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Dissertation Writing Tips: The Pilot Study: Video

The Pilot Study

[Video Transcript]

Hello and welcome back!  My name is Dr. Cheryl Lentz, owner of The Refractive Thinker® Press.  Today our focus for Tips for Graduate Writing is about including a pilot study for your doctoral study (dissertation).

What is the purpose of a pilot study?  A common definition is that a pilot study allows researchers to conduct a preliminary analysis or small scale version of their study BEFORE they commit to the full study that will commence later.  Those pursuing a doctoral program will often be required to complete a pilot study as part of their doctoral study checklist.  In anticipation of conducting the full doctoral study, the researcher needs to know that their study is valid and that all aspects of the study—such as the research method and design of the survey —will actually capture the data they are looking for as outlined in their problem statement.   The goal is to perform a test run to ensure that the research plan as outlined will provide the most accurate and reliable data possible.

Why is this necessary?  The pilot study is a crucial element to ensure good research design of the final study.  The goal is to work through any issues that might arise BEFORE the actual study

What issues might there be?  Consider potential areas with question wording.  For example, the questions asked in one’s study might be difficult to understand or confusing to the participants.  The questions might be considered leading questions or questions that may lead to a specific or potentially biased answer.  Conducting a pilot study will also pre-test the survey instrument(s) as well to help work out any issues with a small group—perhaps 10% of the overall target audience for the actual study—with a just in case type of strategy.  The pilot study is where we as researchers want to see errors, so any questions that are confusing or offensive can be corrected and adjusted prior to conducting the full study—to ensure that ‘the research’ goes off without any complications.

What is the difference?  Ideally, there is no difference.  The pilot study will be identical to the full study, simply a smaller version.  Think of this as a test run in which the documentation and the analysis are the same.  While the people who participate will be different and cannot participate in the full study, where this test run offers the ability to work out any kinks in content and process prior to completion of the full study.  This pilot study is an opportunity for the researcher to focus on the details as a final quality assurance check before commitment to the full study.  A pilot study offers a grand learning opportunity even for the most seasoned research veterans.  Be sure to heed the offered lessons.

Do I have to conduct a pilot study?  Conducting a pilot study is for those survey instruments and questionnaires that have not yet been field tested.  If you are using a survey instrument or questionnaire that has already been tested or vetted, i.e., used by a previous researcher, a pilot study is not needed.  Often, buildings on the research of previous doctoral studies that already have high quality seasoned instruments or questionnaires can be a time saver.  Follow the requirements offered by your specific institution.  Be sure to work closely with your chair or mentor to ensure that your study follows sound research processes and protocols to ensure quality results.  Please continue your research regarding pilot studies, particularly about statistical analysis.

For more tips on effective academic writing, please visit me at my blog at   Thank you for joining me.  My name is Dr. Cheryl Lentz and I hope you find these suggestions within this video helpful.

Good luck to you in your academic writing pursuits.  Cheers!

With respect,


Dr. Cheryl Lentz

Chief Refractive Thinker®

Refractive Thinker: Vol VII: Social Responsibility

Refractive Thinker: Vol VII: Social Responsibility

November 4th, 2012 by admin