Our Dr Alison Owen writes about her research exploring body image in female athletes.
Research carried out at Staffordshire University has looked into body image in a group of British female athletes, to look into how they feel about their appearance, and whether they feel that appearance pressures have impacted on their athletic careers in any way. The research was carried out by Staffordshire University graduate Tess Allen, alongside Staffordshire University Health Psychology lecturer, Dr Alison Owen.
British female athletes were interviewed individually, and asked to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their body. All of the athletes reported feeling the need to maintain a particular appearance. The women also all reported feeling pressure from outside influences, including the media, as well as from the uniforms they had to wear for their sports.
A number of suggestions and recommendations have arisen from the research findings, including a need for interventions to maintain a positive body image in female athletes, as well as considerations for factors such as uniform choice.
work has been published in the Journal
of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies. If you are interested in reading the
full article, or have any questions about the study then please contact Dr
Alison Owen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Kim Buckless, Psychology and Child Development student
I’m a final year mature student on BSc Psychology and Child Development. I wanted to share my experiences and a few tips from working on my final year project so far.
My experiences leading up to the project
I have been worried about my final year project throughout my course. Every time the project was mentioned my anxiety levels would be through the roof, thinking about SPSS, word counts, discussions and disseminating my findings. Now I’m in my final year and working on the project it is a little daunting, but I am determined to plough on and work on a project that I am really interested in.
My project title is ‘Investigating the link between Autism and Eating Behaviours in Children and Adolescents’ (yes, it is a mouthful!). I am currently in the recruitment phase, which can be challenging as my project is looking for a specific demographic of participants (I know, haven’t made it easy for myself).
Thinking about your project?
Read, and read a lot. I recommend having a read around the topics that you are interested in. Some articles include suggestions for future research which can be really useful. The project can be on any topic area in Psychology, this is a great aspect of the Psychology courses at Staffs as it gives you the opportunity to choose the topic area yourself and then work with your supervisor.
In addition to reading in your topic area I highly recommend participating in research projects. This gives you many ideas on different methodologies and other research areas that can help to develop your ideas when you are ready to put your project together. You will see the standard consent and debrief forms that you will adapt for your study. Furthermore, the University library has helpful guides if you are considering using Qualtrics to collect questionnaire responses that are worth checking out!
Working with your supervisor
If you haven’t got a clue about what project you’d like to conduct don’t worry! The lecturers do a pitch on their areas of interest and some potential ideas that you could build on in level 5. This enables you to consider which supervisor’s you might like to work with, and you can have a chat with them about your project ideas. This is a really good way to assess the feasibility of your project and gain feedback on your ideas. You can also chat about what the project will involve e.g. whether the study should be quantitative or qualitative, which may be a big deciding factor on your materials and which supervisor you choose.
If you still can’t decide don’t worry, you can submit multiple ideas to different potential supervisors, ranking them from your most preferred option at the end of level 5. This enables students and supervisors to be matched based on methodology, topic area and your preferences. Your project supervisor needs to be someone that you feel you will get on with because the number of meetings and emails about the project are relentless! In my case my supervisor is always there to support me and offer those much-needed pep talks!
Remember all the little steps count!
Remember every part of the project you complete e.g., handing in your ethics form, is one ticked off your list, so be proud of yourself. Also, when you feel like it becomes overwhelming, take a break, and come back to it when you feel ready. Take advantage of the fact that you are being guided through every stage of your project as most careers in psychology will involve research. But don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s the best way to learn for the future.
Interested in participating?
Finally, I’m going to give my project a cheeky plug, so feel free to take part, share or tweet on your social media. If you have a child with a confirmed diagnosis of Autism, aged between 9 and 16 and fully verbal please do consider participating! The study will involve you and your child answering questions about their behaviours and thoughts around eating. It will also involve your child completing a brief multiple-choice quiz to assess their understanding of language. Thank you so much!
My PhD programme is funded by the university and my aims are to explore important psychological factors affecting motivation to attend and complete diabetes prevention programmes (DPPs), with a particular focus on the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHSDPP). This a national programme consisting of a minimum of 13 group sessions over a 9-month period and aims to encourage those at high risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM), to make healthier lifestyle changes.
Diabetes prevention is currently a key priority both nationally and internationally. By maximising the number of people that start (i.e., uptake) and complete (i.e., retention) DPPs like the NHSDPP, this will ensure these programmes are both clinically effective and financially viable.
The published systematic review is the first to investigate recruitment strategies and behaviour change techniques associated with higher uptake and retention in Diabetes Prevention Programmes. Behaviour change techniques are key active ingredients of behaviour change and are now increasingly considered in behaviour change programmes.
Some of the key review findings were that problem-solving, demonstrating the behaviour, practising the behaviour, reducing negative emotions and using incentives for participation were more commonly found techniques in programmes with a lower number of drop-outs. By clinicians and programme organisers incorporating these techniques into their programmes, this will help towards achieving higher completion rates.
My following studies are currently being analysed and written up and will further explore the individual factors that affect participant motivation to attend and complete programmes like the NHSDPP.
If you would like to read the paper you can access it here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168822720305234
My name is Matt and I have just finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a first and I started my PhD in psychology in September (also at Staffs). During my time at Staffs I have fallen in love with the research side of psychology and this helped me set my sights on completing a PhD in psychology. To do this I knew research experience would be extremely helpful! Thanks to the experience gained from completing the research internships (and one terrifying interview!) I have been accepted onto the Psychology PhD course at Staffordshire University and am due to start my research into the barriers people face in the disclosure of their sexual fantasies.
My experience completing two research internship during my undergraduate studies:
The first of these was during the summer of 2019 where I assisted Dr. Jade Elliott and Dr. Erica Lucas with their project which examined the influence of glucose on reasoning. This involved assisting with the transcription and coding of audio recordings of participants. Scores were then inputted into a spreadsheet. This internship really helped me to improve my skills in the management and organisation of data. This was incredibly useful during the data analysis stage of my third-year project which produced a very large database.
This year I applied for a research internship with Dr Sam Jones. This project looks at Digital Literacy. Through this summer, I have been helping Sam to find research into digital literacy and summarise and present this in a clear manner. I have found tables especially helpful for this as a means of presenting all the studies and the key information associated. As this is a new area of research for both myself and Sam, I have particularly enjoyed learning more about the area alongside Sam and sharing our findings through weekly teams meetings. Through this internship and my meetings with Sam, I feel my literature searching skills and the way that I organise research has improved massively. This will be very helpful next year when I am conducting a literature review for my own research! Through my work on this internship, I am being made a named author on the upcoming first journal article.
completing both research internships, my skills in literature searching and the
management of research and data have improved. This has proved incredibly
useful during my studies and will be useful when conducting my own research
next year. If anyone is considering doing a research internship next year, I
highly recommend it! Especially if you will be completing your third-year
project the following year or are considering a career in research. The skills
you will gain working alongside the lecturers will be incredibly helpful!
A fantastic experience!! Staffs MSc Health Psychologycourse has broadened my social network, enhanced my research skills and taught me to apply psychological knowledge in the real world.
I’m a recent MSc Health Psychology graduate with research interests in experimental psychology and promoting healthy food choices. On completion of my BSc in Psychology at Leeds Beckett, I was keen to continue my studies with the aim of becoming a chartered psychologist. After exploring several career pathways, I decided to apply for the MSc in Health Psychology. Following this, I took a year out to work and save up for the course. I joined Staffs as a new student in September 2019 enrolling as a full-time student living in Shelton, near the Stoke-on-Trent campus.
“The Effect of Health Priming on Visual Attention and
Food Choice: An Eye-Tracking Experiment”
During recent years, rising rates of obesity have
contributed to various health complications such as cancer. This issue could be
explained by our current living environment, which constantly advertises
unhealthy foods, making it more likely for us to choose and consume them. At
present, there are no successful methods for guiding consumers to make healthy,
rather than unhealthy food choices. Therefore, it is really important to find new
ways to achieve this.
Research suggests that health priming (e.g. showing someone
the word ‘healthy’) can increase visual attention towards healthy foods and prompt
people to choose them. Studies have also found health priming effects to be more
pronounced in dieters because being healthy is more important to them.
Therefore, it may be useful to target health priming interventions at this
group. However, this is a new area of research. More evidence is needed before
health priming can be considered as a tool for reducing obesity.
My project involved students choosing between healthy and
unhealthy foods, whilst either being shown a health prime (the words ‘healthy
recipe’), a prime unrelated to health (the words ‘new recipe’) and no prime (no
words). The primes were shown on a banner like an advert and the task was made
to look like an online supermarket. Whilst students were making their food
choices, an eye-tracker was used to measure visual attention (how long students
looked at the foods). A questionnaire was then used to assess whether students
were dieters or non-dieters.
Two forms of quantitative analysis called ANOVA and mixed
ANOVA were used to analyse the food choice, eye-tracking and dieting data collected.
Health primes did not guide people to make
healthy food choices.
Health primes did increase visual attention for healthy
Health primes guided non-dieters to choose
healthy foods, but not dieters (suggesting it may be counterproductive to
target health priming interventions at dieters).
Health primes did not increase visual attention
for healthy foods in dieters or non-dieters.
This research provides a valuable contribution where current
knowledge is limited. The key finding that a health prime increased visual
attention for healthy foods in an online supermarket has important implications
for potential intervention design. For example, health primes could be used to
effectively steer consumer attention towards healthy foods.
Future research should investigate health priming in real
world settings and its effectiveness over time. The current findings could then
combine with future research to provide a tool for guiding consumers to make
healthier food choices and reduce obesity.
My top tips for students considering the MSc:
Make connections! Get
in touch with staff and students. Ask about the university. Ask about the
course. Contact me about my experience.
your learning. Having my finances and living arrangements sorted prior to the course
start date really helped me to focus on my assignments.
course offers you every opportunity for success.
Join a society. Attend guest speaker lectures. Try out new research equipment. Explore
new topics. Present your research.
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
Riana Mansfield’s project was supervised by Dr Amy Burton and explored assisted living residents’ experiences of quality of life.
Assisted living is a popular form of housing care for older adults. Residents benefit from their own living spaces within a supportive environment including a range of services such as domiciliary care, health care and social activities.
Understanding quality of life for these older adults is important for ensuring assisted living residences provide the best possible service. However, little work had been conducted to uncover what quality of life means to older adults or how it is experienced on a day to day basis.
Riana’s project used a unique approach of collecting photographs taken by seven assisted living residents to better understand their lives. The residents collected images that captured their own personal meanings and experiences of quality of life. Riana then discussed these pictures with the residents through research interviews.
A form of qualitative analysis called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was then used to identify common themes and experiences in the residents’ accounts. Riana’s work highlighted three themes that helped to explain and understand quality of life in assisted living.
Firstly, the residents believed it was important to have continuity in their lives and found new ways to continue with activities that they enjoyed or were important to them prior to assisted living.
Secondly, they discussed how social events and opportunities to make new friends within assisted living were essential for ensuing good quality of life. Several enjoyed supporting other less confident residents to be part of the community.
Finally, the residents spoke about the supportive environment provided by the assisted living facility. This helped them to feel safe and provided access to services and support that would aid them as they became older.
Riana and Amy’s paper concludes by making recommendations to enable assisted living facilities to help their residents maintain good quality of life. These included: supporting residents to continue with valued and meaningful activities following a move to assisted living; setting up peer support buddy systems to assist new residents with becoming part of the community and to engage them in social activities; and discussing quality of life with residents and tailoring care and support to reflect the needs and wants of individual residents.
The research paper has been published in Geriatric Nursing and can be accessed here if you would like to read about the research in more detail (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gerinurse.2020.03.021).
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
Research Assistant position during coronavirus, check!
Who would have thought with all the difficulties of 2020 I would complete my degree and get the chance to be a Research Assistant with Staffs! Coronavirus couldn’t have been a better opportunity really, being able to investigate children’s experiences of the pandemic through collecting their drawings.
This opportunity appeared when my Level 6 Project Supervisor Dr Sarah Rose emailed me to say she was involved in planning some research into children’s experiences of coronavirus and if the ethics and funding were approved would I like to be their Research Assistant? Of course! What an incredible opportunity!
When the project was approved we had our first virtual meeting as a project team, over Microsoft Teams! I got to meet and discuss the project with Dr Richard Jolley, Dr Claire Barlow, Dr Romina Vivaldi and of course Dr Sarah Rose. All of the meetings and communication took place online via email and Microsoft Teams, having always had face-to-face meetings throughout university this was a very odd change! Despite a few device and connectivity issues we managed, and everything worked out.
As the project began I was given responsibility for a number of tasks including background research, recruitment (both sourcing contacts and contacting those contacts), responding to queries and writing up the background research to begin forming the report’s introduction. Recruitment for the project was aimed at the whole of the UK so an important part of my role was to reach out to organisations, schools and social media groups from across the UK. This was difficult due to the varying school term times of the four countries and the general closing down of society due to the pandemic.
Once recruitment was on its way I was able to get into the background research in preparation for the introduction. Having taken the Children’s Drawings module at Level 6 I already had an understanding of how children’s drawings are investigated and analysed and so I could focus on research more specific to the project such as research that focused on children’s drawings of illness, disease outbreaks and trauma. When conducting the background research searching I was able to use all of the literature searching skills I have gained over my 3 years at Staffs. If you are looking for an easy way to gather research with all the key information in one place I recommended putting it into a table, a tip that Dr Sarah Rose shared with me!
If you get the opportunity to do any sort of Research Assistant position, go for it! It’s great work experience, it looks amazing on your CV and it’s fascinating to be able to work alongside the lecturers you see all the time!
Dr Richard Jolley writes about recent coviddrawings research and how you could help!
How has the current coronavirus situation changed the lives of children? What would the children themselves tell us?
The current coronavirus situation presents a unique opportunity to discover the diverse characteristics and consequences of a pandemic upon children. When children are facing changes and challenges to their lives it’s important to allow them to communicate how they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes they’re happy to talk about their experience, but sometimes they prefer to express themselves in other more creative ways, such as making a picture.
Since June of this year a group of researchers in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University have been asking children and parents across the UK to help us understand how children are experiencing the coronavirus situation through their drawings. It is being led by myself, Dr Richard Jolley, with co-investigators Dr Sarah Rose, Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Romina Vivaldi. It has been funded by the School of Life Sciences and Education (LSE). This has enabled us not only to purchase a dedicated website and database for the project but also to employ a final year student (Gina Halliwell) as a research assistant to manage the day-to-day running of the project. You may like to read Gina’s own blog on her research experience on the project!
So what is involved in the project?
Parents are directed to the website www.coviddrawings.org.uk where all the information about the project and what they need to do is provided. We even have made a video just for children to explain the project! In essence, children are asked to think about their life since the coronavirus entered the UK, how it might have changed their lives, how they have felt about that, and then to draw a picture about it. There is a comments box provided if the child wishes to write about their drawing (potentially with the parent’s help). A parent then takes a picture of the drawing and uploads it to the website.
So, what themes might you expect children to show in their drawings? The highly transferable nature of the virus? Or perhaps the behaviours we have all been asked to do to limit the risk of transmission – washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolation? Then, there is the psychosocial impact upon the children, particularly the isolation from friends during the lockdown. Will children show psychological reactions of fear, sadness or loneliness? And what about the changes in the routine of their lives, such as disruption to school attendance and different family dynamics at home? Has this led to boredom and restlessness, or presented an opportunity to spend more time on activities and family they love? Despite the challenges the current situation has brought children we are seeing children communicate more positive aspects through their drawings.
What themes can you see in this drawing?
Whatever themes the children communicate we are interested in whether they vary across the ages of the sample, which might indicate that developmentally children have experienced the current situation differently. Also, will there be differences in the themes communicated between boys and girls? In addition to age and gender, we will be exploring whether the themes vary according to a set of demographic and situational variables. For instance, which country the child lives in, whether they live in a rural or urban environment, if either parent is a key worker, and whether the child returned to school – all of these could have an impact on how the child draws their experience of the coronavirus. In addition, we ask the parents to indicate on a scale the extent in which the family health has been affected by the coronavirus situation, and ask the child to choose from a series of faces how they have felt about their life in these times.
Would you like to participate?
And here is the good news – we are very keen to recruit more children and parents! If you are reading this blog as a parent of a child between 4 and 14 years, and you live in the UK, do you think your child would like to draw their own experience of the coronavirus situation? In which case please have a look at the project’s website www.coviddrawings.org.uk If you have any further questions please contact the project email address email@example.com and we will respond as quickly as we can to your query.
On the 31st of July I presented the preliminary findings of my PhD project ‘Experiences of talking to your GP about suicide’ at the PsyPAG annual conference, and this year the conference came with a twist. As a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak the majority of academic pursuits have moved online, including conferences. The Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group answered the call to remote conferencing by designing a Twitter-takeover style conference, depositing delegates posters and pre-recorded presentations in an open access database facilitated by the Open Science Framework and scheduling posts and discussion around them on Twitter throughout the day. There were also workshops over zoom and a social area to network and support each other. Nice. An excellent effort by the PsyPAG team that somehow made us all feel like we were together, despite being apart.
My PhD focusses on the patient experience of being assessed for risk of suicide in primary care with an emphasis on patient and public involvement in the project design and execution. The presentation featured at PsyPAG 2020 detailed a study that was co-created with Expert Citizens, an independent group of people who have all experienced multiple needs – combinations of mental ill health, homelessness, addiction and offending behaviour, and offer their lived experience to projects such as mine, service evaluation and many other exceptional undertakings. I presented the preliminary findings of this study seeking to understand how patients experience talking to their GPs about suicide alongside Phil Parkes, the volunteer coordinator for Expert Citizens who has played a key role in the work so far.
The project consists of an on-line, open-ended survey asking participants questions about their experiences. Working with people who have lived experience led to designing the questions to be as trauma informed as possible and using language that was suitable for the general public. We also emphasised to the participants that they could stay up to date with the progress of the study should they wish to. The purpose of this was to allow the participant to maintain ownership of their contribution and to keep being involved as the study progressed should they wish to.
We are currently engaged in the analysis of the responses of forty-one participants, aged between 19 and 67. Presently, a dominant theme is how much the attitude of the GP towards the patient matters to the overall experience. For example, even if the GP is not able to provide any practical support for the patient, if they are perceived to be empathic and understanding allowing the person seeking help to talk about their distress, then the patient leaves feeling more positive about the consultation. Participants commented that they felt somewhat relieved by being able to talk to someone about it and to have the potential for ongoing support from their GP. Whereas patients who received a referral to a secondary service but felt the GP was dismissive of them left feeling regretful, and in some cases worse than they did before the consultation.
These findings are preliminary and there is much more work to be done, this project will also inform further investigation focussing on people trying to access support for suicidal thoughts and feelings using primary care services during the lockdown. If you would like to discuss any part of this project or be kept up to date as it progresses, please get in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@Soph_Fedorowicz).
If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings
Please know that you are not alone. We encourage you to seek support from someone you trust, your GP or a support service like the Samaritans. You matter.
You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or access their website for further support HERE (https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/).
You can also go to stayingsafe.net, this resource was developed in collaboration with people who have lived experience and is designed to help keep you safe.
I joined the Psychology team at Staffs in July 2020. Previously, I’ve taught Counselling and Psychology at other institutions. Although it’s an odd time (in a pandemic) to be starting a new place of work I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s a friendly and welcoming place to be!
I’m a genderqueer psychotherapist (with they/them pronouns) who specialises in working with queer people and topics. My Psychology career began in 2002 when I completed my BSc at Coventry University. On graduating I wasn’t ready to put studying aside, but also needed to move home to a town that did ot have easy university access, so I was really glad when Coventry introduced an online Parapsychology Master’s degree.
The study of the paranormal has always really interested me, thinking about whether these experiences are 1) something that (largely) arises from inside of us (whether it is another ‘sense’ that we don’t fully understand) or 2) whether they are experiences that exist outside of us and happen to us. The degree was fascinating and didn’t require a belief one way or the other, and spending a year unpicking some of this was really fascinating. Sadly, parapsychology is a difficult area to make a living within, and I was also interested in working with people and mental health, so this is where I started to focus my studies.
I went to the Sherwood psychotherapy training institute (SPTI) and completed a PgDip in person-centred counselling and psychotherapy. Whilst I was in training I began my own charity that provided free and low-cost counselling for people who identified as LGBT or who were in different kinds of relationship styles (such as consensually non-monogamous or kink-based relationships). My aim was to create a place where people whose sexual lives where outside of standard norms could be met with understanding. The charity became very successful, going from being just me at the start, to in 2020, having ten volunteer counsellors and a long waiting list of LGBT people wanting to access our service.
Alongside this I have been studying for a PhD in psychology looking at experiences of gender and sexuality in UK high schools and am currently in ‘writing up’, which a process that never seems to end!
My research interests are mainly focused around gender and sexuality and people’s experience of those in counselling relationships. I am interested in publishing widely in that field, including a paper that I hope will go in for publication soon on therapist disclosure of non-cisgender identities.
I’m very much looking forward to September and the start of teaching and really starting to find my feet in the team.