Pilot studies have been shown to be used in many areas within research. However, are pilot studies really that effective or are they a waste of time and resources? One Psychologists named Elizabeth Loftus who’s main area of research involved the use of memory/memory recall was heavily criticised for a pilot study which she carried out entitled “lost in the mall technique” She was criticised for the use of linking false allegations of child sexual abuse to a child’s memory. False results where being published therefore ethical guidelines were being abused. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Loftus).
This shows one disadvantage when using pilot studies. Some researchers may want to use their pilot studies to publish results which have not yet been tested properly or correctly, or with a generalisable sample size. Pilot studies are meant to be used as a starting point of research (www.experiment-resources.com) which then leads to an actual research study being carried out. However, the research study can only be carried out if the pilot study was a success and follows every ethical guideline set by the BPS (British psychological Society). It cannot be used to write up an actual research report.
It is also important to mention that if a pilot study is going to be used it needs to be for the right reasons as many complex pilot studies can be extremely expensive. (http://circ.ahajournals.org). Very often most pilot studies used by researchers will only use a small sample size in order to gather data which they feel will help give a slight indication of what they hope to find. This may lead to misleading and false interpretation of results which may follow from the pilot study (which relates to the case of Elizabeth Loftus) and as mentioned earlier, will not be generalisable towards the true population.
However, despite focusing on a number of problems with conducting pilot studies there are in fact many benefits to using a pilot study before conducting an actual study. If carried out correctly, a pilot study will allow for advantages such as checking that the investigators are skilled in the field of Psychology which they will be testing in, check that the intervention chosen for the actual experiment to follow will be appropriate and one of the most important advantages that it checks for is validity and reliability of the study in question. (http://www.nc3rs.org.uk). In reality how would you be able to check that a study is appropriate without doing a pilot on it first?
Overall, I feel that a pilot study should be included when preparing to carry out research studies. Not only are they beneficial for the validity and reliability of the research and beneficial on behalf of the researcher, a pilot study can also help eliminate interventions which could cause physical or mental harm towards the participants (helping to follow the ethical guidelines produced by BPS). They also help to eliminate some confounding variables and help determine the best way to carry out the study. In conclusion if they tick all the appropriate boxes such as the ethical guidelines, validity and reliability then no harm can be done when writing up the results and reporting the different findings. A polished report is one which can be published and become advantageous with reference to future research in the field of Psychology