Danielle Couturiaux, a second-year Politics and Sociology student, completed a summer CUROP placement at DECIPHer.
At the start of this year it dawned on me that my third-year SOCSI dissertation was fast approaching and that I needed to develop first-hand experience in collecting primary data. A summer CUROP placement at DECIPHer was the perfect opportunity for this. In June I joined the Wellbeing In Secondary Education (WISE) project, a three-year cluster randomised controlled trial of an intervention aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of teachers, in addition to the mental health and wellbeing of students.
Even though at the start these school visits terrified me, participating in fieldwork was without a doubt the aspect I most enjoyed about my placement
Prior to WISE, I had already completed a one-year research placement within the civil service in Wales, but had only experienced analysing secondary data. On my very first day on the WISE project, working alongside Dr Rhiannon Evans, Dr Jill Grey and Amy Edwards, I was able to visit one of the schools participating in WISE to carry out fieldwork and collect data. Even though at the start these school visits terrified me, participating in fieldwork was without a doubt the aspect I most enjoyed about my placement. The team were extremely supportive. Before I started working in DECIPHer I tended to avoid doing presentations and speaking in front of large groups of people as this made me really nervous. Although on the first few school visits my hands shook a bit, the more times I did it the easier it got, to the point where now I look forward to every fieldwork opportunity.
It is difficult to condense into words how much I have learned and how invaluable my placement at DECIPHer has been
On the last four weeks of my placement, after having finished all the data collection, I led the data entry process of all the teacher and student questionnaires. Data had to be manually entered onto an online database using software called REDCap. The volume of data that had to be entered was so large that temporary staff were hired in order to complete the task, which meant allocating a certain number of questionnaires for each person to enter as well as tracking our progress to ensure our deadlines were met. Having never done this before, I did not realise how time consuming data entry can be and how much focus and attention to detail it requires, aspects I will surely consider when carrying out research for my dissertation.
It is difficult to condense into words how much I have learned and how invaluable my placement at DECIPHer has been. It has not only aided and expanded on the research skills I developed at university, but also given me the confidence to be able to use them in the future. I would highly recommend to anyone looking to gain practical research experience to apply for a CUROP summer placement with DECIPHer. I am more certain now than ever that I want to pursue a career in social research which is why I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to keep working on the WISE project as a Specialist Research Administrator.