionable research practices.