The American Sociologist

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 589–607 | Cite as

The Uses of Pilot Studies in Sociology: a Processual Understanding of Preliminary Research

  • C. A. SmithEmail author


The following essay examines articles and textbooks that define or operationalize pilot studies in order to detail a set of tools that are situated in the pilot study repertoire. This leads to a distinction between theoretical and methodological purposes, and ultimately suggests that the processes should be used in tandem for the creation of high-quality research. I propose a processual model of preliminary research in which cycles of pilot testing can help to develop theoretically and methodologically sound research. The intent is to consolidate the knowledge from a multitude of sources in order to propose a fleshed out understanding of preliminary work for the benefit of the practitioners and mentors of researchers in sociology.


Pilot study Theory Methods Preliminary research 



I would first like to thank Professor Richard Swedberg for his help and mentorship throughout the writing process. Second, I would like to thank Professor Jennifer Platt for her part in the collection of a portion of the textbook literature as well as her insights into future directions of the project. Thank you both for everything you did. This could not have been completed without your help.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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