Hello and WELCOME to PsychAssist. Lately we have received lots of messages on Social Media from Psych Student/Grads asking whether they should be looking to gain to research experience. As always, this gave us the inspiration to write this article. The short answer is, yes! It’s very important to gain research experience early on in your career. However, this doesn’t mean you have to solely be looking for Research Assistant roles. Research experience comes in many forms and within this article; we will break down The Benefits of Research Experience.
Just Graduated? Check out: 6 Jobs for A Psychology Graduate straight out of university?
Thinking of Conducting Research? Check out: The 4 Fundamentals of Research
Need Research Experience to Boost a Low Grade? Check out: So you got a 2:2, Now What?
Missed the Last PsychAssist Article? Check out: So What’s It Like Growing Up With Autism?
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Now, you’re probably thinking the same thing I was when I first heard the word “audit”, however it’s not as bad as what you think! An Audit is basically when you are trying to find something out. This is a very common request that Psych Grads are expected to complete as it utilises the high level of research skills we’ve learnt at undergraduate. I’ll give you an example of the first audit I was asked to complete. Within my service, there was real confusion with a particular pathway and the senior leads needed to find out what was going on. At first I had no idea what I was doing and thought this was some complex task that I clearly wasn’t competent enough to complete. It wasn’t until my supervisor told me that all they wanted to know was how many service users were coming through the pathway.
PsychAssist Tip: Try volunteering your time to conduct audits for services. This doesn’t have to be under the direct supervision of a psychologist but could be for a service lead which would really help them a lot. Also, don’t be like myself and over complicate things; an audit is answering a question that either you/the service have and that’s it. There’s no secret formula or magic way of doing this, just simple Q&A.
A strange and funny thing happens to most post-qualified psychologists after a few years. There sharpness and skills on SPSS seem to slip through their long-term memory and into that rubbish bin in the back of your brain. This is where you come in! I often get questions from my clinical psychologist friends asking how/which statistical analysis would be best for the evaluation of a group they are running (I am by no means an expert in SPSS but am yet to delete the information from my psyche). This is actually very common which makes Psych Grads very useful as there aren’t many health professionals out there that are as skilled at statistical analysis than us.
PsychAssist Tip: I know this may not be what you want to hear but….you need to brush up on your knowledge of SPSS just in case you’re called upon in the future. We recommend seeking out research opportunities within your place of work, just to keep these research skills sharp. This doesn’t have to be within a clinical setting as every company/service would jump at the opportunity for you to collect data and research for them.
“Lower their expectations and then over-deliver”
Linking Research with Practice
This is sadly something that I see very rarely lately. Often, research takes so long to make it to press and then to professionals that it becomes slightly outdated. It’s so important to continually link research with practice as ultimately there is no practice without prior research. I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, I and a Consultant Psychiatrist conducted some research to develop a unique intervention. It was only by looking at existing research along with our own research within our target population that we were able to develop such an effective treatment (we did ended up presenting this at 2 international conferences which was amazing). Long story short, we couldn’t have done this without linking prior research along with our own research and linking that within our practice.
PsychAssist Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask if anyone in your team/service needs help with any research projects. Often, people don’t know what skills another person has until they verbalise this. Also, don’t be afraid that you will be “found out” as an imposter if you don’t do a good job; just be open and honest with them and tell them that you will try your best, that’s all you can do. Lower their expectations and then over-deliver.
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