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Why is there a replication crisis in social psychology?

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Critical essay

Assessment outline
The purpose of the assessment is to write an essay on a critical topic to social psychology. The essay will ask a question that has many different answers. These answers will depend upon the student and her/his capacity to comb through the history of social psychological research related to the topic, digest the available evidence, and formulate an argument that is inclusive of the literature reviewed. There will be class time devoted to discussion of the topic, both in the lectures and in tutorials.

Assessment topic: Experimentation and replication in social psychology

The principal method used in social psychology for many years was the experiment, with the manipulation of variables designed to induce measurable change in selected outcome variables and controls designed to exclude the causal influence of other variables that could co-occur. Many an experiment in social psychology has reached notoriety based on the experimental results generated by researchers across the globe. There have been numerous factors identified that have been shown to have major influences upon the outcomes of these, and other, social psychological experiments. Recent attempts to replicate such experiments have produced contrary findings, sending ripples through the discipline and leading many to pose the following question:

Why is there a replication crisis in social psychology?

You are to prepare an essay (2000 words MAX) that addresses the question.

In doing so, students are strongly encouraged to read broadly on the topic and submit an essay that presents a clear argument in response to the question posed. It is recommended that students also are drawn from the lengthy list of social psychological studies that are associated with the question and include this evidence to support their argument.

The essay should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning should analyse the question or problem that is set and provide a framework within which the issue is to be examined. The beginning may be quite short or, in the case where a more philosophical challenge is put, there may need to be time spent in setting forth the broader framework that has to be adopted to give a possible answer.

The middle part will usually comprise the bulk of the essay. Here, you will logically and with evidence examine the assumptions that lie behind your argument and assess and critique the evidence and arguments that have been put forward in the past and to which you are making a further contribution.

The end may be quite short, summarizing the argument and arriving at a completion. The answer may be that “there is no satisfactory resolution” or “more evidence is needed”, but there should be a resolution, not leaving the reader hanging in the air. In all cases, the evidence will need to be presented in a form whereby its scientific merits can be assessed. For example, it is not enough simply to state that in a report on a social psychological construct, a particular effect was found, or a hypothesis was supported without also presenting the nature of the inquiry that produced that figure. Simply because a paper has been published to show a result does not render that finding valid. There needs to be a critical examination of the methodology that lay behind the study. This does not mean that you spend the entire time of the essay upon regimented critiques of methodology. But it does require you to be selective in the kind of evidence that you present in your argument.

A final note. There are many sides to the argument posed by this question; no one particular argument is more or less correct. Merit will be awarded to students who can prepare a strong, clear argument in response to the question.

Full intext citation and references of high-quality journal articles is required in APA 6th or 7th edition



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