The research design of a study involves continual refinement through experiential processes. This case study demonstrates the importance to novice researchers of conducting a pilot study to test the feasibility of the study’s research design and practice data collection (in this instance, interviewing skills). The case study is based on an investigation of the international transition experiences of doctoral students of Chinese heritage studying in Australia. As a fellow doctoral researcher, I had assumed an insider position when interacting with my participants. The study did not proceed as anticipated and problems with trustworthiness emerged that could have eventually led to failing the doctoral degree. Resulting from the pilot study, I re-evaluated my researcher stance and in particular, my underlying epistemological positions. Through four reflections, the common issues experienced by novice interviewers are presented and advice is suggested to improve interviewing skills. The lessons learnt from the pilot study and remedial actions taken that saved the study are also described. In sum, the assertion made in the case study is that while conducting a pilot study may seem time-consuming, it is a vital opportunity for experiential learning that can save novice researchers from encountering future misadventures. Thus, conducting a pilot study is an integral part of shaping research design and represents a hallmark of good methodological practice.