5. Pilot Study

At this stage you should have decided on your topic, title and aims of your investigation. You will have planned where you are going to collect your data, and the type of data that you need.  You will also know what equipment you need.  The pilot study is a "dry run" of your investigation where you test your ideas and methods by collecting data at 2 or 3 sites to make sure that you are going to get the results you need when you carry out the real investigation.  You may also need to try out your questionnaires; you might get unexpected results that make your data hard to analyse.

The purpose of the pilot study is to identify any weaknesses in your methods and find ways to overcome them.  It might make you go back to your original title and hypothesis and make changes to ensure that the investigation is more successful.  You might have to change your equipment or alter your questionnaires to ensure that you get useful repsonses.  There might be problems with your sampling strategy.  You will be able to identify any additional unforeseen risks and make suitable adjustments to your study.

By ironing out difficulties at an early stage, it is more likely that your investigation will be successful and that it will yield accurate and reliable results.  There are, of course, likely to be problems that you cannot easily overcome, but as long as you acknowledge these in your evaluation, then it doesn't matter.



Select a location to carry out your pilot study.  Obtain any equipment that you need and do a trial run of your investigation at 3 sites.  Do a brief SWOT test to evaluate your methods and make suitable adjustments


What went well?


What went badly?


What could be done better?


What difficulties cannot be avoided?