Mitigating Illusory Results Through Pre-Registration in Education

29 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2017

See all articles by Hunter Gehlbach

Hunter Gehlbach

Gevirtz Graduate School of Education

Carly Robinson

Brown University; Harvard University

Date Written: August 23, 2017


Like performance enhancing drugs inflating apparent athletic achievements, several common social science practices contribute to the production of illusory results. In this article, we examine the processes that lead to illusory findings and describe their consequences. Borrowing from an approach used increasingly by other disciplines—the norm of pre-registering studies—we examine how this practice could improve scientific integrity within education. As an initial attempt to develop guidelines that facilitate pre-registrations in education, we discuss the types of studies that ought to be pre-registered and the logistics of how educational researchers might execute pre-registrations. We conclude with ideas for how researchers, reviewers, and the field of education more broadly might speed the adoption of this new norm.

Keywords: educational research, p-hacking, pre-registration, replication, research methods

JEL Classification: I20, I29

Suggested Citation

Gehlbach, Hunter and Robinson, Carly and Robinson, Carly, Mitigating Illusory Results Through Pre-Registration in Education (August 23, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Hunter Gehlbach (Contact Author)

Gevirtz Graduate School of Education ( email )

South Hall 5504
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

Carly Robinson

Harvard University ( email )

13 Appian Way
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

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