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34 – Teaching Integrity in Empirical Archaeology With Replication Assignments


  • Ben Marwick, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle
  • Li-Ying Wang, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle


Topic: We share our implementation of a replication report assignment suitable for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students in archaeology and other empirical social sciences. Reproducibility is the ability to obtain results by using the same data and code provided by the authors of a study. The ability to make research reproducible has become a hot topic in many fields, but undergraduate curricula are yet to catch up to prepare students with these skills.

Context: Our setting is upper-level seminar and laboratory classes of 10-20 students central to the Archaeology Science Option in the Anthropology major. We use replication as a core type of class assignment to train students to conduct reproducible research with real-world messy data.

Scholarly basis: We identified four steps for an effective replication assignment: (1) analyzing a published report to determine the main claims made by the authors of that report, (2) obtaining the data used by the authors, (3) analyzing that data to determine if one or more of the authors’ claims are reliable, and (4) submitting a research compendium that documents the work in a reproducible format, including the code and data used in the assignment. We collected feedback from students and analysed their performance on the assignment via a rubric.

Results: We learned that replication assignments can be effective in teaching archaeology. Student feedback indicated that it was a valuable new experience for them, and for the discipline. We found that although this was a new and unconventional assignment, these elements didn’t have a negative effect on students’ grades.

Application: Instructors in other disciplines can take inspiration from our success with replicating real-world studies in undergraduate classes. Instructors can take our schedule of four steps, the tools and services we use with these steps, to apply them to case studies in their own discipline.

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