Various fields do large-scale research; such studies entail a large sample and are time-consuming and costly.
There are different methods and approaches, whether scientific or not, that choose as appropriate for carrying out the research.
Before the actual research, a pilot study is conducted to assess the feasibility and validity of the methodologies and techniques chosen in the same region but with low sample size. A pilot study is a crucial stage in any research project.
What is a pilot study in research?
Large-scale research initiatives are often challenging, take a long time to conceive and conduct, and require a significant amount of cash.
Conducting a pilot study ahead of time helps a researcher to design and execute a large-scale project in the most methodologically rigorous manner feasible, saving time and money by lowering the possibility of errors or issues.
Pilot studies are employed in the social sciences by both quantitative and qualitative researchers for these reasons.
A pilot study is a brief study used to evaluate research methodology, data collection tools, sample recruitment strategies, and other research procedures before a more extensive examination.
A pilot study is an essential step in a research effort because it identifies possible issue areas and weaknesses in the research equipment and methodology before complete study execution.
It can also assist members of the research team in becoming acquainted with the protocol’s processes and deciding between two competing study approaches, such as employing interviews rather than a self-administered questionnaire.
The Objective of a Pilot Study
The goal is to test as many research projects as possible to fix any parts that do not perform correctly.
The pilot study, for example, determines if the variables established by operational definition are observable and quantifiable.
It is determined to cover a particular population.
What are the problems? Which research approach is best?
How long will it take for the research to complete?
What is the cost? A pilot study is a “miniature duplicate” of the central research.
It covers the entire research process, from developing a comprehensive study design through building tools, collecting data, processing and analyzing data, and generating reports.
Purpose of a Pilot Study
Pilot study accomplishes one or more of the following goals:
- It improves understanding of the subject under research and its dimensions; and
- It gives direction on conceptualization—the identification and operationalization of ideas related to the research.
- It aids in determining the nature of the relationship between variables and in developing hypotheses.
- It demonstrates the characteristics of the population to survey and the variability within it.
- It is crucial in choosing an effective sample design.
- A pilot study determines if the available sampling frame to gather samples is appropriate, comprehensive, accurate, up to date, and accessible.
- It gives statistics on the relative applicability of different data collecting methods – observation, mailing, interviewing and their respective cost, accuracy, and response rates, allowing you to make an informed decision.
- It demonstrates the tool’s suitability for data collecting.
- It also aids in the discovery of technical issues linked to interviews/mailing.
- It aids in developing better approaches to the target demographic in terms of introduction, rapport, and so on.
- It gives information for constructing questions with alternative answers; and
- It assists the researcher in developing an acceptable plan of investigation.
- It allows the researcher to detect potential field difficulties and propose solutions.
- It gives information for evaluating the likely cost and time of the primary investigation and its many stages. Most importantly, it assists the researcher in determining whether or not more significant research is justified.
- The researcher will be able to take a pragmatic view of the main study’s potentialities and feasibility based on the pilot study outcomes.
Advantages of Pilot Study
- It describes the sampling frame’s completeness, accuracy, and convenience from which the sample plan to draw.
- It reveals the variation (in terms of the issue under research) within the population to the surveyed/studied.
- It is essential in choosing the sample size.
- It aids in highlighting the shortcomings of the proposed questionnaire; it sheds light on many issues.
- It demonstrates how efficient the training was in ridding interviewers of their preconceptions and encouraging them and the shortcomings of training curricula, staff incentives, and so on.
- It aids in differentiating sincere interviewers from cheaters and determining the sort of person who prefers to be a competent interviewer.
- It eases their anxieties about openly sensitive queries and boosts their self-esteem.
- They learn to appreciate and respect the local culture.
- It assesses interviewers’ stamina to work under conditions of personal pain, stress, and exhaustion. • It assesses the survey organization’s efficiency in the field, including the type of supervision and instructions.
- • It aids in determining the demand for various types of equipment and vehicles required during the project.
- • It gives statistics for estimating time and expenses for completing various project phases and demonstrates ways to save money.
- A pilot study is a scaled-down version of the entire research activity.
- It is a thorough empirical examination of all study phases, from data collection through tabulation and analysis.
- The pilot research should be subjected to the same sort of data analysis as the primary research to examine the directions of postulated associations.
What are the Primary Reasons for Conducting a Pilot Study?
Pilot study conduct to assess the viability of some critical component(s) of the full-scale investigation.
These often classified into three major categories:
The evaluation of the feasibility of the significant study’s essential phrases (for example, recruitment rate; retention levels, and eligibility criteria)
Analyzing potential time and resource issues that may arise during the main study (for example, how long the main study will take to complete; if the usage of some equipment will be viable; or if the form(s) of evaluation chosen for the central research are as excellent as possible).
Issues include issues with data management and the study’s crew (for example, whether there were difficulties with handling all the data required for future analysis, whether the collected data are highly variable, and whether data from diverse institutions can examine together).
Methods of a Pilot Study
The pilot study included various components, which are listed below.
Designing Pilot Study Protocol
Determine the bigger idea or project on which your pilot study base.
If your pilot study is successful, it should lead to much more extensive research with a broader scope and a more inclusive budget.
Describe how the pilot study will pave the path for the more extensive research to become a reality in your pilot study protocol.
You should have previously prepared the approach for the entire investigation.
The pilot study can then use to determine how feasible that approach is.
Make a list of the feasibility questions you intend to address with your pilot study.
In general, a pilot study uses to establish whether or not the complete research can be conducted (assuming you have appropriate funds and resources available).
Examine the proposed technique for the entire study and concentrate on whether you are unsure will work.
These are the questions you should be asking.
Your pilot study’s goal is to provide answers to those questions.
Provide a measurable criterion for determining feasibility.
After you’ve stated the questions your pilot research will examine, define how you’ll answer them.
A measurable metric allows you to determine objectively if your entire study is possible based on the pilot study.
Compute the sample size for the pilot research.
A pilot study does not always need rigorous sample size estimates.
However, you must have a sufficient number of participants for your observations to be relevant.
Include 10-20% of the total number of participants intended for the whole research.
Because the goal of the pilot research isn’t necessarily to anticipate the outcome of the complete study, you don’t have to worry that your sample size is too small to generalize to the broader population.
When deciding on the sample size for your pilot research, keep your budget and resources in mind.
Because you are unlikely to have access to funds for travel or professional services, you want to limit the sample size within your limits so that you can conduct everything locally on your own.
Running the Pilot
Document the training of other pilot researchers.
If you hire other researchers to assist you with your pilot project, keep a complete record of their training sessions, including the materials and instructions they receive.
This record allows you to remedy any training errors before beginning the entire research.
Keep the pilot researchers on board for the duration of the project.
They can assist in the training of any other researchers you hire.
Recruit individuals who span the complete scope of your study.
To recruit the same kind of people, use the same recruitment tactics you’ve specified for the whole research.
Covering the full range helps you to predict the outcomes of the pilot study.
Assess how difficult it is to attract participants and how long it takes to obtain the required number of participants.
You may scale this to see if the recruitment tactics you employed will work for the entire research or whether it will take too long to attract enough people.
Use the same strict methodologies as in the original study.
Using the same approach that you want to utilize for the entire research allows you to assess your ability to complete the whole study.
On the other hand, if you cut shortcuts in the pilot study, you won’t have any meaningful data to apply to the whole research.
If you want to know if you’ll keep participants for the duration of the entire study, the pilot study should last the same amount of time as the whole study.
Applying Your Findings
Discuss with pilot study participants about their experiences.
Communicating with the participants after the pilot study concludes provides you with valuable information regarding your methods.
Participants can bring up concerns that you might have missed if you only looked at things from a researcher’s perspective.
In addition to usual interviews following the study, you or other researchers working with you can ask participants questions throughout the research and urge them to speak up if they have a problem or don’t understand anything.
Instructions or queries that are obvious to you may be perplexing to others.
Talking with participants about their experiences might assist you in identifying places where your instructions or questions may clarify.
Modify the technique of the complete study depending on the pilot study.
The results of your pilot research will inform you whether the approach you designed for the complete study is practical.
If the approaches did not work in the pilot research, they are unlikely to function in the complete study unless modified.
The information acquired from the pilot research may need a complete rethinking of your methods for the broader investigation.
If you make significant changes to the technique, you may need to conduct a second pilot study to assess the changed method.
If you found no errors, include your findings in the overall research.
Pilot research must demonstrate that the technique for your comprehensive study is robust and feasible.
If the protocol for the entire study does not need to be changed, the pilot study only offers you a head start on the complete research.
If your pilot research sample does not cover the whole range expected for your complete study, you must alter your entire research sample to account for the bias in your pilot research sample. Otherwise, your final findings will distort.
A successful pilot study does not guarantee that a research effort will be successful.
It does, however, assist you in assessing your approach and practicing the appropriate strategies for your project.
It will tell you whether or not your project will be successful.