My experience completing the Staffs Psychology research internship and how it helped me!

Written by Matt Kimberley, BSc Psychology 2020 Graduate and Psychology PhD student

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.

Through 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!


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.

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates: Nicola Clarke (MSc Health Psychology)

Blog piece written by Nicola Clarke, MSc Health Psychology Graduate 2020

A fantastic experience!! Staffs MSc Health Psychology course has broadened my social network, enhanced my research skills and taught me to apply psychological knowledge in the real world.

About me:

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.  

My research:

“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.

Example of both of the banners and food choices

Two forms of quantitative analysis called ANOVA and mixed ANOVA were used to analyse the food choice, eye-tracking and dieting data collected.

The findings:

  • Health primes did not guide people to make healthy food choices.
  • Health primes did increase visual attention for healthy foods.
  • 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:

  1. Make connections! Get in touch with staff and students. Ask about the university. Ask about the course. Contact me about my experience.
  2. Plan! Prioritise your learning. Having my finances and living arrangements sorted prior to the course start date really helped me to focus on my assignments.
  3. Apply! This course offers you every opportunity for success.
  4. Get involved! 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

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: Victoria Baker (MSc Health Psychology & BSc Psychology)

Written by Victoria Baker MSc Health Psychology Graduate 2020.

Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:

I completed my BSc Psychology undergraduate degree in 2007, and finally returned to complete my MSc in Health Psychology on a part-time basis in 2018 as a mature student. I have been lucky enough to have worked alongside different Psychologists in several different fields in the world of work. Including Forensic Psychologists when I was a Tutor in a Young Offenders Institute, Clinical Addiction Psychiatrists when I was a Drug and Alcohol Practitioner, and Child Psychologists when I worked in family mediation. This varied experience allowed me to ascertain where my interests truly lay, which are predominantly in health promotion and harm reduction work.

In 2017, I decided to move into teaching A Level Psychology. However, I began to feel that my degree was outdated, given that Psychology is an ever changing field and new research is being published all the time. I felt the urge to return to study and update my skillset.

What attracted you to studying your course at Staffordshire University?

When I saw that Staffs offered a part time option for the MSc Health Psychology, I felt that it was the perfect opportunity for me to continue with academia whilst remaining at work and parenting my 2 small children. I went to an open evening and was impressed with their £30 million Science Centre and all the facilities and services it had to offer. As a Staffs Alumni this university always held a special place in my heart, and when I returned as a prospective postgraduate student, I was pleased that I still felt this same sense of belonging.

What are the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

The best part of my experience at Staffs was the lecturers on my course. They are very knowledgeable, friendly and have a varied wealth of expertise that they are willing to share with you. I enjoyed the sessions and being able to talk in great depth and length on the topics that we covered on the course. The lecturers treated me as an equal professional, which was nice as a mature student and fostered a relationship of mutual respect. I certainly had a lot I needed to learn and initially it was a very steep learning curve, but I also had a lot of experience to share. They were always supportive, and when I had a wobble and felt as though I couldn’t do it, they were always there to encourage me.

Why did you choose to study your subject?

I chose to study Health Psychology because my true passion lies with helping people to make positive changes in their life to improve overall quality of life. As a Drug and Alcohol Practitioner, I had to develop collaborative care plans to help people manage stress better, support people to lead a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise and educate young people to make informed choices around alcohol and substance misuse. Therefore, Health Psychology was a “good fit” for me.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to continue teaching A Level Psychology and to use the knowledge and skills I have gained from the MSc as CPD to support me in the delivery of related content. I think that by obtaining the MSc, it sends an important message out to my students; that it is never too late to set yourself a goal and it also demonstrates my commitment to education. I am in the process of setting up my own company with my husband who carries out adaptations to properties to improve people’s quality of life, for example people with long term conditions, elderly and disabled people. I can apply the knowledge gained from the MSc to allow a more responsive and sensitive approach to be taken when undertaking such work.

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

My best advice to anyone wishing to study an MSc is that you need to have a mature attitude to your studies, organise your study and assignment time wisely and do not leave assignments til the last minute! – You may not achieve your true potential by completing work in this way. Forward planning will ensure that you are able to access support from lecturers should they not be available for last minute questions. Expect ups and downs, highs and lows. Sometimes you’ll feel like you really understand a module and other modules you may find you are not so taken with. This is human nature, its what makes the world go round, we are not all destined to like or be good at the same things!

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

When I started the course in 2018, no one could have predicted that 2020 would have unfolded the way it did with the Covid pandemic. There were times that I doubted my ability to complete the course. When the schools were closed in March and I found myself at home with two small children to home educate, a teaching job to contend with and I was halfway through my dissertation, there were some overwhelming moments! I can’t thank my supervisor Dr Gemma Hurst enough whose support is what carried me through to the end and for this I will be forever grateful.


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:

Using photographs to explore what quality of life means to assisted living residents.

Dr Amy Burton


Dr Amy Burton has recently published a paper detailing a project conducted by one of our graduates as part of their MSc 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.

Stock photo from Pixabay of a woman holding a camera to take a photo.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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:

Children’s drawings of their coronavirus experience

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.

Dr Richard Jolley

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 research@coviddrawings.org.uk and we will respond as quickly as we can to your query.


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.

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Sian (BSc Psychology & Child Development including a Foundation Year)

As part of our new series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Sian who graduated from our BSc Psychology & Child Development course in 2015 after also successfully completing a Foundation Year.

Sian introduces herself and talks about her experiences studying Psychology and Child Development at Staffordshire University, and tells us how her degree has helped her  pursue a PhD in Psychology:


Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:

When I left school at 16 years old, I trained to be a hairdresser and worked full time for several years. I decided to have a career change in my mid-twenties, so I completed an Open University course to help me get back into education.

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

I was interested in child psychology and Staffordshire University was one of the only universities to offer this type of course.

Furthermore, Staffordshire University gave me the option to complete a Foundation Year as I had taken extended time out of education. I think this was beneficial as this year gave me the tools to succeed at University.

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

The staff in the Psychology Department were very approachable which made my time at Staffordshire University more enjoyable. In addition, I gained training in all the latest equipment and software related to psychology research. The Science Centre, where the Psychology department is based, has state-of-the-art equipment that is available to all students.

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

I think the biggest challenge that I faced at university was time management. I had a young child and trying to juggle all my commitments was difficult sometimes. However, I found planning my timetable in advance really helped.

What have you done since leaving Staffs (e.g. volunteering, working, travelling…)? How did your course help you with this?

After graduating, I spent a short time working as a research assistant investigating the effects of watching television on children’s creative thinking. Subsequently to that, I worked for Leeds University, on a longitudinal smoking prevention project investigating adolescents’ views on smoking. Currently, I am undertaking a PhD looking at improving eating behaviours in high school students using the social norms approach.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future include conducting more research in to children’s eating behaviours and potentially teaching in Psychology.

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

Staffordshire University offers a supportive learning environment which will give you transferrable skills that can be used in any job setting. The advice I would give to someone applying to Staffordshire University is embrace every opportunity offered to you. The Psychology Department at Staffordshire University offer a fantastic curriculum with additional opportunities outside of the course for learning.

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

My time at Staffordshire University has given me so many skills that are transferable to an array of different jobs and I am really grateful for being given the opportunity to study at Staffs.


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.

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:

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Andrew (BSc Psychology & Counselling)

As part of our new series of StaffsPsych Graduate  Success Stories, we’re pleased to introduce Andrew who graduated from our BSc Psychology & Counselling course in 2017.

Andrew introduces himself and talks about his experience studying Psychology and Counselling at Staffordshire University, and tells us how his degree has helped him pursue his dream career as a Health Psychologist:


Before coming to Staffs, I lived in the small southern town of Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Up until the time I was going to university open days, I had not travelled any further north than Northampton, so coming to Staffordshire was quite the trek initially! I studied Biology, English Literature, Chemistry, and of course Psychology at A Levels, and fell in love with the subject. Not only because I find what makes people tick so interesting, but because of it could offer me. Like many young people, I have struggled with my mental health. By being a person to lean on for my friends back in school, as well as going to seek therapy myself, I knew that pursuing a career in Psychology was my calling.

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

I wanted to study psychology, but to also specialise in counselling and therapeutic skills. As one of the only universities in the country at the time that was offering a counselling specific course at a bachelors level, Staffs was an easy pick. After going to an open day, seeing all of the equipment and facilities on offer, and feeling so welcomed by both staff and current students, I knew that I could work well there (and I did!).

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

Where do I begin! Of course, on the campus life side of things I enjoyed heading out to the student union bar with my friends. I got involved with anything and everything that I could, including setting up societies, running liberation networks, and being a part of student projects where I could. But mostly I am proud of what I achieved, and ultimately getting the best degree I could, graduating with a 1st Class.

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

Putting myself first and being confident in my abilities. I have always been a people pleaser, and while that has its benefits, often times my tendency to help others would come at a detriment to my own wellbeing. By going through the process of earning a degree and getting the much-needed support from my personal tutors and peers, I developed an appreciation for being much more introspective, and realising that my needs needed to be met too. Thanks to that, my confidence in myself and what I can offer as a graduate is at an all-time high, and I do not think I would have turned out like this had it not been for the course I chose, and the people who helped me along the way.

What have you done since leaving Staffs?

I came right back! As someone pursuing a career in Psychology I require further training, and it just made sense to return to Staffs to do just that. I am currently studying the MSc Health Psychology course which I love! It has been a slight detour from my initial counselling path, but I could not be happier studying in an area that will enable me to make change, helping as many people as I can to live a healthier and happier life.

What are your plans for the future?

Ultimately, I wish to reach that doctoral level, and I plan on doing a Health Psychology Professional Doctorate sometime in the future to achieve that. In doing so, I hope to one day open my own practice, working with people to achieve their health goals and reach the best self that they can be.

At the moment however, I plan on slowing down after 4 straight years of intense studying. I have a volunteer position set up at a local health and wellbeing service back home, and I have applied for a casual research assistant role to keep me in the world of psychology but will allow me to relax for a few months.

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

Do not think that just because you do not know the ins and outs of every theory you’ve come across that you are not worthy to study a psychology degree. Be true to yourself, and let the university know what studying psychology would mean to you. If you are passionate about the area and want to use it in a way to help people, be expressive about it. If you just find the topic interesting and want to know more purely for your own gain, be expressive about that too. Good luck!

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

I would not trade my time being at Staffs for anything, and I hope that whoever is reading this will consider making Staffs their home for the next 3 years. I am certainly #ProudToBeStaffs


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.

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: