Degrees of Freedom in Planning, Running, Analyzing, and Reporting Psychological Studies: A Checklist to Avoid p-Hacking

Front Psychol. 2016 Nov 25;7:1832. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01832. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

The designing, collecting, analyzing, and reporting of psychological studies entail many choices that are often arbitrary. The opportunistic use of these so-called researcher degrees of freedom aimed at obtaining statistically significant results is problematic because it enhances the chances of false positive results and may inflate effect size estimates. In this review article, we present an extensive list of 34 degrees of freedom that researchers have in formulating hypotheses, and in designing, running, analyzing, and reporting of psychological research. The list can be used in research methods education, and as a checklist to assess the quality of preregistrations and to determine the potential for bias due to (arbitrary) choices in unregistered studies.

Keywords: bias; experimental design; p-hacking; questionable research practices; research methods education; significance chasing; significance testing.

Publication types

  • Review