The Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH) and Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS) have been invaluable to my PhD experience providing training in research approaches, methods, different ways of thinking about the world and technical training with courses on how to edit and write. I signed up for as many courses as I could fit in, as accessing any of these courses outside academia is difficult, costly, or nonexistent.
Last summer, I took another fantastic opportunity offered by SGSSS, a three-month internship scheme. There were so many reasons why I wanted to undertake an internship. One was to work as a social researcher for the Scottish Government. I’ve worked in consultancy, academia and the third sector and, contributed to policy and delivery at a local authority and regional level. However, the national policy cycle and how research and evaluation fit into this cycle has been something I haven’t yet experienced.
Having a research break and undertaking a placement is a wonderful opportunity for realising how much the PhD has developed you as a researcher. I was placed with the Justice Analytical Services. One of my first tasks was undertaking a context and research brief about military veterans and the criminal justice system. I have no knowledge or experience of either topic, yet I found the task surprisingly manageable. In hindsight, it’s clear that the last two years of grappling and synthesising large diverse topics would improve my knowledge acquisition, critical thinking, and synthesising skills. Not to mention the improvement in my ability to communicate complex ideas to people with no background in the topic due to the opportunities CCSE has provided to present my research. But a PhD is an excellent experience for making you feel like you know less than nothing! A step away from the research bubble gives you a much-needed perspective on your progress.
As anybody who has been in a conversation about evaluation with me has had to hear, I’m rather passionate about participatory, community and peer research! Although I haven’t had the opportunity to undertake this type of research, the PhD has given me the training and resources to develop my knowledge. During my placement, I was delighted to find that this knowledge was of interest to my colleagues and an area of growing focus in the Scottish Government. While developing a presentation for my colleagues, I realised that before the PhD, I would not have known the difference between these research terms. I also would not have been attuned to the importance of power in research relationships or known how tiny my research method toolbox was! Facilitating the discussion around my presentation, I learnt how many of my colleagues were in a similar position to pre-PhD me. Due to the placement, I realise I have been on a process of research enlightenment, and I have spread the knowledge to other researchers!
The placement was a welcome opportunity to stop focusing on how far I’ve got to go and pause for a while. I can enjoy the view, appreciate how much I’ve learnt and how valuable this knowledge is to others. Thank you SGSSS and the Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services, for providing a valuable and enjoyable contribution to my research training and knowledge.