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The perks and pitfalls of doing open qualitative science

Lisa Kiltz, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences

Open Research objective

Using pre-registeration of qualitative research in a PhD project


One thing that qualitative research and open science had in common for me: I did not know a single thing about them before starting my PhD. There was always this unconscious depreciation towards qualitative research when I was scientifically ‘growing up’, so I barely knew about its existence and legitimacy in psychological research. Sadly, the same was true for open science.

I do not remember why I chose to start my PhD project with a qualitative interview study. Maybe I was curious to explore a still only roughly defined field. So that’s what I did. At the same time, I stumbled across open science when I started to call the University of Groningen my new scientific home. At first, I simply absorbed what more experienced fellow researchers said about their critical view on contemporary science practices and their passion for open science. Based on this input, I tried to get a grasp of what open science meant as well as how it contradicted what I did and thought before. Yet, qualitative research was hardly mentioned.


Inevitably, my first research project came closer and with it, the question of if and how to include open science practices in the process. The former was quite easily answered: Yes. The latter, however, turned out to be more complicated to resolve. So when I first heard of pre-registrations, I wanted to pre-register my very first interview study despite having already collected my data, at least prior to the upcoming analysis. In doing so, I wanted to acknowledge the relevance of communicating research goals beforehand. This practice aims to assure research quality by recording research plans before their execution and, thus, prevents “HARKing”, namely, adjusting hypotheses according to already calculated results. I still see my statistics professor in front of me back in 2011, explaining the essence of statistics and research methods in psychology and emphasising the strict order of steps - with hypothesising being the first. Pre-registrations, therefore, constitute a means to assure the distinction between exploratory and confirmatory research.

Lessons learned

No sooner said than done, I registered at the Open Science Foundation (OSF) and tried to make myself familiar with the platform. Irritated, I realised that the pre-registration options were solely orientated towards quantitative research, asking for variables or handling of missing data - issues that do not concern interview studies. So there I was, staring at the screen, slowly understanding why creating templates for qualitative pre-registration seemed more complicated than expected. Qualitative research is exploratory in nature. The very essence of qualitative research, iteratively going back and forth between data and research questions, makes trying to follow the basic open science rules quite hard. Yet, I pre-registered anyway,awaiting the potential perks and pitfalls that may arise with it.

Last modified:16 March 2022 11.23 a.m.