Designing Psychosocial Intervention Pilot Studies: A Tutorial for Palliative Care Investigators.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

This is a tutorial on designing a persuasive pilot study of a psychosocial intervention (e.g., behavioral symptom management) in the palliative care setting. This tutorial is most relevant for early stages of intervention research that aims to progress toward a randomized controlled trial with a high degree of internal validity. Broadly, a pilot study aims to address multiple elements of feasibility and acceptability so that investigators are well positioned for the next study in their program of research. To assist investigators in writing compelling grant applications we designed this tutorial as an annotated checklist of goals that a pilot study within the palliative care domain should seek to accomplish. These goals include the following: 1) begin with the end in mind, 2) use a formal conceptual model, 3) use measures with strong psychometric properties, 4) justify the timing of study sessions and assessments, 5) test recruitment methods, 6) estimate retention, 7) assess interventionist fidelity, 8) assess acceptability of the intervention, 9) assess feasibility, and 10) identify barriers to the next study. We elaborate on these goals by describing an ongoing pilot study testing the feasibility and acceptability of a psychosocial pain management intervention for patients with advanced cancer. Pilot studies are crucial for building a successful program of research, but they are also limited in terms of their sample size and overall objectives. A persuasive pilot study is one that is limited yet useful rather than limited and trivial.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Winger, JG; Kelleher, SA; Fisher, HM; Somers, TJ; Samsa, GP

Published Date

  • June 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 63 / 6

Start / End Page

  • e749 - e755

PubMed ID

  • 35235856

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9133099

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-6513

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2022.02.338


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States