Research Assistant (now graduated) Experience blogs

Thank you to our 2018 Research Assistant graduates! See their blog posts below.

Alice Hitchcock (left) and Natasha Phillips (right)

In July 2018, two of our research assistants within the Social Development Lab graduated: Alice Hitchcock and Natasha Phillips.

Both have been written a brief blog about their activities and experiences working within our group. We thank them for the work they contributed to (including projects with Rachel Nesbit, Beatrice Hayes, and Dawn Watling) and wish them all the best for the future!


Alice Hitchcock’s Blog post

I started as a research assistant for the Social Development Lab working with Rachel Nesbit on her project looking into emotion recognition in adolescents with anxiety. In this role, I worked on many tasks such as recruiting and testing participants, also tidying and preparing data for analysis. I was so pleased when I got this role, as I really wanted to gain experience conducting research as this is something I want to continue into a career after university. During this project I also learnt how to conduct eye tracking experiment and analyse the data, which was something I was extremely interested in and very useful for my final year project, which used mobile eye tracking equipment.

Through this role I met other members of the Social Development lab; Dr Dawn Watling and Beatrice Hayes. They were beginning more work on their independent evaluation of Eikon’s  Smart  Moves  materials. I was fortunate enough to help continue their data collection, which went towards a Placement unit for my Passport Award at our university. This project involved travelling around to different schools and collecting questionnaire data from students. By the end of the placement I was confidently explaining the participant’s rights, aims of the study and other instructions to a classrooms of students independently.

Working on both these projects has been very beneficial for me, as they have given me vast amount of research experience in two very different projects with diverse methodology. It also allowed me to complete two placement units during my degree, that will hopefully aid future applications to jobs. I am grateful to Rachel, Dawn and Beatrice for allowing me to learn from them, answer my questions and help me develop as a researcher. I feel my confidence has grown and what I have learnt will stay with me as I continue on the path of becoming a researcher.

Natasha Phillips’ Blog post

I applied to become a research assistant for the Social Development Lab as I have a particular interest in developmental psychology and wanted to gain some relevant experience in this area. My involvement began at the end of my second year when I was tasked with transcribing a number of interviews with teachers about materials used in the FAGUS programme for children with special educational needs. This provided insight into qualitative research which I hadn’t had practical experience with previously during my degree course, demonstrating qualitative techniques in practice which was really useful. It also quickly became apparent that transcription can be a lengthy process!

The majority of my volunteering work involved assisting Dawn and Beatrice in their research in local schools. This typically entailed liaising with teachers to ensure the classes were ready, loading questionnaire materials onto computers and laptops, ensuring all children were satisfied with the instructions, and answering any queries about the survey questions. Although the testing procedure was relatively straightforward, we still ran into a number of challenges that I learned to manage (including when staff were not expecting me, how to deal with children to ensure that they did not discuss answers with one another, or what to do when the unexpected happened (internet failure).  With each session I encountered something new, every school and every class was different. I quickly discovered the reality of conducting research in a dynamic school environment. Importantly, some of the children were genuinely excited to be taking part in a university research project which was particularly gratifying.

Overall, these school visits were a great opportunity both in terms of experiencing the practicalities of conducting research and working with children (a little more challenging than an undergraduate sample!). It has helped to develop my confidence in working with young people as well as my communication skills, which was crucial for managing a classroom of children. I hope to work with children and young people more in the future, and this experience has definitely encouraged me to do so even more.

I am very grateful to Dawn and Beatrice for giving me the opportunity to assist with their research – I’ve really enjoyed working with the team and feel that it has helped me develop practical skills in addition to those gained during my degree. Good luck to next year’s RA’s!