Why Is a Pilot Study Important in Research?

Are you working on a new research project? We know that you are excited to start, but before you dive in, make sure your study is feasible. You don’t want to end up having to process too many samples at once or realize you forgot to add an essential question to your questionnaire.

What is a Pilot Study?

You can determine the feasibility of your research design, with a pilot study before you start. This is a preliminary, small-scale “rehearsal” in which you test the methods you plan to use for your research project. You will use the results to guide the methodology of your large-scale investigation. Pilot studies should be performed for both qualitative and quantitative studies. Here, we discuss the importance of the pilot study and how it will save you time, frustration and resources.

You never test the depth of a river with both feet

– African proverb

Components of a Pilot Study

Whether your research is a clinical trial of a medical treatment or a survey in the form of a questionnaire, you want your study to be informative and add value to your research field. Things to consider in your pilot study include:

  • Sample size and selection. Your data needs to be representative of the target study population. You should use statistical methods to estimate the feasibility of your sample size.
  • Determine the criteria for a successful pilot study based on the objectives of your study. How will your pilot study address these criteria?
  • When recruiting subjects or collecting samples ensure that the process is practical and manageable.
  • Always test the measurement instrument. This could be a questionnaire, equipment, or methods used. Is it realistic and workable? How can it be improved?
  • Data entry and analysis. Run the trial data through your proposed statistical analysis to see whether your proposed analysis is appropriate for your data set.
  • Create a flow chart of the process.

Importance of Pilot Study in Research

Pilot studies should be routinely incorporated into research designs because they:

  1. Help define the research question
  2. Test the proposed study design and process. This could alert you to issues which may negatively affect your project.
  3. Educate yourself on different techniques related to your study.
  4. Test the safety of the medical treatment in preclinical trials on a small number of participants. This is an essential step in clinical trials.
  5. Determine the feasibility of your study, so you don’t waste resources and time.
  6. Provide preliminary data that you can use to improve your chances for funding and convince stakeholders that you have the necessary skills and expertise to successfully carry out the research.

Are Pilot Studies Always Necessary?

We recommend pilot studies for all research. Scientific research does not always go as planned; therefore, you should optimize the process to minimize unforeseen events. Why risk disastrous and expensive mistakes that could have been discovered and corrected in a pilot study?

An Essential Component for Good Research Design

Pilot work not only gives you a chance to determine whether your project is feasible but also an opportunity to publish its results. You have an ethical and scientific obligation to get your information out to assist other researchers in making the most of their resources.

A successful pilot study does not ensure the success of a research project. However, it does help you assess your approach and practice the necessary techniques required for your project. It will give you an indication of whether your project will work. Would you start a research project without a pilot study? Let us know in the comments section below.

  1. Antony Babu.V says

    But it depends on the nature of the research, I suppose.

  2. Amoh says

    Awesome document

  3. Anonymous says

    Good document

  4. Asmita says

    I totally agree with this article that pilot study helps the researcher be sure how feasible his research idea is. And is well worth the time, as it saves future time wastage.

Rate this article


Your email address will not be published.

You might also like

Sign-up to read more

Subscribe for free to get unrestricted access to all our resources on research writing and academic publishing including:

  • 2000+ blog articles
  • 50+ Webinars
  • 10+ Expert podcasts
  • 50+ Infographics
  • Q&A Forum
  • 10+ eBooks
  • 10+ Checklists
  • Research Guides
[contact-form-7 id="40123" title="Global popup two"]

    Researchers Poll

    Which is the best strategy to support research integrity according to you?