What is a pre-registration?

A pre-registration is a timestamped document describing your research plans before conducting your research that can be made public immediately or after an embargo. Thereby you fix your initial research questions/hypotheses, research design, analysis strategies and make that transparent for others.

Another form of pre-registrations is a registered report. A registered report is similar to a pre-registration with the exception that your manuscript (including introduction, methods and analysis strategy) is accepted for publication prior to data collection or analysis. Many journals offer registered reports as a way of ensuring your research gets published irrespective of the findings.

If you need any advice about pre-registration please feel free to contact the Open Science Officer.

Why is pre-registration important?

Like pre-registration, registering hypotheses and methods for clinical trials is the norm and often takes place in psychology. In recent years we are seeing an uptake in other disciplines as well (e.g., political science, economics, sociology).

When conducting research, not everything always goes as planned. Maybe your results do not support your original hypotheses or in between some changes in study design where needed to proceed. Pre-registration protects you from not addressing those changes in your publications and allows you to transparently document your research including deviations from your initial pre-registered plan.

Specifically, by pre-registering your research you can:

  • Be transparent with the world about the research you are conducting
  • Avoid poor researcher practices (e.g., HARKing, p-hacking, etc.)
  • Curtail publication or hindsight bias
  • Differentiate between confirmatory and exploratory analyses

Pre-registration helps us to be more honest. Sometimes, when we get our data and our original predictions don’t work out we try something new with the data and get a new finding which now seems so obvious – you would have predicted it all along. But this is not true. To avoid this pre-registration helps to distinguish which ideas were tested on data and which ideas were taken from data.

Dr. Alexander Wuttke, MZES Fellow

How can you pre-register your study?

You can pre-register your study at:

Several templates for pre-registration exist and you can find a list of them online: Templates of OSF Registration forms