New Student Team members Elizabeth James (Teesside University) and Chloe Casey (Bournemouth University) talk about their first month as part of SMaRteN, and the training days they attended to prepare for work on research projects on Big Data and Key Questions.
I am an incoming member of the SMaRteN Student Research Team 2019/20, and last month we met formally for the first time at King’s College London for our two-day induction. We had a packed agenda on the first day, starting with (re)introductions from the inaugural conference in December, where some of us got to meet each other for the first time. The focus of the day was the Big Data project, which is something I am really excited by since we will be trying to unpick some of the complexity of student mental health to understand more how various risk factors might interact with each other. We had some informative sessions from outside speakers: from Jenny Smith of Student Minds on student mental health policy including the recently launched University Mental Health Charter, and from RADAR-CNS, a collaborative research project using remote technology to further understand major depressive disorder. We thought about the possible applications to researching student mental health, and even squeezed in some time for a focus group on the student perspective on measuring mental health. All we have to do now is to go back to our universities and run our own!
After a full day of training and getting to know each other better, the Student Research Team were excited to get stuck into Day 2. For most of the day we focused on Smarten’s research project: Key Questions. Smarten’s goal is for students to be truly represented in shaping future research in student mental health. So, as well as involving us Student Research Team members in every project they are also keen to hear from students: What research questions do you think need answering?
Hundreds of students from around the UK have already taken part in this survey by providing some demographic information and the 3 questions they think student mental health researchers should be focusing on. As a student mental health researcher, I was thoroughly enjoying sifting through the thousands of questions! I was especially pleased to see so many questions addressing the experiences of PhD and postgraduate researchers, something that is seldom the focus of research.
Our job for the day was to take the many questions, identify duplicates and begin to create themes and sub-themes. We did this by visually displaying the questions on boards and working together to define the categories. This included hours of discussions, debates, tea and biscuits. But finally, we clarified the themes then chose the ones we would most enjoy working on.
After receiving some training on formulating research questions and literature searching our 2-day induction came to a close. We left with heads full of ideas and envelopes full of your key questions.
Our aim before our next catch-up is to search existing UK student mental health literature to see which of your questions have already been answered and which require further exploration. Smarten’s dissemination plan for this project is to provide students with a resource or reading list for the questions that researchers have already covered and to use your unanswered questions to inform future research questions.
This is just another example of how Smarten co-produce all of their projects with students and engage them at every stage of their research cycle. I am really looking forward to working on the Key Questions as it is a valuable project with a very useful, practical output. We look forward to sharing the results with you!
Doctoral student of Counselling Psychology at Teesside University.
PhD student from Bournemouth University researching the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers.
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