In here, they say there is a problem with results not being replicated. I know a PhD is supposed to be "original" research. But could you do a PhD solely on replicating the results of others? Especially given that there is a problem with results not being replicated, I believe you would be contributing a lot to science. Even if it is not "original research".

  • 5
    Maybe if one came to original conclusions about which or how many results are reproducible. But a PhD has to have something original, period.
    – user37208
    Jul 31, 2016 at 16:26
  • Only your Ph.D. advisor can tell you whether this is OK in your case. Arrive at the conclusion in discussion with your advisor.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 1, 2016 at 14:39
  • @GEdgar I'm not in an experimental field and have no interest in doing this. Just curious.
    – user41631
    Aug 1, 2016 at 16:10

3 Answers 3


I would say it depends:

a) If in medicine, you are the first one to replicate an effect in an independent study, then you actually did something original, namely confirming the effect

b) If in physics, you refine an experimental design to verify an uncertain outcome, or clean up a measurement to exclude artifacts, and make the effect more clear, it is also something original

The rest is in the shades of what passed in the journals as "original". But I guess as long as the experiment was set up freshly (i.e. not in the same group) and had any small improvement/change (analysis method, amount of data, statistical uncertainty, control experiments) over the original it would pass in many universities for a PhD (and I will not give my personal opinion on the level or originality required for a PhD in an average university here).

  • 3
    In addition to the consideration of finding a lab with all the necessary equipment to spend 3-6 years replicating other experiments, the lab willing to host you for doing just that, the funding bodies which find the work 'interesting' enough to fund for 3-6 years, this is the answer. Jul 31, 2016 at 16:56
  • However, the "original" bits and pieces you describe make the new work not an exact replication of the original. Which means that we keep having the problems of incomparable studies on the same subject. Aug 3, 2016 at 13:45
  • Well. Replicating IMHO does not mean copying everything, but do a design which tests the same thing, in your own way. If i copy everything, i also copy the design mistakes, making the replication worth less.
    – Sascha
    Aug 5, 2016 at 16:15

It is the knowledge created from research that must be original and not necessarily the research topic itself. May topics of research have been revisited throughout time when advancements in technology or methods allow a greater insight into the original hypothesis and results. If your hypothesis differed from that of the original research project - such as quantifying the impact of previously unaccounted variables or applying the original knowledge to a novel application - then there is grounds for originality.

I know of a colleagues research that has been based on the results of a previous researchers contribution to knowledge. When trying to apply this knowledge to an application my colleague found certain elements from the previous research did not repeat in the manner they should. This discovery highlights the original research as non-repeatable and possibly even discredits it. These results are valid and important to the advancement of knowledge.


In addition to the other answers: It may also be possible to produce new knowledge by using the results of other peoples' experiments and (for example) combining them in novel ways, or applying a different analysis. Whether there is a PhD in this is something that only the advisor can answer, though.

You must log in to answer this question.