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How do I run a pilot study?

We strongly advise running a pilot study before launching your main study, to test it out on a small number of participants. This is especially important if you haven't run a similar study before.

Why should I run a pilot study?


Amongst other reasons...

  • To double-check that all the technical aspects of your study are working
  • To gain an insight into the types of responses participants will give
  • To make sure your estimated completion time has been set accurately.

How can I run a pilot study on Prolific?


  1. Once you've created your survey/experiment using an external platform, create a new study on Prolific.
  2. Set how many participants you are looking to recruit to be a small proportion of the sample you eventually want to get. For most studies, we recommend piloting on 5-10 participants, but you might want to recruit even fewer if your study is very complex.
  3. You may wish to let participants know in the study description that your study is a pilot and that they may experience problems! Participants always appreciate transparency, and this may increase their motivation to give helpful feedback!
  4. If you’d like detailed feedback, you could target participants who are experienced users. To do this, use the 'approval rate' and 'number of previous submissions' prescreeners to get participants with a high number of approved submissions.
  5. Once you're ready to launch your main study after making any necessary changes to your survey/experiment, you have two options:
    • Duplicate this pilot study and exclude the participants from your pilot sample.
    • Increase places on your existing study. This will re-open the study to resume data collection.

And that's it - happy piloting!


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