The Dissertation Pilot Study


A pilot study also known as a pilot experiment is a research exercise that engages a small number of participants. It is usually undertaken to find out the feasibility of the main research study Glatthorn and Joyner (2005).In this talk we shall look at the basics of a dissertation pilot study in terms of preparation for a theoretical literature-based dissertation, how to select an appropriate method for theoretical research, what outline of a completed dissertation should include and the logical map and research design of theoretical analysis.

Preparation for Theoretical Literature-based Dissertation Research Study

Preparation for theoretical literature based dissertation research study sees the students spending the better part of their semester assembling studies, synthesizing literature, reflecting on the research course found in their journals, creating and analyzing knowledge forms associated with their work as trainee experts in their areas of specialization and linking the findings of empirical and theoretical literature to their own instructional practice Duke, Ward and Burkert (2010) as cited in Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods. In other words, the student conducts in-depth library research by way of reviewing all relevant literature. He/she, therefore, gather previous studies which act as the basis of his or her review with a view to finding out a feasible research gap as well as establishing what has been done in their areas of interest. Wincup and King (2007) argue that reviewing the appropriate literature can facilitate identifying a topic or if a topic has already been chosen, to determine whether the topic is satisfactorily original to merit further research.

Thomas, Nelson and Silverman (2010) advise that in contemporary research it is wise and more fitting for graduate students to set up their theses or dissertations in a form that is proper for journal because that is a crucial part of the research procedure. Publication of a given research study enables future researchers to continue with further research on a given phenomenon or to come up with other related and important research gaps. In simple terms, research-oriented students should always purpose to do a research study prepared in the form of a journal publication and that is fit for publication.

Selecting an Appropriate Method for Theoretical Research

Generally speaking, research is a problem-solving tool used by scholars in all academic fields in their attempts to interpret and solve problems and challenges facing society. As such research study requires an appropriate method that can enable the researcher to conduct a systematic study of their topic of interest so as to come up with an effective solution(s) to the societal problem(s) upon which the study is based. Various fields of study have their conventional research methodologies. However, it is important to note that since knowledge is complementary similar methods of the research study are used across an allay of academic fields Accardi, Drabinski, and Kummbier (2010). So the method of research in social sciences are closely related while those of physical sciences are related.

Equally, it is important to note that each method has got its strengths and weaknesses and this necessitates the need for student extra care while choosing the research method to use in doing their study. Klandermans and Staggenborg (2001) state that there is a broad range of methods and techniques accessible, each with pros and cons that need to be evaluated in selecting the methods that are in harmony with their research problems.

According to Powell (1997) and King and Windcup (2007), the first step in choosing an appropriate methodology of study which usually comes after identification of the research problem, identifying or building a theory and devising a hypothesis involves deciding whether the anticipated research will be principally applied or basic in nature. Powell further expounds that basic research is theoretical in nature and mostly tends to concern itself with theory construction, hypothesis testing among other things. On the other hand, applied researches tend to be more practical and gives emphasis to providing information that is directly useful in solving actual problems.

It is important to remember that theoretical research is judged by its lucidity of intention and explanation, by its capacity to support or disapprove particular hypotheses, by the generalizability of the results, by its scientific accuracy and by the extent to which the results can be used in developing a product, a process or a policy Powell (1997). Therefore, clarity of purpose and proper interpretation of your findings are crucial to guaranteeing the acceptability of the research results of your study by not only your supervisors but to the wider scholarly community. Your research identified problem or built theory and hypothesis plays an important role in selecting an appropriate method of theoretical research.

What Outline of a Completed Dissertation Should Include

As important as the clarity of purpose and interpretation of a research study’s findings is the coherence and order of a completed dissertation. Meaning your dissertation should be well organized so that readers can easily access any information regarding it with ease. A well-organized dissertation is made up of various parts including the Title page, copyright page, committee approval page, Abstract of the dissertation, table of contents, list of figures, illustrations, and/or tables, acknowledgment page which is optional and dedication page which is also optional Roberts (2004). Note that this is the standard dissertation format world over and should always be adhered to by all careful researchers. However, Roberts (2004) reminds us that though there are general major steps needed to complete a dissertation, procedures vary from university to university and students should make themselves familiar with these measures as early as possible.

An outline of a completed dissertation is synonymous with what is known to us as the Table of contents. Roberts (2004) states that a table of contents is fundamentally a subject outline of your thesis including all headings and subheadings, with associated page numbers. The main items included in the table of contents are acknowledgments, dedication, statement of the problem, literature review, methodology, analysis of the data, conclusions and recommendations, appendixes and references.

Roberts (2004) advises that you should prepare your table of contents early as possible to act as a tentative outline for your research study. This gives a good checklist of what needs to be done in the demanding process of writing your dissertation. It enhances harmony and coherence of the parts of the dissertation thereby making your work presentable as well as scholarly.

The better part of the outline of a completed dissertation is taken up by the chapters dealing with the various major sections of a typical dissertation. A chapter consists of headings and subheadings and each chapter has an introduction and a conclusion.

The Logical map and Research Design of Theoretical Analysis

This greatly entails the evaluation of theoretical resources and detailed matching of theories identified in regard to their validity towards availing solutions as highlighted by the research question. In this section of your dissertation ideas and opinions related to your research question are brought under scrutiny by way of providing your opinions for or against the same.

Theories applied to the answering are compared so as to clarify the most reliable from the lesser applicable and convincing Thomas, Nelson and Silverman (2007). The research design of theoretical analysis of the data gathered comes out at this stage of writing your dissertation.


Writing a dissertation is a demanding exercise that requires undivided attention. As mentioned earlier, although there exists a general major process of writing a dissertation it is imperative to familiarize oneself with the unique procedures of a particular university in advance. Also, careful students should pay special attention to the advice given by their supervisors.


Accardi, M.T, Drabinski, E & Kummbier (2010) Critical library instruction: Theories and Methods. New York: Library Juice Press.Print

Glatthorn, A.A & Joyner, R.L (2005) Writing the winning thesis or dissertation: a Step-by-step Guide. New York: Corwin Press.Print

King, R.D. &Windcup, E (2007) Doing research on crime and justice. London: Oxford University Press.Print

Klanndermans, B, B & Staggenborg (2002). Methods of social movement research. Minnesota: Minnesota Press. Print.

Powell, R.R. (1997). Basic research methods for librarians. Greenwood Publishing Group. Print.

Roberts, C.M (2004). The dissertation journey: a practical and comprehensive guide to planning, writing, and defending your dissertation. New York: Corwin Press.Print

Thomas, J, Nelson, J&Silverman, S. (2007) Research Methods in Physical Activity. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics. Print

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