Research In Brief: Early-Stage Research

In 2016 we began the Research In Focus series, highlighting new and interesting findings from NIDILRR-funded studies, presented in a reader-friendly format. As a follow-up, we offer our occasional series Research In Brief, where we break down some of the terms you might find in peer-reviewed studies.

In this month’s Research in Brief, we explore types of early-stage research. “Early-stage” studies are the first studies done on a new topic or tests of a new technology or treatment. Here are some examples of early-stage research:

  • A case study is an in-depth study involving only one research participant. During a case study, researchers may interview the participant and their family members, observe the participant in multiple settings, or analyze detailed medical records on the participant. Case studies can be useful to better understand unusual medical conditions or disabilities.
  • A feasibility study is a small study to test a new program or technology. In a feasibility study, a small group of participants may be asked to use a new technology and report on how easy the technology was to use, how well it worked, and how much they enjoyed using it. The researchers may also record any safety issues or other unwanted effects of the technology. If a feasibility study is successful, the research may continue with a larger group of participants.
  • A pilot study is a study with a small sample of participants to test the effects of a new program or treatment. Pilot studies are similar to feasibility studies, but they can also be used to test for beneficial effects of the new program. For example, a researcher may conduct a pilot study with 12 participants in a new exercise program to find out if the participants’ cardiovascular fitness improved after finishing the program. If a pilot study is successful, the research can move forward with a larger sample, a more diverse sample, or comparing different versions of the program.

To learn more, check out these Research In Focus summaries of early-stage research from the NIDILRR community:

You can also search for feasibility, case, and pilot studies in our REHABDATA Database of disability and rehabilitation research literature. Here’s a recent search (2017 to present) to get you started.

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