Methodological Issues

  • Validity (internal, predictive, ecological)

  • Reliability

  • Generalisability

  • Objectivity and subjectivity (researcher bias)

  • Credibility

What is a pilot study?

Researchers aim to make their findings as credible as possible, and one way to do this is to conduct a pilot study. This is a scaled-down version of your complete procedure with a small number of participants that is completed before the main data collection. The purpose of a pilot study is to identify and modify any problems with the procedure that might jeopardise the validity or reliability of the findings. For example, a pilot study might help to identify extraneous variables that might mean participants in an experiment do not all have the exact same experience of the condition they are performing in. In a an interviewing study, the pilot study might demonstrate that some of the questions suggested in the interview schedule are too ambiguous meaning participants answer them in very different ways making comparisons difficult.

Practice Questions

  1. Mrs Black was teaching Mr Scarlett’s class of six year olds as he was away on a course. She decided to give them a maths test. When Mr Scarlett returned he said that the maths test did not show his pupils’ mathematical ability as the test was designed for eight year old pupils. This is an issue of

A validity

B reliability

C generalisability

D subjectivity