Moving on to new pastures.


If you follow this blog on a regular basis I just wanted to let you know that new posts will now be appearing at on my website at

All of the content from this blog has been transferred over and the site has some new features which will hopefully be of interest to health researchers.

Looking forward to seeing you over there and thank you to taking the time to read my posts





Wed. explore. National Centre for Research Methods

This weeks journey is a dive into the resources section of the National Centre for Research Methods. (NCRM) website. Established by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the NCRM is a partnership between the Universities of Southampton,  Manchester and Edinburgh. If you visit the website you will see the range of work it undertakes but the section I want to focus on specifically is the resource section.

Resources section

You can explore the full scope of the section yourself but there are 2 reasons I am flagging it up now. Firstly because some people are in the process of developing their applications for the NIHR CAT fellowships and will be writing and costing the training element of their applications and secondly because the range of resources available here are relevant to all health researchers development.


Training database


The training database provides one of the most comprehensive repositories for research training. Whilst the focus is on social science research many of the workshops are relevant to all researchers. The training is provided mainly through NRCM or via ESRC doctoral training centres and comprises one and two day workshops, webinars, a summer school and the annual ESRC Research Methods Festival.

Examples of workshops include introductory workshops on topics such as: Participative action research methods; data visualisation and infographics; qualitative interviewing; focus groups; STATA; research project management; design, execution and analysis of longitudinal studies. Other topics include Nvivo for Windows and Writing Effective Research Reports. There are currently 12 pages of training opportunities to explore listed in an easily searchable format.



The podcast section contains a wide range of podcasts around 10 -20 minutes in length. Many are drawn from ESRC and NCRM events and projects. Examples which may be in interest include:

Publications NCRM EPrints

unspecified-13 NCRM EPrints is a single access point to all NCRM outputs: books, articles, working papers, reviews, reports, presentations etc. NCRM EPrints archive contains either the output itself, a link to it or in some cases just the bibliographic information. 

The database is searchable under the headings of: frameworks for research and research design; data collection; data quality and management; qualitative data handling and data analysis; quantitative data handling and data analysis; mixed methods data handling and data analysis; ICT and software; research management and impact; research skills, communication and dissemination.

As suggested above in many instances the information is downloadable in full text from the site. I would encourage you to have a look.


unspecified-12The final section to highlight is the NCRM YouTube. This section is smaller in terms of content but still worth exploring.  For example Helen Kara’s video on creative research methods.

Helen is author of Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences that was published last year and is one of the first to explore arts-based research, research using technology, mixed-method research and transformative research frameworks.

So there we are – another Wednesday explore. I know I have said this before but I would really love to hear about any resources you access which you think may be of interest to other healthcare researchers. It’s fun to share and what being part of the research community is all about.




Advancing skills & expertise: opportunities within your organisation.

JamesOver the coming months a series of guest posts will appear written by healthcare professionals describing their engagement with research. The first is from James Faraday a Speech & Language Therapist from Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is a great illustration of opportunities which may be available to you within your organisation.

Applying for research capability funding

It was June 2015, and I was ready to take my next tentative steps towards a clinical research career. I’m a Speech and Language Therapist, and I had just finished an NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic internship at Newcastle University. This provided an introduction to the world of research; a great experience which made me feel really positive about doing more of this kind of work. By the end, I had identified what I wanted to do next – a Masters in Clinical Research at Newcastle. I was all ready to apply.

Then – disaster struck! Newcastle unexpectedly lost its NIHR funding for the Masters. This meant the nearest funded course would now be Leeds, 80 miles away. My family, my home, my job were here in Newcastle – moving away was not on the agenda. What to do now?

I then saw an advert for Research Capability Funding (RCF) on our Trust website. At first I dismissed this as “not for me”. I assumed it was intended for senior, established clinical academics – totally out of my league. And the deadline was the next week! But I had a conversation with staff at the Joint Research Office at Newcastle University, who administer the RCF money. They were really helpful, and encouraged me to give it a go. So I did!

First of all though, I needed to chat it through with my manager. I had already broached the idea of doing the Masters, so this new plan was not a big surprise. Thankfully my manager was really positive about it, and happy for me to apply – with the understanding that, if successful, I would be released to do it only if she could find the necessary backfill.

So, after a slightly hectic few days, several re-drafts, and some helpful comments from my internship supervisor, I was ready to submit my application. I was applying for dedicated time (1.5 days per week) out of my day-to-day caseload for 18 months; the RCF money would pay to backfill the time. I planned to use the time to carry on the work I had started during the internship. A couple of weeks later, the funding panel responded asking me to clarify some details about the timeframe. And once I had done that, they awarded me the money!

It’s now 6 months later, and I’m well under way. I’m carrying out a systematic review on the topic of dysphagia training in dementia care, and developing a PhD proposal which I’ll submit via the NIHR CDR-F scheme. The topic of dysphagia training in dementia care is something that has emerged from my clinical practice. Dysphagia means problems with eating and drinking – this is common in people with dementia, and often distressing for carers, relatives, and obviously the person themselves. My instinct is that more frequent, structured training is needed for nurses and care staff – and so I want to examine the evidence base for this, in order to then develop an intervention.

So far it’s been a fantastic experience, but quite different to the internship. I have to manage myself far more; there is less structure and support. I am very fortunate because my internship supervisor has been kind enough to continue in this role. And I have maintained some of the other support networks which evolved during the internship. But I am much more my own boss, having to initiate things, and trying to make good use of my time – which can be very challenging!

I’ve also learned to be flexible, and not too closely tied to one particular plan – I realise now that plans might not necessarily work out! I’ve learned to persevere in the face of set-backs, there are bound to be some, and possibly many. Above all, I’ve learned not to assume that I’m unsuitable or “not good enough” to apply for something, and instead to give things a go and see what happens!

An earlier post explored the question Do I need a masters or a PhD to engage with research and James’s experience is an example of how, with the right support, it is possible to obtain funding within an organisation to undertake a significant piece of work. As importantly it demonstrates how stepping forward and silencing the inner critic which may be asking, ‘are you good enough’ can pay off. My thanks go to James for writing this post and hopefully inspiring others to check out the options available within their organisation

Wed.explore: a resource to support with undertaking a literature review

unspecified-2This weeks exploration has takes us on a visit to another blog/website which may be of interest if you are in the process of preparing, undertaking or writing a literature review, How to do a literature review.

The site has been developed by Aurelie, an academic librarian working in London, who describes her main role as, teaching graduate and postgraduate students how to use library resources and how to do their literature reviews. She has been developing the website since 2014 and it is a mine of useful information about all aspects of conducting and writing a literature review. It will be of interest at what ever level you are studying at.

The post archive is divided into 8 categories: around academia; general; lit. reviewing; literature searching; managing references; organisation and productivity; reading and note taking; writing.

In most of the sections there are ‘link round-ups’ which curate content from a wide range of resources focused a specific topic. These are helpful in signposting you to other resources which may be of interest. For example there are link round-ups on topics including PhD Advice, which provides links to content organised under the headings starting a PhD, general PhD advice, The PhD Thesis, Finishing the PhD…. or not and Finding the literature and reading it

unspecifiedExamples of posts which may be of interest include Describing your literature review which provides a clear and comprehensive overview of how to structure a literature review describing the things you need to include and suggesting a structure for doing this.


How to choose reference management software which provides a brief overview and the sound advice and rationale of why talking to your librarian (Trust or Academic) will be a wise move as well as providing a link to a comprehensive resource for those wanting to spend time looking at the pros and cons of different software.

I am sure there are other similar resources but the thing I like about this one is the accessible style of writing and practical advice combined with the curation of content from a wide range of resources.

If you read my posts on a regular basis you will know how much I value the role that librarians play in supporting the health research community and it is great to see a librarian sharing their expertise in such a public forum. This site is well worth exploring over a cup of tea/coffee.

As with previous Wednesday explorations I would love to hear about any resources you have found useful and would like to share with other health researchers.

In honour of women health researchers.

InternationalWomensDay-portraitToday is International Women’s day which has been celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world since the early 1900s.

The focus on this years campaign is Pledge for Parity which has been chosen because, The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the  gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133Shocking isn’t it?

It is important to me to mark this day and, oh the joys of blogging, I can do it here! However I have been wondering how to and mulling over the names of women who have done great things in the fields of health and health research, so many to choose from but which to single out ?

But then my thoughts turned much closer to home, to all of the women who are currently working as healthcare professionals alongside undertaking doctoral studies and those who have trodden this path before them. If you are one of them this post is dedicated to you.

I have had the privilege over many years to meet, work with, supervise and examine some of them and what amazing women they are. Working full time clinically, usually in the NHS, and undertaking a PhD on a part-time basis. The odds are pretty stacked up as they try to juggle their clinical work, academic study and family life. Navigating the competing demands of young children or teenagers whilst also, in some instances, caring for ageing parents as well.

Driven often by a niggling question that has arisen from their clinical work and a strong desire to, in their own way, make a difference to the lives of the patients they work with.  Dealing with the highs and lows of five years of being stretched in every way possible.

Amazing women and excellent role models for their daughters and the young women with whom they come into contact.

Today is your day to stand proud and celebrate the amazing person that you are

Here’s to strong women

May we know them

May we raise them

May we be them

EPIC model: communicate your interest in research

unspecified-2Communicate marks a point of transition in the EPIC model for engagement with research where the focus shifts from aspects of research engagement relevant to all healthcare professionals to a focus on those wishing to increase their engagement with research as part of their career development.

In effect it marks the point of stepping into the space of saying, ‘I’d like to get more involved in research’ and moves into the realms of a personal exploration of what ‘I’d like to get more involved in research‘ actually means and then communicating this to others.

If you are interested in increasing your engagement with research where and how does this interest show up in your work and personal life currently? Are you ‘lurking’ waiting for the right moment or conversation to take place or are you being proactive and talking to anyone and everyone who may be able to support you in moving forward?

If you are lurking what is holding you back? Is it uncertainty about how to progress or an inner critic posing challenging questions such as, ‘are you really good enough to do this?’ or ‘you will only say something stupid if you arrange to speak with that person.’

One thing is for sure, this is the time to start talking and exploring. Within a clinical context it can be a challenge to identify a mentor who understands the range of opportunities open to you. This is one reason why the first component of the EPIC model was Explore. If you develop an understanding of the research landscape within your organisation, locality or profession you will have an idea of who to seek advice from and may already have made some connections.

Unfamiliarity with the research landscape can lead all too quickly down the familiar route of feeling that you need to enrol for Masters level study, without exploring some of the alternatives. In some instances this will absolutely be the right course but in others it can lead you away from engagement with research if undertaking a Masters is not a route you wish to pursue.

It takes time, and some effort, to unpick what lies behind ‘I’d like to get more involved with research’  as it will mean different things to different people. For example it could mean, I’d like to:

  • commit to a taught module to get a feel for whether or not research is for me
  • explore options for learning outside of academia
  • explore how to get involved in supporting other people’s research
  • undertake academic study focused specifically on research
  • undertake academic study focused on clinical development which has a research component
  • find other people in my clinical setting to explore undertaking a small project together
  • explore options that would enable me to dip my toe in the water of research to see if this is right for me
  • work on an evidence synthesis project of relevance to my clinical practice
  • step out of clinical practice and explore a full time research position

As you can see there are a range of possibilities, and this list is not exhaustive, therefore exploring the options and, as importantly developing a sense of where research sits in your life, will give you an indication of where to locate your time and energy in terms of moving forward.

Tied up in this process are decisions not only about the right course of action in terms of your career development but also, in most instances, decisions about your level of commitment to research, ideas about your career trajectory, the kind of work/life balance you are seeking and potential financial implications. Questions such as:

  • How do I feel about giving up evenings and weekends to study for a period of time alongside my clinical practice?
  • Are there other aspects of my clinical practice I want/need to develop more than research?
  • What impact will my decision have on the other people in my life (partners, children, friends etc)
  • What is really fuelling this interest in research and is it strong enough to sustain me over a 2 or 3 year period of part-time study?
  • If funding isn’t available via my employer do I need to explore other avenues of financial support?

By gaining clarity about what you want to do and the options open to you it then becomes possible to articulate this coherently to your line managers and other key stakeholders. It is unrealistic to think that they will be familiar with all of the different options available outside of formal academic study. The onus is therefore on you to take the initiative.

Gaining clarity will also enable you to think about the timeframes you are working in. For example applications for personal fellowships may only arise on an annual basis, the same for applications for financial support and the commencement of postgraduate programmes. Such deadlines need to be factored into your planning to ensure that you don’t just miss a deadline and have to wait another year to progress.

Developing skills and expertise

In terms of the transferable research skills developed by stepping into this space they are focused predominantly around increasing your personal effectiveness as shown below in Domain B of the Researcher Development Framework.


The emphasis is on taking ownership for clarifying your thinking and commitment, seeking information and then communicating this to others.

The next post in the EPIC series will provide some suggestions to help you with this process of clarification and communication and over the coming weeks there will be a series of posts designed to give you insight into some of the different options mentioned earlier.

Wed. exploration: guide from NIHR for aspiring clinical academics & their managers

unspecified-1The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the research arm of the NHS. It administers, on behalf of Health Education England, the Integrated Clinical Academic Programme for registered healthcare professionals who wish to combine research with clinical practice. The personal awards commence at internships, aimed at people who are pre-Masters qualification, and progress through the clinical academic career pathway to Senior Clinical Lectureships.

A new publication has been made available via the NIHR website this week which is well worth downloading, Building a Research Career, A guide for aspiring clinical academics (excluding doctors and dentists) and their managers.

The publication is focused not only on those interested in embarking upon a clinical academic pathway but also on the managers who will be supporting them within practice in their clinical career development.

The publication covers the following:

  • why is research activity important
  • the clinical academic role
  • so you want to be a clinical academic – what do you need to know
  • so your staff member wants to be a clinical academic – what you as a manager needs to know
  • manager and aspiring clinical academic – what do you need to discuss to make this opportunity work for both of you and the service
  • useful information and resources.

There are insights into the importance of research from patients and healthcare professionals, an explanation of the clinical academic role and vignettes from a range of healthcare professionals at different stages of the clinical academic career development.

unspecified-3Alongside these insights there is extremely helpful practical information on developing networks and skills, the positive contribution that a clinical academic can make to a team, a service and an organisation and how managers and clinicians can work together to support personal development and ensure that the skills and expertise developed are fed back into the service for patient benefit.

For any manager wanting to increase their understanding of what it means to support someone aspiring to become a clinical academic and for any healthcare professional considering this as a career route this document is essential reading.