I have spent quite a large chuck of time this semester working on the pilot study for my dissertation. A pilot study is also known as a feasibility study. It allows the researcher to test run the instruments, assessment tools and/or methodology that will be later used for the grand study that will ultimately bring you to the completion of a Ph.D. program.
The pilot study paper is written like a mini dissertation. It generally follows the five chapter structure of introduction, review of literature, research methods, research findings and discussion.
The absolute beauty of reaching this level of scholarly achievement is that the focus of your research is entirely up to you. So, you are free to delve deeply into an area that you are passionate about. This is a good thing as you will be living with it for years. (I am reminded of the phrase that doctoral students often repeat as they near the end "A good dissertation is a done dissertation".)
The title of my pilot study is Case studies of first grade Deaf readers: Looking at knowledge of conceptual signs and reading comprehension. I had a different, rather catchy title there for a while but it was deemed too vague - no one could tell what my study was about. I decided to go with the above title (for now) and save my clever, witty title for a book or at least a chapter in my dissertation. I won't give it away just yet lest it be borrowed by some other fledgling researcher, can you imagine the horror?!
I chose to do a qualitative case study of two culturally Deaf first grade students and simply observe and describe how they use their knowledge of American Sign Language while they read independent & instructional level texts.
The new challenge of this for me was going through the process of gaining approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). In order to do any study with human subjects you must submit a proposal, gain permission from the subjects or their parents, the school (setting) and from the district.
I am told that completed pilot studies can be reformatted and submitted to educational journals for publication or academic conferences as presentations. It seems there are quite a few possibilities, especially if your area of study is the 'hot' topic at the moment.
For now, I am thoroughly enjoying the process and give thanks to those who are supporting me through it all; Dr. Marshall George, Dr. Joanna Uhry, Rebecca Marshall, Lauren Ridloff - Happy Birthday - and my fellow doctoral students (especially Cortney, Cayne and Linda).
What a fantastic journey!