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Pilot Study

Pilot Study

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Published by: 'Emmanuel Orimogunje on May 25, 2011
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01/13/2013

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Introduction
A
pilot experiment
, also called a
pilot study
, is a small scalepreliminary study conducted before the main research, in orderto check the feasibility or to improve the design of theresearch. A pilot, or feasibility study, is a small experimentdesigned to test logistics and gather information prior to alarger study, in order to improve the latter’s quality andefficiency.Pilot studies, therefore, may not be appropriate forcase studies. They are frequently carried out before large-scalequantitative research, in an attempt to avoid time and moneybeing wasted on an inadequately designed project. A pilotstudy is usually carried out on members of the relevantpopulation, but not on those who will form part of the finalsample. This is because it may influence the later behaviour of research subjects if they have already been involved in theresearch.A pilot experiment is often used to test the design of the full-scale experiment which then can be adjusted, a potentiallyvaluable insight. Should anything be missing in the pilot, it canbe added to the experiment to improve chances of a clearoutcome that will influence the full-scale (and more expensive)experiment.Often inengineeringapplications, pilot experiments are used tosell a product and provide quantitative proof that the system
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has potential to succeed on a full scale basis. Pilot experimentsare also used to reduce cost, as they are less expensive thanfull experiments. If there is not enough reason to provide fullscale applications, pilots can generally provide this proof.Insociology, pilot studies can be referred to as small-scalestudies that will help identify design issues before the mainresearch is done.The term pilot study is used in two different ways in socialscience research. It can refer to so-called feasibility studieswhich are "small scale version[s], or trial run[s], done inpreparation for the major study"). However, a pilot study canalso be the pre-testing or 'trying out' of a particular researchinstrument (Baker 1994: 182-3). One of the advantages of conducting a pilot study is that it might give advance warningabout where the main research project could fail, whereresearch protocols may not be followed, or whether proposedmethods or instruments are inappropriate or too complicated.These are important reasons for undertaking a pilot study, butthere are additional reasons, for example convincing fundingbodies that your research proposal for the main study is worthfunding. Thus pilot studies are conducted for a range of different reasons.Although pilot experiments have a well-established tradition inpublic action, their usefulness as a strategy for change hasbeen questioned, at least in the domain of environmentalmanagement. It is argued that extrapolation from a pilot study
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to large scale environmental strategy cannot be assumed to bepossible, partly due to the exceptional resources andfavourable conditions that often accompanies a pilot study.
Reasons for Pilot Studies
A pilot study can reveal deficiencies in the design of a proposedexperiment or procedure and these can then be addressedbefore time and resources are expended on large scale studies.Animal experiments are not usually carried out in isolation, butare part of a programme of research. A good research strategyrequires careful planning and a pilot study will often be a partof this strategy.A pilot study is normally small in comparison with the mainexperiment and therefore can provide only limited informationon the sources and magnitude of variation of responsemeasures. It is unlikely, for example, that a pilot study alonecan provide adequate data on variability for a power analysis toestimate the number of animals to include in a well designedexperiment. A systematic review of the literature or even asingle publication is a more appropriate source of informationon variability. The pilot study may, however, provide vitalinformation on the severity of proposed procedures ortreatments.Other reasons include:
Developing and testing adequacy of research instruments
Assessing the feasibility of a (full-scale) study/survey
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