So now my future job plans are looking towards a career working as a researcher. Now this is pretty ideal, as the course here at Cardiff is very much centered around research. So what can I say the course has given me when I am looking at my career options, and what learnings can I talk about when I step into the interview room?
1. Research is pretty much central to our accelerated (or even just continued) progression as a society. Through campaigns such as Cancer Research, it is apparent that research is the key to solving and curing many medical related issues. But actually, it’s also important in many other areas, for example: developing new methods to help improve the lives of those living with mental health difficulties, or improving teaching methods so education institutions can be more efficient, or solving the environmental crisis. Thinking about it now, it seems obvious. However since coming to Cardiff I have realised that without learning new information, it would be nigh on impossible to improve!
2. There are always more unanswered questions than you think. In fact, everytime a question is answered, it tends to throw up more questions. When I was in my first year imagining what my final year project might be on, I would wonder whether there was anything left to test as so much research had preceeded me. How on earth was I going to find out something noone has found out before, when so many questions had already been answered? Now I realise that the reality is very different, and that actually the more we develop, the more there is to learn.
3. Putting together a study requires far more organisational skills than I realised – a lot of it is about logistics. There are the basic things such as room booking, material preparation, and participant recruitment. However you learn that there are more complicated considerations that need to be taken into account. These include being granted ethical approval or managing to secure enough funding. Both of which require you to be 100% on top of everything, and confident about why you are doing the research.
4. Research is a heavily creative process. This is one that often surprises people, but I feel it is an incredibly important point! There is a common misconception that science is not a creative discipline and that creativity is reserved for the arts, however this could not be further from the truth. In the research process you are drawing on your creativity skills literally from the word go. Firstly, you need to identify the important question that no-one has asked yet. Secondly, you need to be able to design a study, that may not necessarily be as straightforward as asking people a question. Sometimes researchers need to be clever in how they design the method, so participants don’t guess what the researcher is trying to find out. After the data is gathered, you need to be able to identify how this research will be beneficial to scoiety’s development, which involves thinking beyond the immediate research area, even beyond the discipline at times. Finally (but by no means exhaustively), you need to communicate your findings effectively, which means being able to write in a way that’s engaging. In conclusion: develop your creativity skills! The arts do really go hand in hand with science.
5. My final, and probably the most personally beneficial, discovery I’ve found in relation to research is that it can be applied outside of an academic setting. If you want to be a researcher in psychology, your career options are not restricted to working in a lab. Every single company is dealing with people in some shape or form. Therefore there will always be a place for a psychologist to help companies either create better products for those who use them (e.g. ergonomics), help increase sales/or contributions if that company is a charity (e.g. marketing) or help improve the well-being of those working within that company (e.g. Human Relations). Frequently new information is being published identifying the best way to tackle problems such as those just mentioned. It is the job of the researcher to identify what information will be beneficial to the company (or those working within the company), and this is done via internal research. The researcher will then make recommendations to implement their findings, hopefully improving their company’s functioning.
From this I hope that I have conveyed how important I believe research to be. I personally feel that the psychology course here at Cardiff gives students the knowledge to understand and use that research to its full potential.
I realise this blog is starting to get quite lengthly! So that’s all for now. Any questions feel free to post in the comments section below.
For now though, speak soon. Han