My Research Assistant Experiences: Opportunities for Personal Development and Skills Improvement – Blog post 2, by Rebecca Hinch

My Research Assistant Experiences: Opportunities for Personal Development and Skills Improvement – Blog post 2, by Rebecca Hinch

Last term we invited all Y3 Psychology students to write a blog post about their psychology-related work experiences and recently we published the winning blog. Four other Y3 students came as runners-up in this competition and here you can read a blog written by one of them, Rebecca Hinch. Congratulations Rebecca!

Rebecca Hinch

My Research Assistant Experiences: Opportunities for Personal Development and Skills Improvement

During my time at Royal Holloway I have had the opportunity to take part in two research assistant roles. My first role began in January 2017, assisting Dr Michael Evangeli and Camilla Batchelor – a trainee clinical psychologist – on their HIV-related research projects. My knowledge of HIV and the psychological impacts the diagnosis can have was very limited when I first began, however through working with Dr Evangeli and Camilla my awareness and interest in this area greatly increased.

This role further developed my research and analytical skills from the basis provided by my psychology degree. For example, as part of the experience I have conducted analyses that I had never had the opportunity to undertake previously such as: a thematic analysis of interviews regarding the evaluation of a residential intervention for HIV positive adolescents; the development of a coding scheme for free response text regarding HIV disclosure; and a systematic review of the literature surrounding the psychological outcomes following an HIV diagnosis. Having the opportunity to contribute to these projects and knowing that, following publication, the results of these projects can have real implications for future HIV research is incredibly rewarding.

In June 2017 I began my second research assistant role working with Dr Eilidh Cage and Lily Cresswell – another trainee clinical psychologist – on their research exploring identity and mental health in autistic adolescents. In the research we conducted a systematic review of the qualitative evidence of the experiences autistic adolescents have of peer relationships. This process involved reviewing the literature to ensure it met our eligibility criteria, then assuring the quality of the methodology of the research, and finally extracting and synthesising the data from this final research pool. I found quality assurance to be a particularly enlightening procedure: it showed me the importance of critically analysing the methodology of published research and what this means for the interpretation of the authors’ conclusions. Learning and practicing critique research in this way has been of great benefit to me when conducting my own research as part of the Psychology degree, and has really developed my evaluative skills.

Before these experiences, I had hoped to pursue a career in clinical psychology. Applying for and experiencing these opportunities really confirmed my thoughts around this career decision; in particular, both experiences have made me consider specialising in the mental health of children and adolescents in the future. Having the opportunities to be a part of these teams and contribute to research that will be published has been incredibly rewarding. They have developed my confidence in my analytical, statistical and communication skills far more than I could have ever imagined before taking part in them. I have no doubt that the skills these experiences have helped me develop will be exceptionally beneficial for my future post-graduation. I am extremely grateful to Dr Evangeli, Dr Cage, Camilla and Lily for these opportunities and for creating an environment in which I was constantly encouraged and supported and I would recommend such experiences to anyone.