Thursday, January 01, 2015

Green lighting the pilot study

After completing the literature review for my doctoral thesis, I wrote a new document called the literature synthesis. It wasn't particularly clear what was needed for this stage, so I had a Skype conversation with my supervisor to clarify matters. I understood that the synthesis should basically contain the conclusions from the literature review. As I had already included a fair number of conclusions in the review, I withdrew them from this document and moved them to the synthesis. I then added material about aims, objectives and hypotheses: this material was taken almost directly from the research proposal although it was updated whenever necessary. Finally I added two pages describing the design of the pilot study. This new material was sent to my supervisor about a week and a half ago, and he gave his approval on Monday (the delay was due to holidays).

So now I am starting with my pilot study. This will have two stages: a preparatory stage and an exploratory stage. This is what I wrote about the preparatory stage:
Factors which have to be checked with regard to the questionnaire are:
  • Length: is the questionnaire too long?
  • Flow: do the several sections which comprise the questionnaire fit together?
  • Understandability: are the questions ambiguous?
  • Answers: have all the possible options been included?
As the research itself will be taking place in Israel, the questionnaire has to be translated into Hebrew. This translation will be checked to ensure that it is both grammatically correct and also faithful to the original. The wording may have to be changed in order to enhance the understandability.

This preparatory stage will actually be divided into two: I have given the questionnaire to six people (two psychologists, two ERP users from my company, one ERP user from another company and one university lecturer) for criticism; on the basis of their input, I will update the questionnaire and distribute it to a wider population. In both cases, the people receiving the questionnaire are requested to criticise it and not to answer it.

Assuming that the questionnaire's format is finalised after the second round of the preparatory stage, I will then distribute the questionnaire to users of a company which uses Priority (I have to choose a company and also obtain their permission). This is the exploratory phase, and the respondents will be requested to answer the questionnaire. This is an important stage as it tests the questionnaire on a real population. The answers are also important for it may be that questions will have to be removed: there's no point in having a question which asks for an opinion if everyone answers in the same manner. The results of this phase may be used as part of the final research, but this depends on how many changes are made to the questionnaire after the first field test. It may be necessary to run a second field test if major changes are made, but the whole idea of the two preparatory tests is to freeze the questionnaire's format before it goes out into the field.

I imagine that the pilot study should take about five-six weeks to complete. Once this is done, I can write up the results of the pilot study and submit everything which I have written since the research proposal was accepted to the research committee. As my textbook (IBR2) states,
The DBA Research Committee critically evaluates the literature review submission and decides whether or not it is of an acceptable standard to justify progression to the final stage.
The Committee looks for evidence that all current relevant literature has been identified, read, critically reviewed and synthesised to act as a basis for the development of the research aims and objectives. The Committee also looks for evidence that the proposed research methodology has been developed directly from this synthesis. The literature review submission must demonstrate a clear progression from literature base to current research. The student has to use the literature review submission to demonstrate that the current research a) has been logically and systematically developed from the existing knowledge (literature) base and b) will contribute directly to that knowledge base.

I can devote some time, while the pilot study is running, to integrating the various sections that I have written in order to make a more coherent document (not that much work should be needed). I think that the introduction needs to be improved. This submission will actually be the first half of the final thesis so it is important that it be written well - although of course, I will be able to edit the text before the final thesis is submitted.

This is an important milestone! Next time I'll write about the questionnaire itself.

No comments: