Having reached the end of my 2nd year Social Science (BPS) BSc, it dawned on me that my final year and dissertation were fast approaching, and I felt ill-equipped to deal with it. My plan of action was to gain some ‘real’ research experience. I recalled reading an email about the CUROP placement scheme, decided to apply and I was fortunate to be offered a place at DECIPHer. I was both nervous and excited at the prospect, at my age (44) it can be a challenge to fit in as an undergraduate.
What can I say? I started my placement alongside three other students. Each of us were given a warm welcome and made to feel part of the team from day one. It is a completely inclusive working environment; a first experience for me, and has enabled me to gain invaluable experience. I have been given the opportunity to work with many inspirational people who have allowed me to become involved in a number of their projects. During my 8 week placement, I have observed and experienced research in the field with Dr. Jemma Hawkins on the ‘Talking Sense’ project; a motivational interview technique that has been adapted and taught to schools to improve the delivery of PSE lessons. I have assisted Dr. Graham Moore and Dr. Honor Young with inputting, analysing and merging data for the SHRN and SaFE surveys, the former being the largest survey of its kind in the world, and I have also been involved in summarising academic papers to give feedback to schools.
On reflection, the experience of working with both quantitative and qualitative methods has put me in good stead for my dissertation. It has allowed me to understand the wealth of data that can be produced from a small number of sources, allowing me to become more realistic about my dissertation and what can be achieved. I have learned numerous new skills, become more adept at old ones and gained valuable insight and understanding into the role of research. I will be starting my final year with a new level of confidence and focus about my own research as to what can and cannot be achieved. SPSS is no longer a frightening concept and I cannot wait to start applying my new knowledge and experiences to my own studies. I would like to thank everyone at DECIPHer for their time and patience and for kindly sharing their wealth of expertise, you are a terrific team of people, the cakes are just a bonus!