The nuts and bolts of research

Ella Rhodes reports from the British Psychological Society's Research Day.

At the third annual Psychology Research Day students and early career psychologists were given workshops and talks on publishing, qualitative and quantitative research, and how best to take advantage of libraries and their many resources. Held at Senate House, part of the University of London, the popular event is organised by the British Psychological Society and Senate House Library.

Don’t choose to use qualitative methods in your research unless your question demands them, said Dr Simon Goodman (Coventry University), described as a ‘leading superstar’ of qualitative research. Qualitative methods are hugely diverse, are not easy or fluffy and they’re certainly not quick. But studies that move away from standardised Likert scales and other such measures do allow researchers to discover the subtleties and nuance of human experience. Goodman pointed to some sterling, and impactful, examples of this type of research, including Professor Elizabeth Stokoe’s conversation analysis of hostage situations – revealing what communication strategies are most effective in fraught circumstances.

Editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, Dr Christian Jarrett, tried to persuade the audience that blogging about research is a great way to build up a profile as an academic. If blogging isn’t for you, Jarrett said Twitter is another way to get research into the wider world, and importantly, both methods can be used to correct any misrepresentation of research in the wider media.

Reader in Psychology Dr Gillian Shorter (Ulster University) hoped to persuade the audience that stats aren’t the enemy; they’re not only loveable, but vital in the midst of psychology’s replication crisis. In our ‘post-truth’ world there are multiple examples of dodgy statistics being used for political means… it is vital we have robust stats, Shorter said. She asked the audience to consider using pre-registration of their studies, and push back against journals which do not publish null results – vital in building a true representation of the evidence base. ‘This is an exciting time for psychologists. If you use statistics, qualitative methods or mixed methods, you have extraordinarily useful tools to drive psychology forward, to challenge what we know... Use your power wisely.’

Publisher with Wiley, Rebecca Harkin, outlined some simple ways for researchers to ensure their work has impact. Ensure any article has a clear, useful message, using subheadings to help build a narrative and write for the intended audience in a clear style. In our modern age it is also useful to consider how search engines will find a particular paper. Harkin suggested using keywords in titles, abstracts, and throughout the text. She suggested that authors should ensure there are links on social media and academic websites which link back to an article once it’s published.

Representatives from Senate House Library, the British Library, and M25 Consortium of academic libraries – Mura Ghosh, Paul Allchin and Thomas Baldwin – pointed out the vast resources available to researchers, and invited the audience to be curious and ask questions of their extremely knowledgeable librarians. After a panel Q&A session delegates could learn more at workshops, including advice on developing research questions, designing qualitative and quantitative work, and keeping up-to-date with research. 

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