Pilot Study, Does It Really Matter? Learning Lessons from Conducting a Pilot Study for a Qualitative PhD Thesis

Ismail, Nashwa; Kinchin, Gary and Edwards, Julie-Ann (2018). Pilot Study, Does It Really Matter? Learning Lessons from Conducting a Pilot Study for a Qualitative PhD Thesis. International Journal of Social Science Research, 6(1) pp. 1–17.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijssr.v6i1.11720


A Pilot Study (PS) is a small-scale research project conducted before the final full-scale study. A PS helps researchers to test in reality how likely the research process is to work, in order to help them decide how best to conduct the final research study. In piloting a study, a researcher can identify or refine a research question, discover what methods are best for pursuing it, and estimate how much time and what resources will be necessary to complete the larger final version of the study. There is, however, a paucity in literature that focuses on using, reading and representing PSs. This article discusses the importance of a PS to test and identify how methods and ideas would work in practice when undertaking a qualitative PhD thesis. The proposed PS in this paper addressed many challenges, and the researcher reflected on different perspectives of their work including ethical, cultural, social and professional issues. By the end of the PhD thesis, undertaken with the guidance of the PS, it was found that a well-conducted PS, giving a clear list of aims and objectives within a formal framework, can encourage methodological rigour and ensure the validity of both the study itself and the methodology applied. The objectives of this paper are thus threefold: first, to identify the issues within a specific qualitative PS prior to conducting the final study; second, to address the researcher’s reflections on these findings and finally, to share the experiences and knowledge that a PS can be expected to bring.

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