Experiencing research first hand
Studying Psychology for A-levels was simultaneously both dull and intriguing. I loved the content; learning about how drugs work and their potential pathways in the brain, how children learn and mental health among other things. Additionally, I found myself asking questions about human behaviour that I had never considered before. However, I was not satisfied with the application of psychology at A-levels. I learned so many theories just to “describe and evaluate x study,” and regurgitate authors and dates in exams.
Despite having some issues with A-level Psychology, I decided to study Psychology at University. Two years in, and I do not regret this decision. I love studying psychology! I do not feel like I am being spoon-fed information just to regurgitate it out on an exam script. I am encouraged to consider the implication and value of research in a scientific way. Additionally, theories and content are applied. For instance, starting from the first year, a lot of coursework entails collecting and analysing data.
A great thing about Warwick University is that they offer extra opportunities to research outside of the course. (See below). I decided to apply to be a research assistant for a Ph.D. student. My main motivation at the time was that I wanted something psychology relevant to my CV and the opportunity was available. She was trying to find a specific group – only children families with a teenager between the aged of 11 – 13 years old. I was to use certain that I would be a mediocre research assistant. I was unable to recruit any families. I quickly found that recruitment participants are very difficult. I made contact with potential participants through Facebook. However, after first contacting people, most stopped responding to messages.
However, the Ph.D. student who was supervising me assured me that it was okay. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. She then offered me an opportunity to transcribe a couple of her interviews. I took up the opportunity eagerly – I had failed my first attempt, and I wanted to prove that I was not completely useless. Honestly, transcribing was tedious. However, I learned a lot of valuable skills. I had to manage my time seeing as I had coursework and other commitments. Additionally, I needed to pay a lot of attention to detail to make sure that the transcription was accurate. After completing this task, I felt a lot more confident – I didn’t do well in my first task but it didn’t mean that I was useless. This encouraged me to pursue another research project during the first year of my degree.
During my second year of university, I decided to continue to try to get research experience. My motivation was less for my CV but more out of enjoyment. I wanted to learn about other areas of psychology not covered in content. This time, I helped a Ph.D. student conduct an experiment, based on examining an alternative method to lie detectors. I put in a lot more effort compared to other projects. For instance, I: collected consent from participants; brief and debriefed participants about the study and attached heart rate and skin conductance electrodes to them. I learned many skills from taking part in the project. Additionally, I became more confident with research.
Recently, I have finished my second year and I now recognise how invaluable my researching experience has been. Having the ability to be a research assistant during term time encouraged me to pursue a project with a longer time scale. Currently, I am doing a developmental psychology URSS based on how children use language which is helping me develop and learn new skills. Additionally, I have enjoyed helping out with research so much, that I am considering applying for a research master’s in psychology.
University research opportunities
PRSDS, Psychology department research assistant: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/psych/students/ugradextras/marketplace
URSS, undergraduate research: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/skills/urss/
IATL research fund: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/funding
Lord Rootes Memorial fund: https://warwick.ac.uk/insite/topic/teachinglearning/rootes/