HARKing: Hypothesizing after the results are known

This article considers a practice in scientific communication termed HARKing (Hypothesizing After the Results are Known). HARKing is defined as presenting a post hoc hypothesis (i.e., one based on or informed by one’s results) in one’s research report as if it were, in fact, an a priori hypotheses. Several forms of HARKing are identified and survey data are presented that suggests that at least some forms of HARKing are widely practiced and widely seen as inappropriate. I identify several reasons why scientists might HARK. Then I discuss several reasons why scientists ought not to HARK. It is conceded that the question of whether HARKing’s costs exceed its benefits is a complex one that ought to be addressed through research, open discussion, and debate. To help stimulate such discussion (and for those such as myself who suspect that HARKing’s costs do exceed its benefits), I conclude the article with some suggestions for deterring HARKing.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327957pspr0203_4

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