I've just finished my under-graduation in psychology in my country and I'm very motivated to start publishing and making my own experiments. Following this answer: Does one need to be affiliated with a university to publish papers?, I've discovered that I can publish papers without institutional affiliation. Is it the same with experiments?
How can I prove that my experiments were rigorously conducted and that I'm not faking documents or participants? how can I show that I didn't induce some answers to the participants to prove a given hypothesis?
If I can publish without an institutional affiliation, would my results be taken seriously in academia?

  • 30
    You may have issues with not going through an ethics committee. Psychology experiments usually require at least a superficial examination to assure they don't violate ethical standards.
    – puppetsock
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 14:53
  • 1
    @Issel it's also important to note that the motivation of the questions in a forum is not always very clear. Of course, I knew I would face a lot of problems trying to do such experiments by myself, but I didn't know the nature of the problems and the level of difficulty. Now I'm more prepared to discuss about these issues with some professors who could help me.
    – user26832
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 2:35
  • 3
    Issues related to IRB approval have come up reasonable regularly on the site. In particular you should consider the plight of research done without prior board approval. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 16:42
  • 1
    I would consider how much work other than research you would have to do as an independent researcher vs working at a university. It might not be that much different. You need to interview people doing both then decide.
    – user104967
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 22:41

3 Answers 3


Publishing papers about psychology experiments does present an additional issue, human subject research ethics. A reputable journal is likely to require assurance that the rights and welfare of the research subjects were protected during the research.

If you were working or studying at a research university in many countries the university would have some provision for reviewing the ethics of planned research, and monitoring it in progress. US research universities each have an Institutional review board. A journal could rely on IRB approval to know that the research subjects were protected.

You need to find out how that is handled in your country, and make sure you are following procedures and getting reviews that will make your research acceptable for the journals in which you wish to publish. There are enough pitfalls in doing human, or even animal, experiments that one should really not attempt them without guidance.

Usually, a psychology researcher starts their research career as a graduate student with an academic advisor supervising them. They will learn how their supervisor, and other researchers, prepare and organize experiments. Their supervisor will guide them in selecting ethical experiments, getting informed consent, preparing paperwork for independent review, etc.

  • 37
    Because of all the caveats, I suggest the OP not try this without guidance from professionals. It is truly a "Don't Try This At Home" situation.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 11:56
  • 2
    @Buffy which professionals? I feel lost.
    – user26832
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 13:09
  • 11
    Normally you learn how to do this properly in an educational situation, say a graduate program. The professionals are the professors. But you need independent judgement about the ethics of what you want to do from an IRB as the writer of this answer suggests. Otherwise you might step into ethical violations without knowing it. Outside the US, an IRB will have a different name, but most places require the equivalent vetting.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 13:13
  • 7
    Research in animal subjects is similarly regulated.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 13:39
  • 7
    There are IRBs that are independent from universities, but they cost money and if you don't know how to write a protocol, it will be difficult to get approval.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 14:07

You are absolutely able to publish the results of observational studies with no oversight, and this has been done before without university affiliation. However once you get into 'experiment' territory where human or animal subjects are manipulated in some way, all respectable journals require that you have informed consent or IACAUC review and approval. Without that, you'll mostly be unable to publish your results outside of shady pay-to-publish journals, if that.


Is it the same with experiments?

Yes, assuming you have sufficient resources to conduct the experiment.

How can I show my experiment was really made rigorously and I'm not faking documents and participants? How can I show the experiment really happened? how can I show I didn't induce some answers to the participants to prove my hypothesis? There are a lot of simple experiments I can do by myself and I want to publish them, how can I be taken serious?

In each instance: The same way a university researcher would.

I didn't think it needed saying, but: The necessary ethical and legal paperwork is required, regardless of where work is conducted; some experiments cannot, should not, or both, be conducted at home; and other caveats. Nonetheless, ultimately, publishable research - even in psychology - can be conducted at home, albeit, you'll need to be selective about the research and you'll need to compliant. (The OP might want to ask should such work be conducted at home, which Patricia Shanahan partly answers.) Working with an industry- or university-affiliated PI - e.g., as an intern working from home - would simplify the process.

That said, given that

I've just finished my under-graduat[e degree] in psychology

You might want to ask: What are the benefits of a supervisor, over working alone? The benefits are significant and I'd recommend supervision.

  • 9
    This is not true (as elaborated in the answer by Patricia Shanahan).
    – Dirk
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 12:59
  • 7
    The bit "the same way a university researcher would". A university researcher could refer to documents where the university describes how it ensures that all its researchers obey the regulations regarding experiments with human subjects. As a researcher at home this is not possible and one would have to document that one has obeyed all ethical and legal standards in a different way. Maybe the journal just lets you sign a document, but I doubt that (although: not may field, so probably I am wrong).
    – Dirk
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 13:12
  • 14
    I don't think this answer has sufficient warnings about the pitfalls.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 13:38
  • 10
    I think it's a fair assumption in the dark that any publishable psychological research will, in one way or another, require IRB approval. Not mentioning this makes this answer maybe not strictly wrong, but utterly misleading.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 15:04
  • 4
    @user2768 Most universities have some kind of research ethics training, and everyone must sign and attest that they have been trained and will abide by the regulations. Violating the university's policy of research ethics comes with stiff consequences, like termination, expulsion, or revocation of grants, so the stakes are much higher. An at-home researcher signing a document saying they did everything by the book carries much less weight, since there are little to no consequences for lying about it. There is simply less accountability outside of an institutional setting. Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 19:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .