PhD Reflections

A pilot study

Recently I presented to my fellow postgraduates on the benefits of doing a pilot study during the initial stages of a PhD study. A pilot study can take many guises but usually refers to the study of the practicalities and feasibility of certain components of the proposed study. For me, this was my data gathering methods, the types and amounts of data these can yield, and a piloting of data management and analytical techniques. Conducting a pilot study, or rehearsing my data collection techniques and analyses beforehand, was also vitally important to test out the proposed research questions.

Conducting a pilot study has enabled me to give the research methodology a trial run under realistic conditions, helping me to find out how the field and its participants react to the whole process. I have also been able to reflect on ethical considerations, difficulties with access for research and selection of appropriate software for both data collection and management.

Practically, as an ‘outsider’, gaining access to the research site required much negotiation with senior management, the goodwill of the teaching staff, and informed consent of the entire class. Pilot studies require some of this, and help you to get ‘stuck in’ to your research.

Theoretically, conducting my pilot study has allowed me to reformulate and develop my theoretical perspectives, as theory ‘speaks’ to methodology, and also to analysis (and vice versa); the relationship is mutually constitutive.

The Prezi for the session is here:

A paper I wrote on it is here:

5 replies »

  1. Pilots ought to be mandatory. I recall a time when a student came back to see me after doing some of her field work. Her first line was: “It was nothing like I imagined it would be!” 🙂 Yeah. Research is about a series of pilots I reckon. They just get bigger.

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