Timeline of Survey Pilot

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In order to conduct a successful survey pilot, the impact evaluation team (or research team) must draft a detailed timeline for a survey pilot. The timeline should allow enough time for discussions and revisions about aspects like instrument design, translation, and protocols. Piloting should ideally start 4-6 months before survey launch since this allows the research team to use the feedback from each stage of a survey pilot to improve the survey content and survey protocols.

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  • Complete the survey pilot early in order to obtain IRB approval for the final survey in time.
  • Conduct the pre-pilot before translating the questionnaire to the local language(s). Making major changes after translation is costly and often leads to version control problems.
  • Complete all stages of the pilot before moving on to enumerator training.
  • Do not confuse the pilot with field testing (practice interviews) which is conducted at the end of enumerator training.


The timeline is an important part of the process of structuring a survey pilot. All members of the research team must agree on the time allocated to each step. The actual duration of the pilot will depend on factors like number of changes made, location of the study area, and availability of equipment for field teams. Based on best practices, the following are the steps involved in conducting a survey pilot (from start to finish), and the recommended time for each step.

Task Estimated Time
Pre-pilot 1-2 weeks
Questionnaire design 4 weeks
Content-focused pilot 2-3 weeks
Review sessions 1-2 weeks
Questionnaire translation 2-3 weeks
IRB approval Depends on the complexity of the survey. Applying for approvals, programming, and the data-focused pilot - should all happen at the same time.
Questionnaire programming 4-6 weeks
Data-focused pilot 2-3 weeks
Enumerator training 2 weeks

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