Psychology research isn’t just about dogs drooling when hearing a bell or rebellious student inmates going mad in a university basement. There’s so much more and this is what I am going to focus on in this blog. I want to tell you how I got into Psychology research and what it actually entails.
Before going into the more hardcore stuff, I would like to talk a bit about myself. I am a 20-year-old Romanian studying BSc Psychology at the University of Manchester. During high-school years, my studying profile was on hard sciences (i.e. Computer Science, Maths, Physics, Chemistry), and I only had one year when I was studying Psychology so it wasn’t intense at all. I did further studying alongside what we were taught in class and I took part in a county-level Olympiad where I achieved 4th place. In the last year of high school, I had grown an interest in Neuroscience so I decided to apply for the University of Manchester unique joint-honours programme – BSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology. Eventually, I chose Manchester because it was a red-brick university and the overall living costs were cheaper than London (which, at the time, was my dream city). All summer before coming to university, I read a lot of Psychology-related books and articles (Freud, Jung, Eysenck, some basic research studies, etc.). I came to university, started my course, and after one month I have switched to the BSc Psychology course.
The first semester was hard. I didn’t exactly know what I was supposed to do - how to look up trustworthy sources, how to reference, how to write up an essay, what to study and read. The academic system I had just gotten out of was completely different from the British Higher Education system. Imagine changing the tap water from the goldfish’s bowl to distilled water and me being the goldfish. By working my way through the referencing guides provided by the university, paying attention to the feedback and discussing with my academic advisor about my insecurities, I was able to feel more confident in my studies.
My Journey into Research
At the end of the first year, I applied for a position as a Research Assistant for a study investigating whether religion and implicit attitudes play a part in gay men getting jobs. I had to write a cover letter saying why I was interested in that position and show that I had the skills needed. I had some experience in the HR field from my involvement in societies, so I wrote about that and about my interest in social psychology and recruitment. I also had to tailor my CV for the position by including my research skills developed throughout 1st year’s curriculum and my extracurricular activities.
I was accepted, and over the summer I had to write a literature review analysing previous theories and evaluating research methods. I worked hard on it and gathered 9 pages of work - which has earned me the appreciation of the coordinator. We started the process of testing the participants in the second semester of the second year, as there were some problems with the ethics of the project. As the research assistants, we guided the participants through the research process. Unfortunately, we had to stop when the Coronavirus situation began.
The next research project I was about to undertake, as part of the Short Work Placement Unit, was aimed at investigating the sense of community experienced on the BSc Psychology course. I was supposed to do a literature review, spending some time looking at variables that might influence this effect, and decide accordingly how the project will look like in terms of the research methodology which thrilled me. Unfortunately, this project was put on hold due to lockdown reasons as well. On the bright side, The University of Manchester offers a variety of research programmes and internships which I could undertake in the future, so I am not panicking.
My advice for you would be to always keep an open mind and let yourselves be submersed by whatever you find that interests you. Explore, research, experiment. See what appeals to you the most and pursue it passionately. Be conscientious with your work, and always keep an open mind.
For more information, please visit these websites:
- This website is great for all things Psychology - https://www.simplypsychology.org/
- Learn more about Psychology at Manchester - https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/psychology/
- Learn more about research in the Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology - https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/en/facultiesandschools/division-of-neuroscience--experimental-psychology(56df8793-4074-4d32-b197-a40989cfefc7).html
- Learn more about research in the Division of Psychology & Mental Health - https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/en/facultiesandschools/division-of-neuroscience--experimental-psychology(56df8793-4074-4d32-b197-a40989cfefc7).html