PhD Student Blog: My Journey to studying for a PhD

By Tanya Schrader, PhD Student in Psychology (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

As a first-year undergraduate, one of our assignments was to write a reflective essay with SMART goals. My first thought was “Argh!”. My second thought was “Why, why, why?”. I’m happy to report that it turned out well and I’ve come to appreciate reflection both in my academic and personal life. Reflective practices have not only benefitted my academic work but also reminds me to acknowledge my achievements, big and small, that have aided me in my endeavours. Reflecting on my achievements has proved a valuable method to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the experiences of undertaking a degree.

 

The last time I wrote on this blog was at the end of my BPS Research Assistantship in 2017. I had my final year ahead of me and had made the decision to continue to post-graduate study. I had no idea how I was going to overcome the logistical and financial challenges, but I was determined to find a way (Did I mention that my husband is also doing a degree at Staffs?). I reflected over the many challenges I’d overcome to get into university, and the achievements I’d made up to that point. This gave me the determination I needed to stay positive and focussed.

First and foremost, I knew I needed to put everything I had into my final year. I set out my academic goals (and yes, they were SMART), put my head down and went full steam ahead. It was intense, and I could not have done it without the support of my peers and the best academic staff in the world. My project supervisor, Dr Dan Jolley, showed unwavering faith in my abilities even when I was very much in doubt. My project, which investigated the relationship between rape myth acceptance and feminist conspiracy theories, produced a significant result and I knew that this research needed to be extended. I presented my findings at the Staffordshire University Psychology Student Conference, followed by the British Psychological Society’s Midlands conference. I received valuable feedback on both counts, which informed the direction of my postgraduate study.

I put forward a PhD proposal and it was accepted. Together with my supervisors, Dr Daniel Jolley and Dr Sarah Krähenbühl, I am currently in the early stages of my program of researching the darker outcomes of conspiracy theory beliefs. We are investigating the unjust treatment of people who belong to groups that are perceived to be involved in conspiracies. In particular, if this relates to increased online and offline aggression, the justification of violent acts, and if such group membership affects people’s experiences within the criminal justice system.

Again, I find myself at a point where I need to reflect upon my journey thus far to reassure myself that I have what it takes.

As 2018 gave way to 2019, while I was planning the upcoming year and feeling slightly anxious about the challenges ahead, I received news that I was to be published!  The study that was conducted as part of my BPS Assistantship project, culminated in a paper which I co-authored with Dr Daniel Jolley, Prof Karen Douglas and Dr Ana Leite.  The paper, titled Belief in conspiracy theories and intentions to engage in everyday crime, has just been accepted for publication by the British Journal of Social Psychology. What a splendid way to begin the new year. So now, whenever the inevitable doubts creep in, I have this achievement to remind myself that I have what it takes to be a PhD student.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Is self-management for chronic health conditions overrated? Professor Karen Rodham writes for The Psychologist…

Professor Karen Rodham (Professor of Health Psychology & Director of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) has written a piece published in the British Psychological Society’s The Psychologist magazine about the use of ‘self-management’ as an intervention for people living with complex and chronic health conditions.

Professor Rodham discusses some of the issues associated with the focus on promoting patients to ‘self-manage’ chronic health conditions in light of some of the current challenges facing health services in the UK. Prof Rodham also critiques the appropriateness of enforcing ‘self-management’ on individuals who may need structured support from healthcare practitioners to manage aspects of their ongoing health conditions.

Professor Rodham’s article can now be freely read online via The Psychologist’s website:

Karen Rodham – Overrated: Self-management (The Psychologist)


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Have you used a sunbed in the past year? New online study seeking volunteers!

Researchers Dr. Alison Owen and Dr. Jennifer Taylor from the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research (Staffordshire University) are working in collaboration with Dr. Manpal Bhogal at the University of Wolverhampton, looking at some of the factors that might influence a person to use a sunbed.

The inside view of a tanning bed

Five years ago, researchers Dr. Alison Owen, Professor David Clark-Carter and Dr. Emily Buckley at Staffordshire University, with Professor Sarah Grogan of Manchester Metropolitan University, carried out research and found that almost a fifth (18.6%) of women had used a sunbed at least once in the past month, with the majority of participants agreeing that a tan looked good (80%), and that tanned people look healthy (71.4%) (Williams, Grogan, Clark-Carter & Buckley, 2013). The researchers therefore felt that it would be interesting to explore some of the factors behind people choosing to use a sunbed.

Drs Owen, Taylor, and Bhogal, are combining two areas of psychology in their present research: Health Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology, to explore some of the reasons why people may engage in this attractiveness enhancing practice. Their study involves using an online questionnaire that will ask participants about indoor sunbed use and topics such as self-esteem, mate value and sexual competition.

Interested in taking part in this study? If you are over 18 and have used a sunbed in the past year, please click here for further information about the study and/or to take part.

If you have any questions about the research, please contact Dr Alison Owen on alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Body Esteem & Social Media use: StaffsPsych Graduate Hollie publishes her undergraduate research!

By Dr. Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

As you’re probably already aware, social media is widely used nowadays. For example, the last recorded statistics of this year showed that Facebook alone had 2.27 billion monthly active users and one billion people were using Instagram in June 2018.

Researchers at the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research decided to look into whether using social media has an impact on a person’s feelings towards their body. Staffordshire University Undergraduate student Hollie Ormsby, along with her supervisors (Dr. Alison Owen and collaborator Dr. Manpal Bhogal from the University of Wolverhampton), surveyed 100 students, with participants completing measures of social media use and body esteem. The body esteem measure looks at how people feel about their body, and includes statements such as ‘I am proud of my body’. Hollie and her supervisors found that social media use and intensity of use (the amount of time people spent on social media) did not predict a person’s body esteem. However, they did find that the women had significantly lower body esteem compared to men. Whilst it might seem disappointing not to replicate previous studies’ findings in relation to body esteem and social media use, this study provides useful evidence indicating that the assumed negative effects of social media use may be more complicated than previously thought, especially in relation to body esteem.

Hollie and her supervisors have recently published their findings in the journal Current Psychology (click here to view the paper) and Hollie is progressing her studies at Staffordshire University on the Department of Psychology’s new MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology course after completing her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree in 2018.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

 

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

PhD Student Sian publishes her first paper in the journal Obesity Reviews!

Sian Calvert

Congratulations to our PhD Student Sian Calvert on publishing the first paper from her PhD research, a systematic review in the leading journal Obesity Reviews! Sian, supervised by Dr Robert Dempsey and Dr Rachel Povey, is one of a number of PhD students based in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research at Staffordshire University.

Sian’s PhD programme, which funded by the University, aims to develop and test the feasibility of conducting a Social Norms Approach intervention with high school students to improve adolescents’ eating behaviours by challenging some of the misperceptions of the acceptability and amount of healthy foodstuffs eaten by their fellow student peers. The Social Norms Approach is a means of promoting healthier behaviours based on informational feedback which challenges common misperceptions (i.e. the over- and under-estimation of peer behaviours) to reduce the perceived social pressure to conform to potentially unhealthy norms. Sian’s primary supervisor, Dr Robert Dempsey, leads a programme of research evaluating the Social Norms Approach at Staffordshire University and has recently published a critical review of the use of the approach as a health behaviour approach (click here to read this review).

Sian’s paper, a systematic review of the use of in-school interventions to promote healthier eating amongst 11-16 year olds, is the first to evaluate the range, format and outcomes of healthy eating interventions delivered in high school settings in the UK and around the world. The start of secondary education (or its equivalent in non-UK countries) marks a time where many students become more independent, have greater control over their dietary behaviours, and is a key period where dietary habits can form which last into adulthood. Also, there are numerous reports of increases in unhealthy eating behaviours (e.g. snacking, meal-skipping) and decreases in more healthy eating behaviours (e.g. fruit and vegetable consumption, drinking regular amounts of water) amongst this age group. The high school environment forms a key target for dietary behaviour interventions given that schools have extensive contact with students, that the school environment is relatively well controlled (meaning that interventions can be appropriately tested and controlled), and behaviours can be monitored. Sian’s review makes several recommendations for future best practice with this group of individuals, including the need for future interventions to consider the influence of peers on dietary behaviours (e.g. by including student peers in intervention campaigns and activities) as well as better evaluating the potential role of personalised, individual, feedback on dietary behaviour choices.

Dr Robert Dempsey, Sian’s supervisor, commented:

“Sian did a great job reviewing a complex and very varied literature, and this systematic review is a key part of her PhD research which has directly informed the follow-up studies she is currently analysing and writing up. To publish her work in a very competitive and highly ranked global journal before the completion of her PhD studies is a great achievement for Sian!”

Sian is currently analysing and writing up a series of qualitative and quantitative papers based on her PhD studies investigating the feasibility of the Social Norms Approach as a means of encouraging more positive healthy behaviours amongst high school students. A link to Sian’s systematic review paper can be found below:


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Hate Christmas? A psychologist’s survival guide for Grinches… Prof Karen Rodham writes for The Conversation

Professor Karen Rodham (Professor of Health Psychology & Director of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) writes a Christmas survival guide for those who dislike Christmas for The Conversation UK. Prof Rodham writes about a Christmas behaviour change intervention she received from a Staffordshire colleague as well as her tips for managing Christmas if you identify as a ‘Grinch’.

The Conversation UK is a free news service featuring articles written by academics on a range of topics and current affairs. Staffordshire University is a member of The Conversation and Read the full article below:

The Conversation: Hate Christmas? A psychologist’s survival guide for Grinches

Watch out for more Conversation articles written by the members of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

100% PTES Student Satisfaction on Staffordshire University’s MSc Psychology Conversion Course!

According to the Post Graduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) 2018 results, the first cohort of students who completed the MSc Psychology Conversion course were 100% satisfied with the overall quality of their course. The Higher Education Academy’s annual Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) is the only sector-wide survey to gain insight from taught postgraduate students about their learning and teaching experiences.

Dr. Louise Humphreys, Course Leader for the MSc Psychology conversion degree, comments:

“This is fantastic news and I am delighted that students were highly satisfied with the course. These students started the course with little or no knowledge of Psychology, and it was great to see the students’ progress throughout the year. In addition, 83% of the students achieved a Merit or Distinction for their degree, which is fantastic. Our team of academic staff work very hard to ensure that students receive an excellent experience here at Staffordshire University, and we are extremely pleased with the success of the course in its first year.  The team are currently continuing this hard work to ensure that the second cohort get the very best out of the course and receive a stimulating and rewarding experience.”

The MSc Psychology conversion course is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in Psychology, but do not have a British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited undergraduate degree. The course allows students to gain Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC). This is a means by which the BPS ensures that those working towards Chartered Status have studied Psychology at the appropriate breadth and standard to equip them for postgraduate training. Upon completing the course students will have covered all the core areas of Psychology defined by the BPS. Graduates from this course can go on to apply for BPS accredited professional psychology training courses (such as Clinical, Health, Forensic, and Educational Psychology, amongst others) and eventual achievement of Chartered Status.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Fourth Edition of Professor David Clark-Carter’s Quantitative Psychological Research book published!

Professor David Clark-Carter (Professor of Psychological Research Methods, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) is about to publish the fourth edition of his widely used Quantitative Psychological Research textbook in December 2018.

Prof. Clark-Carter’s text is used as core reading for many Psychology degrees at all levels of study (from undergraduate to postgraduate students) and features chapters detailing the whole research process from generating a study idea, designing research, to analysing the findings of quantitative studies using a variety of statistical methods.

The 4th Edition of Prof. Clark-Carter’s book is due to be published on the 13th December 2018. Further details about the book, including a preview of its contents, can be viewed via the publisher’s website (click below):


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Second Edition of Professor Karen Rodham’s ‘Health Psychology’ textbook published!

By Professor Karen Rodham (Professor of Health Psychology & Director of The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

Prof. Karen Rodham

I was thrilled to be invited to write a second edition of my Health Psychology text book. I saw this as an opportunity to put in things I wish I had put in first time round and to update the information. The book is not a comprehensive description of the whole of health psychology but is an overview of the discipline. I want to give readers an insight into Health Psychology, what it is, and why it is important. In order to do this, I have tried to take on the role of tour guide: I want to give the reader enough information to spark their desire to find out more about the profession and discipline of Health Psychology. I hope that by sharing my enthusiasm, readers will be tempted to delve deeper and read more about each of the topics highlighted.

After the introduction (Chapter 1), which explains what Health Psychology is and how it developed, the book is divided into two sections. In the first section, ‘Health Behaviour, I start by considering what it means to be healthy, what health behaviours are and how they can be measured (Chapter 2). In Chapter 3, I explore the variety of factors which are thought to influence our health behaviours. In Chapter 4, I describe the different models that have been designed to predict behaviour change, and, in Chapter 5 I explore the growing relationship between health psychology, public health and health promotion.

The second section of the book, ‘Health Psychology in Action, consists of four chapters which showcase how Health Psychology has been applied to major health issues. Chapter 6 explores stress and stress management. Chapter 7 considers eating behaviour. Chapter 8 focuses on smoking and drinking, and Chapter 9, on managing long-term conditions. The book concludes with a final chapter in which I draw together the key messages and speculate on the possible future for Health Psychology.

If you are one of those people who read the first edition of this book, you might be curious about what has changed in the seven years since it was published. Well, you will see from the description above that in this second edition, I have not just updated the references: I have rewritten sections, restructured the book and added chapters (on public health, smoking and drinking, and long-term conditions). I am also thrilled to be able to direct your attention to the last entry in the index. This reads ’zombie’. This was inadvertently excluded from the first edition but is now firmly in place. “‘What,” I hear you ask, “‘do zombies have to do with health psychology?” Well, read Chapter 2 and you will find out.

Professor Karen Rodham’s new book is now published and available purchase in all good book retailers. Please see the publisher’s website below for further information about the new edition:

Karen Rodham – Health Psychology (2nd Edition), MacMillian International/Red Globe Press.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Fozia (BSc Hons Psychology)

As part of our series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Fozia who completed her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree here at Staffordshire University. Find out about Fozia’s experiences on her course and her plans for the future:


What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Great course offer, great friendly teaching staff and great student population. I also wanted somewhere not too far from my home town of Birmingham so Stoke-on-Trent was a great location with fantastic transport links. The surrounding area was quiet and friendly.

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

Student life as a whole – studying aspect, socialising, great resources to support studying and living, great community of people to make me feel safe whilst living away from home

What was the biggest challenge(s) that you overcame whilst studying at Staffs? 

How small the campus and city of Stoke-on-Trent is so I was able to get about easily compared to living in a busy large city, feeling safe as well as independent. When studying late in the library or on campus, my living accommodation was only few roads away so I was able to walk in the dark very late at night without the fear of anything happening. The security staff/fellow students were happy to walk with me a short distance if they were able to.

What have you done since leaving Staffs?

Lots of work experience and employment. Studying MSc in Health Psychology and then going onto do my PhD which I was awarded in 2013 from Aston University. Alongside my PhD I completed my BPS Chartership Stage 2 in Health Psychology qualification and am now continuing with my HCPC membership as a Registered Psychologist.  I have had many clinical roles mainly in smoking cessation and acute health, embarking on project management at Birmingham Children’s Hospital as a Research Fellow and Project Manager for the CLARCH 1 project. I then moved on to Primary Care Transformation Team Project Manager working for HEE. I now work as the Clinical Engagement Manager for Wolverhampton CCG/WMCA on an innovative health led trial testing IPS employment support in primary care.

What are your plans for the future? 

Continue to work on health led trials and develop my leadership skills within NHS/WMCA

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Do it! No matter what background you are from or whatever the situation you will be able to develop yourself as a person at your own pace with plenty of support. Studying at Staffordshire University gave me my first opportunity to learn about health psychology and I have never looked back. My passion and dedication to health psychology has surfaced in all the different roles I have had since leaving Staffs clinical as well as none clinical, and I have been able to keep up with a lot of the new innovative ideas in health promotion as it all stems from health psychology i.e. behaviour change. I may not be working as a Health Psychologist as I once aimed for, but I am working in a role where I can use my health psychology knowledge and PhD skills to work to the best of my ability and to help to tackle wider determinants of health and achieve better health outcomes.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at Staffs? 

I started off as a very quiet and introverted person contrary to my character as I was in a new place for the first time on my own. However by the second year I gained the confidence to socialise more as well as working with others to study harder and efficiently. I became better in decision making and problem solving as well a financial more savvy! My times at Staffs was a huge step for me but one I have never regretted!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages: