Applied clinical research is a key part of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Course. The ethos underpinning research is that Clinical Psychology is grounded in the application of psychological theory and research to a range of Health and Social Care settings. Research, quality improvement, and evaluation are emphasised as integral parts of clinical practice and of treatment and service development.
Research training at the Institute provides trainees with a rich learning experience to develop their research skills and to increase their confidence in conducting high quality research in clinical settings. Trainees will conduct advanced applied research projects designed to ensure that they make an original and significant contribution to knowledge whilst also demonstrating the ability to exercise well-balanced critical judgement of their own work and that of others. The research outputs will be presented as a research dissertation containing a number of components, with the papers worthy of peer-reviewed publication. Many innovative and influential projects have been conducted at the Institute, and some trainees have chosen to pursue clinical research careers on graduation.
A programme of clinical research teaching and workshop sessions will be delivered across the three years of training that aims to consolidate and develop trainees’ clinical research skills and support them in completing the assessment and projects that comprise the research component of the Course.
Quantitative and qualitative designs and methods are taught, together with statistical analyses and computing skills. Sessions are also provided on literature reviews, research ethics and governance, and co-production. Teaching also helps trainees to plan and organise their research work, and familiarises them with the University regulations on the assessed research work.
The research outputs are three publishable papers, each aimed at a specified peer-reviewed academic journal and written in the style of the nominated journal. These papers are assessed by viva voce with an internal and external assessor.
1. Systematic Review of Literature paper
2. Main Research Project paper
3. Service Improvement Project paper
Connecting reflective narrative referring to the three papers.
Together these research outputs make up the ‘portfolio’ also referred to as the dissertation.
Systematic Review of Literature
This paper can take the form of a systematic review (with or without a meta-analysis) of empirical research papers on a specific topic, a meta-synthesis, or an evaluative review of research where there is relatively little current research, with the review being used to generate as a clear conclusion an original contribution to theory development, either as a new proposal or a synthesis of existing theoretical positions. It should be a review of the literature pertinent to clinical practice. The recommended length of the paper is 5000-7000 words.
Main Research Project (MRP)
The aim of the MRP is for the trainee to carry out an empirical study on a clinically relevant topic that is feasible in the time available. The research project is intended to provide trainees with experience of carrying out clinically relevant research of a type that is feasible for clinicians working as scientist-practitioners or applied clinical scientists. Therefore, the range of acceptable topics and designs is broad, and projects can include treatment outcome studies and tests of psychological theories and models. These projects use quantitative or mixed methods methodology, and involve a clinical population. They will demonstrate a clear understanding by trainees of appropriate research methodology and contain an acceptable amount of original work. The length of the MRP is 3000–5000 words.
Service Improvement Project (SIP)
The aim of the SIP is to ensure that all trainees are introduced to the process of conducting relevant health service related research and audit with a quality improvement element in a particular service or group of services. The essential features of the projects are that they arise from actual clinical or service issues, that they are driven by a clear research or evaluation question, and that they are relevant to clinical and health services. Therefore, SIPs must involve a piece of work that has been commissioned by or agreed with an NHS or social care organisation. The projects should also be framed within psychological theory, which will inform the way the research is interpreted. The SIP reports are between 3000–5000 words.
The process of starting to think about project ideas for the three research papers begins in earnest with the Research Fair, which is held in the first term of Year 1. At the Fair, programme and regional/field supervisors provide information on and are available to discuss any research areas for which they are willing to offer supervision. Information about the topics featured at the Research Fair is also available on the Virtual Learning Environment Canvas. Following the fair, trainees should contact programme supervisors in the first instance to discuss projects and research plans, and then approach potential field supervisors. Trainees are encouraged to develop their proposals actively through discussions with their supervisors.
Research Project Approval Processes
Research proposals are approved on the basis of the trainee and supervisor/s meeting a Panel of two research team members and a service user/carer who has reviewed a previously submitted written proposal. These are referred to as Project Approval Sessions (PAS). The PASs provide an opportunity to trainees to present their plans for the research projects they intend to conduct. The PASs provide feedback regarding scientific quality and feedback to assist in the development of the
project so it is on track to meet the requirements of the Course. Five PASs are scheduled from February to September in the first year of training, and trainees should aim to have all of their research proposals submitted for approval by PAS 3.
The PAS is 30 minutes in duration, 5 minutes of which is allocated to the trainee presenting their proposal. The PAS will then typically cover key areas that have been highlighted in the Panel’s pre-discussion of the proposal. At the end of the PAS, the Panel briefly confer before awarding a grade (Pass; Pass conditional on more major modifications/corrections; Fail). The grade and next steps are then discussed with the trainee and supervisor/s.
Examples of Dissertation Topics:
- Maladaptive sleep-related beliefs and attitudes in comorbid depression and sleep disturbance in older adults
- The role of hypermentalising on social exclusion in adolescents with borderline pathology
- Building self-compassion to tackle fears about other people: A feasibility study of a compassionate imagery intervention
- Metacognitive factors in spinal cord injury rehabilitation
- Focus of attention as a maintenance factor for social anxiety in children
Institute Research Team
All members of the Clinical Psychology Doctorate course team provide research supervision. Within the course team, the research tutors coordinate the research teaching and project approval process. Professor Paul Salkovskis, Research Director
Dr Myra Cooper, Senior Research Tutor
Dr Louise Johns, Senior Research Tutor
Dr Rebecca Knowles Bevis, Research Tutor
Dr Matthew Hotton, Research Tutor
Dr Nicola Lane, Research Tutors
Dr Sasha Walters, Research Tutors