Lessons learned on approaches to data collection and analysis from a pilot study
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Lessons learned on approaches to data collection and analysis from a pilot study

Fiona Alice Watson Senior lecturer, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne

Pilot studies are more commonly associated with quantitative research, and their use is under-reported in qualitative approaches. This paper discusses the value of undertaking a pilot study in a doctoral research project to examine nursing students’ understanding of recovery in mental health by adopting what is called a phenomenographic approach, which in research is concerned with the variation in how particular phenomena are experienced.


To explore the usefulness of three different methods of collecting data – interviewing, completed exam papers and a written response to a scenario – and the Dahlgren and Fallsberg (1991) framework for phenomenographic data analysis.


Methodological issues experienced during the collection and analysis of data in the project are discussed.


The pilot study provided an opportunity for valuable insights to be gained into the methodological issues related to phenomenography and to revise the research plan for the larger study.

Implications for practice

While it may not be generalised to other qualitative studies, this paper may help others undertaking studies that adopt this approach and points to the general value of pilot studies in qualitative research.

Nurse Researcher. 24, 1, 32-36. doi: 10.7748/nr.2016.e1444



Peer review

This article has been subject to double-blind review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest


Received: 03 November 2015

Accepted: 03 March 2016

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