Pilot Study

March 17, 2021 - Paper 2 Psychology in Context | Research Methods

Pilot Study Definition:

A Pilot Study is a small-scale version (dry run) of the real research often carried out before the full-scale research project begins. Based on a small sample, they are usually quick, easy to conduct and inexpensive. They are used to check the research works as it is intended to, does not have any confounding variables and is practical.

The main reason why pilot studies are conducted is to check the following: 

(1) Are there any demand characteristics in the study? Is so, the researcher will need to remove these before the full study in order to increase internal validity.


(2) Are the instructions clear? It is important that the instructions of the experiment are clear that way participants are fully informed about what they are expected to do as part of the experiments. Unclear instructions could lead to participants responding at random in the experiment which could lead to inaccurate results.

(3) Are the resources adequate? For example, when carrying out an observation, a pilot study can allow the researcher to check that their behaviour schedule/tally chart is adequate and that no behaviours have been missed off the chart.

(4) Are there any EVs (extraneous variables) that could affect the results? A pilot study will allow a researcher to identify the EVs in their study and will allow them to assess what control strategies they need to put in place before they carry out the real study.

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