The promise of science is that its methods cause others to believe its results. This foundation is served by trust, accuracy, and transparency. Unfortunately, current research practices in psychology are known to often produce inaccurate, irreproducible, and imprecise results.

Toward a More Perfect Psychology introduces a plethora of strategies to strengthen the field by improving research quality.

Readers will learn how research methods are evolving and how to used them to maximize the quality and impact of their own work. The strategies described will help readers develop research ideas, design studies, and analyze and disseminate results, as well as evaluate and respond to the research of others.

This book is a vital step in making psychology a stronger, more rigorous science.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Why Is This Book Necessary?
Matthew C. Makel and Jonathan A. Plucker

I. The Research Process

  1. The Contributions of Theory Choice, Cumulative Science, and Problem Finding to Scientific Innovation and Research Quality
    Oshin Vartanian
  2. Designing a Study to Maximize Informational Value
    Allison Ledgerwood, Courtney K. Soderberg, and Jehan Sparks
  3. Confirmatory Study Design, Data Analysis, and Results That Matter
    Matthew T. McBee and Samuel H. Field
  4. Selective Outcome Reporting and Research Quality
    Terri D. Pigott, Ryan T. Williams, and Jeffrey C. Valentine
  5. Citing, Being Cited, Not Citing, and Not Being Cited: Citations as Intellectual Footprints
    Alyson L. Lavigne and Thomas L. Good

II. Perspectives

  1. The Peer Review Process: Using the Traditional System to Its Full Potential
    Jennifer L. Richler and Isabel Gauthier
  2. Communicating to the Public
    Howard Gardner
  3. Sharing Your Work: An Essay on Dissemination for Impact
    Jonathan A. Plucker and Paul J. Silvia

III. Views From the Field

  1. The Promises and Pitfalls of Research–Practice Partnerships
    Mark Berends and Megan J. Austin
  2. Conducting Cognitive Neuroscience Research
    Amy Lynne Shelton
  3. Science in Clinical Psychology
    Bryan M. D'Onofrio, Richard J. Viken, and William P. Hetrick
  4. The Messy Art of Doing Science: Avoiding Ethical Pitfalls and Problematic Research Practices
    Jonathan A. Plucker and Matthew C. Makel

IV. Reproducibility

  1. Data Reanalysis and Open Data
    Jelte M. Wicherts
  2. Replication
    Stefan Schmidt
  3. Meta-Analysis and Reproducibility
    Ryan T. Williams, Joshua R. Polanin, and Terri D. Pigott

V. Synthesis

  1. The Reproducibility Crisis in Psychology: Attack of the Clones or Phantom Menace?
    Jeffrey K. Smith, Lisa F. Smith, and Benjamin K. Smith
  2. Reproducible Science: A New Hope
    Matthew C. Makel and Jonathan A. Plucker


About the Editors

Editor Bios

Matthew C. Makel, PhD, is the director of research for the Duke University Talent Identification Program. He received his master's in developmental psychology from Cornell University and his doctorate in educational psychology from Indiana University.

His content-specific research focuses on how to identify academically talented students and how they experience the world. His methodological work explores the replicability of social science research findings.

Dr. Makel also translates research findings into language that is both understandable and actionable for nonresearchers and has won multiple awards for Excellence in Research from the MENSA Foundation.

Jonathan A. Plucker, PhD, is the Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development at Johns Hopkins University. He received his PhD in educational psychology from the University of Virginia.

His research examines education policy and talent development, with more than 200 publications to his credit. His books include Exceptional Gaps in Education: Expanding Opportunities for Talented Students with Scott Peters, Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education: What the Research Says with Carolyn Callahan, and Intelligence 101 with Amber Esping.

Dr. Plucker has worked on projects involving educators, schools, and students in all 50 states and several countries. He is a fellow of APA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the recipient of the APA Arnheim Award for Outstanding Achievement and the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Association for Gifted Children.

Reviews & Awards

Makel and Plucker have provided psychologists a useful primer on the matters we face as we continue to promote ours as an empirical science of behavior that has long risen from armchair speculation.

Makel and Plucker must be congratulated for putting together a valuable collection of chapters on how to improve scientific research in psychology and related disciplines. In fact, this book should be studied by all aspiring researchers — from graduate students to active scientists. And I mean studied, not just read.
—Dean Keith Simonton, PhD
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis

In recent years psychological research has endured a scrutiny that few if any disciplines could withstand. With its imperfections magnified for all to see, the time has come for psychology to articulate collectively how it wants to move forward. This volume is a thoughtful and engaging look at just that — using what's right with psychology to help fix what's wrong with psychology, and in doing so drafting a necessary road map that should ultimately provide guidance to many other disciplines as well.
—Gregory R. Hancock, PhD
Professor and Program Director of Measurement, Statistics and Evaluation, University of Maryland, College Park