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PILOT TESTING OF SCHEDULES

S.P.Mukherjee

Centenary Professor, Department of Statistics,


Calcutta University
Kolkata

Schedules and questionnaires are commonly used instruments to collect items of


relevant information from some identified individuals. Responses to various items in the
schedule provided by some or all of the identified individuals are checked, cleaned and
subsequently analysed to reveal facts and figures bearing on the objective (s) of the study.
In large-scale surveys meant to cover a large number of potential respondents as also in
small-scale studies meant to provide an in-depth analysis of a phenomenon in which we
are interested, a pilot survey is often carried and findings there from are taken into
account to finalise various facets of the ultimate study.
One important component of a pilot survey is a pilot- or a pre-testing of the
schedule or questionnaire to be canvassed. This testing may be needed for various
purposes. The following gives an indication.

1. This will provide a provisional estimate of the time to be taken ( and hence the
cost involved) in canvassing a single schedule so as to yield an estimate ot the
total cost for canvassing a given number (as indicated in the sample size) of
respondents. Alternatively, given the total resource available for the study, this
estimate may help us in determining the sample size. Of course, there are other
criteria to taken into account while determining the sample size.

2. Pilot testing will tell us whether the different items included in the schedule are
necessary and sufficient to bring out the study objective (s). talking of sufficiency,
one may think of some apparently redundant items which may be required to
check internal consistency among responses to related items.

3. A very important purpose served by pilot testing it to find out if the questions or
statements in the schedule are unequivocally understood by the potential
respondents or not. The language used must be appropriate to the group being
canvassed. Depending on the feedback from interviewers engaged in pilot testing,
the language and the over-all presentation of the schedule may have to be
modified.
4. Findings from a pilot testing exercise may reveal that even if the individuals
approached could clearly comprehend the questions or statements, they are not
well-informed about the underlying issue (s) and hence cannot provide responses
that can throw light on such issues.
5. A pilot test may also bring to light the fact that some of the items in the schedule
relate to delicate or sensitive matters or matters which are perceived to encroach
on the interviewee's privacy .In such cases, if the concerned are responses are
really needed in the study, one can go for Randomised Response Technique.

6. The points mentioned in the previous two sections will be of immense use in
finalizing the sampling frame for our study as well as the sampling design to be
adopted.

7. Pilot testing may also reveal the need for giving leads to interviewees by
investigators and, designed properly, can also reveal by way of differences the
impact of such leads on the responses. Eventually, this will help in training the
investigators about leads to be given by them-their nature and extent.
Pilot testing may serve other useful purposes also. It must be remembered that a
careful pilot testing exercise involves a bit of research and hence should be
carried out by competent supervisors, if not by the project seniors themselves. The
design for a pilot testing will depend on the purposes it is expected to serve. IN
fact, canvassing a schedule during the pilot testing phase will surely involve
longer time than what will be subsequently required by trained investigators in the
final study.

8. Data collected through a pilot test should be analysed primarily to reveal


differences among interviewee groups, among different response patterns
corresponding to different types of leads given, etc.