There are lots of occasions when running a pilot study on Prolific is highly recommended. In brief, this is a test study that you launch to a small number of participants, before recruiting your full sample. We strongly advise all researchers new to Prolific to run a pilot study!

The purpose of a pilot study can vary, but generally it's a good idea to check that the technical aspects are working smoothly and as you expect. Furthermore, you may wish to gain insight into the types of responses you can expect to receive from participants, or check that your Estimated Completion Time has been set accurately.

Additional instances of when we think it's appropriate to run a pilot study can be found in our Researcher Best Practice Guide: When to pilot test your study

How to run a pilot study on Prolific

  1. Once you've created your survey/experiment using an external platform and are ready to try it out on real participants, create a new study on Prolific.

  2. Set your Maximum Submissions to be a small subset of the overall sample you eventually want to obtain. For most studies, we recommend piloting on 5-10 participants, but you may wish to recruit even fewer (e.g. 1 or 2) if your study is very complex. Enter the other Basic Details in this section as normal.

  3. If you want to communicate that your study is a pilot, and that participants may expect to encounter complications, consider including this information in your Study Description. Participants always appreciate transparency, and this may increase their motivation to give helpful feedback!

  4. If you're seeking detailed feedback on your survey (e.g. through the use of open-ended questions), you could specifically target participants who are experienced users of Prolific. To do this, use the "Approval Rate" and "Number of previous submissions" filters in Prescreening to obtain participants with a high number of Approved submissions.

  5. Publish your study, and review your submissions once the data has come in. To launch your main study after making any necessary changes to your survey/experiment, you can Duplicate this version to copy over the details, and add a Previous Studies screener to exclude the participants from your pilot sample.

And that's it - happy piloting! If you're unsure about anything, don't hesitate to get in touch with Prolific Support via

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