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Evaluating an Empirical Study


Entry requirements

Open to MSc Psychology (research) students


The aim of this course is to teach students to critically evaluate and improve published empirical psychological research. Students will be introduced to the nuts and bolts of the peer-review system. They will also learn about the use of open science practices, including preregistration and blinded analysis. Throughout the course students will acquire expertise in different research methods and designs, including the use of fMRI, clinical trial designs and experimental psychological studies. The course meetings and assignments are intended to train students to jointly and independently review empirical studies, suggest improvements and to apply open science practices and multiple methods within a study design.

Course objectives

The course aims to:

  • Help students to analyse the different types of experimental methods used in psychological research, including their strengths and weaknesses; learn students to apply and evaluate open science tools and good research practices.

  • Train students’ ability to provide a critical and constructive review of a published empirical study.

  • Teach students to provide recommendations for improving a published research design, including the use of open science practices and multi-methods approaches.

  • Provide students with feedback on their specific presentation skills and their academic writing


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.


You must register for each exam in My Studymap at least 10 days before the exam date. You cannot take an exam without a valid registration in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

This course consists of:

  • 4 2-hour lectures (one every week)

  • 4 2-hour presentation meetings (one every week)
    Attendance is mandatory.

Assessment method

EES Presentation Assignment: Students will give a presentation on a paper during a discussion meeting with an expert from the field.

EES Discussion Question Assignment: Students are required to post a question on Brightspace regarding a paper on the reading list every week.

EES Writing Assignment: Students will write a critical review of a paper from a selected list and suggest improvements regarding design and method.

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

The literature consists of 2 target papers per module and 2 empirical research papers per module. The target papers describe the relevant background literature and provide an introduction to that week’s topic. The research papers will be used during the workgroup meetings. Each of the four modules consists of two meetings:

  • The first meeting will be a lecture, providing an introduction into the topic(s).

  • The second meeting will be interactive and students are required to present an empirical research paper (for assignment description, see below).

Note: Prior to the second meeting each week, all students are required to submit a critical remark, commentary or question regarding one of the research articles for that week on Brightspace. The most recent version of the literature list will be announced on Brightspace prior to the start of the course.

Contact information

Dr. Michiel van Elk