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Open Research

This guide provides information and how-to advice on a number of different ways you can embed open practices into your research.
Preregistering research

"Preregistered" badge by COSA preregistration is a detailed description of a study plan, including hypotheses, data collection procedures, and an analysis plan.

Preregistering a study or research project lets other researchers know what you're working on, reducing the duplication of research and opening up opportunities for collaboration. It also demonstrates transparency, facilitates reproducibility, and reduces study bias.

Where to register your research will depend on a number of factors, including your discipline and the type of study being conducted.

For some disciplines, a subject-specific registry might be the best fit. For example:

  • PreReg in Psychology. A long-running discipline-specific registry provided by the Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID).
  • AEA RCT Registry. The American Economic Association’s Randomized Controlled Trials Registry is open to RCTs in economics, political science, and social science from anywhere in the world.

Prominent multidisciplinary registries include:

  • OSF Registries. Run by the Centre for Open Science, OSF Registries is the most widely used repository for preregistering studies. Various templates are available for different kinds of preregistrations.
  • AsPredicted. AsPredicted is a preregistration platform created by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Credibility Lab, integrating with their ResearchBox platform.
  • protocols.io. A platform designed specifically for the preregistration of protocols and methods.

Although long practised by certain disciplines, particularly psychology and other health sciences, preregistration is becoming increasingly common across all disciplines. 

Creating a preregistration

Preregistrations come in many forms, depending on discipline and the kind of study being undertaken. But whatever the discipline, and whatever form the preregistration takes, it should:

  • Clearly describe the research questions and hypotheses. Hypotheses should be numbered and clearly addressed in the analysis plan. All terms and variables should be described, as should the study’s scope, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and underlying assumptions.
  • Contain sufficient detail to be reproducible. The study design’s methods section and analysis plan should each contain enough detail that another researcher could reproduce the study using the preregistration alone. This means clear step-by step protocols with as much detail as possible, as well as description on how to interpret the data collected.
  • Provide metadata that makes it discoverable. At a minimum this includes a clear title, abstract/description, and the names of lead researchers. Providing keywords or subject headings will also aid discoverability.

Major registries often contain their own advice for creating robust preregistrations. See, for example:

For further advice on creating reproducible study designs for preregistration, see the following:

Clinical trial registries

Australia’s primary clinical trial registry is the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR). For a list of other Australian clinical trial registries, and details on how to register, visit the Australian Clinical Trials website.

ANZCTR is one of many registries that feeds records into the World Health Organisation’s International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP).

Another prominent clinical trial registry is ClinicalTrials.gov, a US site listing clinical trials in the US and in other countries, including Australia

At the University of Melbourne, clinical trials support is available through the Methods and Implementation Support for Clinical and Health research hub (MISCH). The MISCH Clinical Trials team offers free consults for University researchers.

Registered Reports

When a preregistration or study design is submitted to an academic journal for peer review, it becomes part of a Registered Report.

A Registered Report usually comprises two components: 

Stage 1: Registered Report Protocol. The peer reviewed study design, including an introduction (with the research question and hypotheses), methods, and analysis plan. If necessary, pilot data may be included. Acceptance of the Protocol includes in-principle acceptance of the Research Article.

Stage 2: Registered Report Research Article. The final research report including results, discussion, and conclusion. Also peer reviewed, primarily based on adherence to original study design.

Diagram showing the Research Reports workflow, with a stage of peer review between study design and the collection and analysis of data.

Registered Report workflow diagram (and 'Preregistered' badge above) by Centre for Open Science, licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0.

Since being proposed in 2012, over 300 journals now publish Registered Reports, either regularly or in special issues. Some prominent examples include:

  • Scientific Reports
  • Nature Communications
  • PLOS ONE
  • PLOS Biology
  • Cancers
  • Journal of Clinical Medicine
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecology and Evolution
  • BMC Medicine
  • F1000 Research
  • PeerJ
  • Royal Society Open Science
  • Frontiers in Psychiatry
  • Frontiers in Psychology

A list of journals accepting Registered Report proposals can be found on the Centre for Open Science's Registered Reports website, which also contains links to submission guidelines for each publisher.

When preparing study design for submission, it is important to pay close attention to the journal’s submission guidelines for Registered Reports. These will often require the use of specific formats or templates, set out the expectations of the journal’s editors, and describe the publication process. 

Consider these examples of journal-specific submission guidelines:

In general, editors will want to see a sound and robust study design that includes sufficient detail for the study to be replicated.

Examples of published Registered Report Protocols can be found at:

Further reading
  • Nosek, B. A., Ebersole, C. R., DeHaven, A. C., Mellor, D. T. (2018). Preregistration revolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115(11), 2600-2606. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1708274114
  • Peels, R., Bouter, L. (2018). The possibility and desirability of replication in the humanities. Palgrave Communications. 4. doi: 10.1057/s41599-018-0149-x
  • Haven, T. L. & Van Grootel, L. (2019). Preregistering qualitative research. Accountability in Research. 26(3), 229-244. doi: 10.1080/08989621.2019.1580147

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