How can I document my methods so that others can reproduce my work more easily?
The goal of open protocols is to document and communicate your research methods unambiguously, so that other researchers can easily replicate your exact procedures.
The term protocol refers to the precise method for carrying out or reproducing a given experiment. Depending on your field of study, this can include everything from your study setup to the exact procedure you followed when analyzing your data. As with the data, this documentation is best made openly accessible and linked to from your manuscript.
By including the 21-word statement in your methods section, you can make clear that you have reported how the sample size was determined, and all variables and conditions that were included in your study.
Starting from screenshots or a video recording of your study, there are several informal methods of documenting your exact procedures.
Beyond these, several institutions have created formal standards that provide precise guidance around what should be reported, and how.
- The TIER project has developed the DRESS Protocol. It is a set of standards for documenting empirical research in the social sciences that specify in detail the content and organization a study protocol.
Biomedical researchers in particular have defined a wide range of protocols and standards for different types of research, ranging from human or animal studies to systematic reviews. BMJOpen provides an overview of items that should be included in a study protocol, and lists reporting guidelines for various purposes. Similarly, the Equator Network collects different reporting guidelines, and provides guidance for selecting the appropriate one.
For benchtop experiments, the website protocols.io provides a framework to specify exactly how to perform a procedure, and to share and collaboratively extend available protocols.