Research Assistant during Covid-19

Written by Gina Halliwell, BSc Psychology and Child Development 2020 graduate.


BSc Psychology and Child Development graduate 2020! YAY! Not the most ideal year to graduate but made it there successfully in the end!

Graduate, check.

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!

Example drawing submitted for the research

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.

Example drawing submitted for the research.

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!

An example table of how to organise literature


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!

If you would like more information on the project please do have a look at the project’s website (www.coviddrawings.org.uk) or if you have any questions please email research@coviddrawings.org.uk (we are still recruiting!). You can also read more about the project in a recent blog by Dr Richard Jolley.


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 Level 5 Student Kim Buckless and her experiences of Summer Research Internships

About Me:

I am a mature student who has just completed my second year of the BSc Psychology and Child Development degree. Before University I had worked in nurseries, schools and children’s centres across Staffordshire but lacked the qualifications to progress in my career.

As a mature student I wanted to get the most out of my University experience, therefore I applied to be a Psychology Summer Research Intern for the last two years. The process was easy as the positions were advertised to all psychology students and the application involved explaining why you wanted to intern for your chosen project.

My Summer Research Intern Experience this Year:

The project that I applied for is looking at the experiences of student carers, this appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, I myself am a mum of two young boys, one of which has Autism. I wanted to see if the experiences I have were similar to others in the same position. Secondly the research is a qualitative study,  and having struggling with thematic analysis before, I felt that this was my weak area in Psychology and I wanted to boost my skillset.

I was so pleased to have been asked to work with two lecturers on the project, Dr Dan Heron from Staffordshire University and Dr Jessica Runacres from Derby University. Not being particularly confident in Qualitative research, and in my own abilities, they have helped me every step of the way through team meetings and regular emails.

Due to Covid-19 I have been able to join the project at the very beginning. Therefore, I have assisted with recruitment, theme generation and collating information for the introduction of the paper. Recently they have asked if I would like to be a named author on the planned publication. Not only will this look great on my C.V. but the experiences I have had will put me in a firm position to go onto further study. I definitely recommend applying for a summer research internship!


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.

Staffs Student Stories: Meet Lisa Kyte BSc (hons) Psychology with a Foundation Year

About Me:

I’m a full-time mature student with two boys who are older now so not quite so demanding! I was widowed three years ago and realised that life is too short not to follow dreams, so here I am and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! I’ve now completed my Foundation year and am about to embark on my three years with the University. 

Why did you choose to study BSc (Hons) Psychology with a Foundation Year at Staffordshire University?

Initially I returned to college, qualified as a level 2 teaching assistant and completed my maths GCSE, who knew you could love maths! Then, with an interest in the human mind and working with / supporting children with educational needs, I chose BSc (Hons) Psychology with a foundation year. Choosing Staff’s was always going to be the obvious choice as it’s closest to home and I still need to be home for commitments. However, I have friends who attended and their reviews as well as others speak for themselves. I now know how accurate they are as I’ve had a fantastic first year. Lots of support and made a great group of new friends!

What has been the best part of the course so far? 

It’s got to be all the ‘stuff’ you didn’t know! I’ve learnt so much! So much so that, it’s opened up so many different career options for me to consider and lots of possibilities. I think people have a fear of returning to education when they are older, worried you won’t remember everything, trust me, yes it’s a little scary to start with but that soon disappears and you are more capable than you think, an advantage of being a mature student is that you really want this! 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us? 

It’s got to be understanding and embracing the roller coaster. I won’t lie, there are times when you feel overwhelmed, especially if you have been out of education for a while. But! The answer is simple, turn to your friends and tutors, realise it’s normal and you are not alone. It passes quickly and your sense of achievement will push you to carry on. When you look back you’ll recognise the dip and know how to deal with them in the future. Just have your eye on that Graduation Day! 

What are your plans for the Future? 

Originally I wanted to continue with being a Teaching assistant in primary education, but now I’m also considering teaching Psychology and even the possibility of going on to working within the NHS. I think the main thing to remember is I still don’t need to make that decision yet and I have so much more to learn, so who knows! 

Would you recommend our course to others? 

Yes, absolutely I would recommend this course. It’s full of interesting topics, you’ll learn so much with so many avenues to consider following it. There is such variety and areas for discussion. The foundation year is also a great way of getting back into education and it gives you a great start to your course with the University. 


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.

Staffs Student Stories: Meet Janette Renshaw, Level 5 BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling Student

Janette Renshaw

Hi! My name is Janette. I’m a (very) mature student, having worked in child protection and safeguarding in schools and prisons for a number of years.

An out-of-the-blue breast cancer diagnosis at the end of 2017, and the following 7 months I had to take off from my job to undergo treatment and recover, gave me time to think about what I really wanted to do with the next stage of my life … and that brought me to Staffs University!

Over the years I had considered taking a further course in counselling but had always, one way or another found reason not to do it – finances, child care, time – but I realised that it was now or never and so I applied to Staffs Uni and I was very happy to be given an unconditional offer! I began the Psychology and Counselling course in September 2018.

I am now nearing the end of my 2nd year and it has been a great experience so far! There is a combination of young and mature students – so no one feels out of place – and we all get along fabulously. I have really enjoyed every part of it – a good mixture of seminars, lectures and practical sessions that all add variety. Lecturers and tutors are very supportive and accessible.

The challenges along the way for me have been overcoming nerves to give presentations and trying to get to grips with SPSS – the statistical package we use to analyse experimental data. I’ve never seen myself as a scientific person – it’s been a challenge, but do-able and I am actually enjoying it. 

There are opportunities to take up voluntary placements both within the Uni itself and externally and also a good variety of venues on site in which to socialise, meet up with friends, eat, drink etc. There is a Sports Centre accessible to all and I particularly enjoy the beautiful nature reserve within our own grounds, that the River Trent runs through. I walk there sometimes, before and after lectures and seminars, taking my camera with me as I love macro photography. I’ve seen kingfishers, woodpeckers and dragonflies – it’s a beautiful, picturesque hidden gem! 

Janette’s Sumi-E Japanese painting


The counselling module itself offers invaluable insight and opportunities for personal growth and development alongside nurturing counselling skills. I have particularly enjoyed the creative/therapeutic sessions along the way – so much so, that where once I never saw myself as a creative person in terms of art – though I’ve always indulged in creative writing since I was a child – I have taken up Sumi-E Japanese Painting. It’s so therapeutic and I’m actually ok at it! 

I am hoping to go on to do a Masters and a Diploma in Counselling, aspiring eventually, to run my own counselling practise. I can’t believe how fast time has flown over the last two years. The CV19 pandemic has obviously affected us all during the last few months,which has seen closure of universities and schools nationwide. However, Staffs Uni have met the challenge head on. Tutors have supported us all via on-line seminars, lectures and chats via MS Teams and have done everything possible to ensure that we have been able to complete our second year fully – for which I am very grateful and commend them. 

I would highly recommend Staffs University and certainly the Psychology and Counselling Undergraduate course, without hesitation. Come and join us!  


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.

Staffs Student Stories: My Placement Year Experience: Pros and … Pros!

My name is Meredith Danks and if you’re reading this, I guess you might be wondering whether a placement year is for you?

Well I can only begin by saying YES – deciding to complete a placement year was, without a doubt, the best educational decision I have made. Over the last 6-8 months I have gained invaluable experiences, that will guide me through both my working and academic career.

However, hindsight really is a wonderful thing; if you had asked me the ‘placement’ question a year ago I would have shared my doubts. My biggest worries were whether I should take a year out and if it would be worth it? If you are feeling like this now my advice would be to make sure that you find a placement that suits you and it will be 100% worth it!

Now, finding the right placement can be a tricky business. I wanted to benefit from a year out by finding a placement that offered the experiences that I was looking for. I contacted over 30 organisations(!) to try to find a suitable placement, with the majority of them ignoring me. This was a tough time, but you need to persevere! It wasn’t until a guest lecturer mentioned “Midlands Psychology CIC” that I actually had some luck in finding my placement! So, I guess the moral of the story is to always listen during lectures!!

During my placement with Midlands Psychology CIC I had the opportunity to gain experiences that an undergraduate student could only dream of. I shadowed and worked closely with some INCREDIBLE clinicians, who have taught me more than I ever thought possible. Furthermore, I gained experience within the Looked After Children Service and Supported Living Service. Working with these services has given me many fond memories and broadened my interests beyond the fields that I already knew.

I also spent time working in the admin team, this was invaluable at showing me the other side to Psychology, whilst developing my confidence and resilience. In addition, I attended various courses and workshops which have helped to extend my knowledge in preparation for 3rd year and beyond!

For me, the best thing about my placement was, of course the invaluable experiences, but also having the chance to work within an incredible team of professionals. They have taught me so many things that I will never forget. I am truly so grateful to them all.

So, my advice to you?:
1. Considering a placement year? You might be delaying graduating by a year, but the experiences and skills that you gain outweigh this concern one thousand times over!
2. Looking for a placement? Be patient, do your research and don’t settle for something if it’s not what you want.

A year might seem like a long time, but when you’re on a placement that you love, it flies by and this was definitely the case for me!


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.

Staffs Student Stories – Meet Cassie Kelly, Level 5 BSc (Hons) Forensic Psychology Student

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course?

I always wanted to complete a degree, but when I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do, so went straight into work. Being a support worker, I met a lot of individuals with complex needs and mental health issues. However, I wanted a change in career and have always thought about the possibilities of furthering my education.

I initially completed a course through Staffordshire University called Step Up to Higher Education, which enabled me to apply through UCAS to complete a foundation year at the local college, before going on to Forensic Psychology.

What has been the best part of the course?

My favourite part so far has been one of the modules related to crime which takes place in second year, Psychology of Crime and Criminal Justice, this module is fun and interactive. The module leaders make it super interesting and the module itself brings theory and practice together.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us?

I think believing in myself has been one of my biggest challenges and knowing that it is fine to ask lectures, personal tutors, module leaders and university staff for help as and when you need it. They are there for a reason, to support you and guide you through university. I found that building a good rapport with my personal tutor was extremely important, knowing that I have someone designated there to speak to about problems and how to improve grades.

Top tip: When I first started university, I was not sure how I would stay on top assignments and having other responsibilities. The way I manage this now is by making a list of all my assignments at the beginning of the semester and having a week by week plan, it does not always work but having that plan keeps me focussed on what is coming next.

What are your next steps and plans for the future?

I want to complete my postgraduate in Forensic Psychology and hopefully go on to complete a PhD. My ultimate aim is to be involved in the rehabilitation process of ex-offenders.

Would you recommend our course to others?

I would definitely recommend this course; the course leaders and module leaders are amazing and will support you all the way. They have been so supportive and helpful throughout my journey 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. 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.

Staffs Student Stories – Meet Sophie Jarrett, Level 5 BSc (Hons) Psychology Student

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course?

I am originally from Stoke-on-Trent and locally studied A-Levels at my school’s sixth form college. I decided to come to an open day at the university after visiting a handful of others around the country. When I came to Staffordshire University, I saw that the facilities here were incredible, that the accommodation was much nicer than other universities, and the Psychology Department was lovely. When I realised, I could have the same independence living away from home on campus, but also being a 15-minute drive away from family, it was an obvious first choice. I received an unconditional offer and I’ve never looked back!

What has been the best part of the course? 

In my first year, I enjoyed my ‘People Behaving Badly’ module, which taught reasoning behind abnormal behaviours. It was interesting to understand why people may behave in a different way. In my second year, I have really enjoyed my ‘Contemporary Issues in Psychology’ module, as it allowed me to see how the knowledge from my lectures and seminars can be applied to real-life scenarios as a Psychologist.  

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us? 

A challenge I have had at university is getting used to presentations. I have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, so presenting to others has never come to me naturally. Nevertheless, I started by just presenting to my lecturers and now by the end of my second year, I can engage in class discussions and lead presentations in front of my classes. Initially I also struggled with statistics and working with numbers. I could never get my head around the different statistical tests and what they were for. But my seminar leader, Dr Zachary Parker, really helped break down what each statistical test is used for, which really aided my understanding of psychological statistics.  

What are your next steps and plans for the future? 

I am an aspiring Clinical Psychologist. I would like to work in the National Health Service and therefore my aims after my undergraduate degree is to continue on to postgraduate study in the hope of a place on the highly-competitive Clinical Psychology Professional Doctorate here at Staffordshire University.

Would you recommend our course to others? 

Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour so it can be used in any career. I’d recommend this course to anyone with an interest in psychology, especially if you would like a hands-on experience, as at Staffordshire University, you get practical experiences which you can use for your final year project or research throughout your time at Staffordshire University. 


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 Students – Beth Jaromski (Level 5 BSc Hons Psychology & Counselling)

Beth Jaromski talks about her course, future plans and the support she has received, especially during the current pandemic.

Beth Jaromski

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course?

I applied for psychology and counselling because a counselling career within the NHS is my dream, specifically I want to help people, especially individuals with mental health difficulties. Therefore I knew this was the perfect course to give me an idea of the career I may enter!

I applied for this course through UCAS after completing my BTEC’s in Sixth Form. I feel that I got a place on this course because of my passion for mental health and my previous volunteering experience with a mental health charity.

What has been the best part of the course so far?

I would say my favourite part of the course so far has been the counselling modules. This is because we have been able to put theory into practice. We have done this by engaging in counselling sessions where we practice counselling skills with peers on our course.

I have also been able to develop as a person which I feel is a quite unique aspect of the course, as others courses may not contain modules where personal development is integrated throughout.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome so far and how have you overcome them, while studying with us?

I would say one of my biggest challenges have been trusting other people on my course. Within counselling modules, topics and discussions can get personal and sensitive so you do have to put trust in your fellow students to keep confidentiality. However, I have overcome that now because we are always reassured by our tutors that if confidentiality was broken then there would be repercussions. This really does help you with feeling comfortable sharing your personal experiences.

Some of our student’s

I would also say keeping on top of your workload can sometimes be difficult, as you often get multiple pieces of work from various modules. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead. I often decide which assignments to complete first based on my deadlines while also making sure I give myself time to relax to stop myself from getting too overwhelmed. It’s about getting that work life balance.

What are your next steps and plans for the future?

I want to go on complete my postgraduate in psychotherapeutic counselling, to eventually gain the professional counsellor status. I am particularly interested in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy therefore, I may take a couple of years out then decide to complete a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course after my postgraduate course. I eventually hope to work within the NHS counselling service or mental health wards, where I hope to be working with either young adults or individuals in crisis.

Would you recommend our course to others?

Yes definitely! The course is so interesting, the modules are engaging and the support from the psychology and counselling team is impeccable. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, tutors have reached out, checked on our mental health via emails while also checking on us during live online classes. They have also supported us by giving us extended deadlines and alternative assignments to try and make things as easy as possible for us. I couldn’t thank them enough!


Interested in studying a degree with us? Find out more about our courses:

Staffs Student Stories – Meet Mikki, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology

About you

Mikki
Mikki, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology student

My name is Mikki and I’m a full-time third year Psychology and Criminology student. At first, I only wanted to go to University for the experience and I had no solid career path in mind but knew that I wanted to go down the route of something to do with Criminology! Looking back, my time at Staffordshire University has been some of the best years of my life and I’ve met the most amazing people on my journey – I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me!

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course?

I applied to study Psychology and Criminology at Staffordshire University because I’ve always had an interest in Criminology and had some previous knowledge of Psychology so I liked the idea of combining the two! Staffordshire University not being too far from home was also a bonus as I was super nervous about moving away. I applied for the course via UCAS and was offered an unconditional place a couple of weeks later.

What has been the best part of the course?

For me, the best part of the course has been getting to choose my option modules. There were a variety of modules available for us to choose from and it helped me tailor my experience on the course to be specific to the topics that I was interested in, which then allowed me to gain a wider knowledge on some of my biggest interests.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us

Helpful and understanding staff

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome whilst studying at Staffordshire University was coming to terms with the workload and how to manage my time effectively. Coming to University straight from college was a big jump for me and I didn’t realise just how different the workload was and just how much would be expected of me. It took me a couple of weeks to adjust, but all of the staff were so helpful and understanding which made things a lot easier and much less daunting for me.

What are your next steps and plans for the future?

After studying Psychology and Criminology for the last 3 years, I’ve actually had a huge turning point in my mindset for the future and have decided to progress onto a Masters in Education. Despite my change of career path, the past 3 years studying Psychology and Criminology have prepared me for my plans for the future and has given me confidence that I wasn’t even aware I had.

Would you recommend our course to others?

I would 100% recommend this course to anyone interested in Psychology and Criminology! My 3 years studying at Staffordshire University have been 3 of the best years of my life – I’ve made some of the most amazing friends, met some of the most caring staff in the Psychology department and it has also increased my confidence and knowledge in a field that has held my interest for years. I can’t recommend this course enough!


Interested in studing with us? Find out more about our courses:

The Science Centre

The reality of Freshers’ Week when you are not a teenager!

Sammy, who recently started a Psychology degree at Staffordshire University, blogs on her experiences returning to education:

University students are usually fresh straight out of school or college with very little experience of the world, some might have taken a gap year, and then there’s me! I have done it all backwards, pregnant at 18, divorced by 24, now at the age of almost 37 years old and a single mother of 4 children, I have found myself back in education, attending lectures surrounded by 18 and 19 year olds.

For all these younger students moving into halls during Fresher’s Week (now known as “Welcome Week”) gives them the freedoms they have probably never experienced before. Fresher’s week can often be seen as a week where drinking huge amounts of alcohol every night is expected by your peers. Meeting new people, no parents to boss you around or tell you what to do, how to think, feel or behave. Students can even eat a pot noodle or greasy burger every night of the week if they want just because they can (with no parents around!).

But what is the reality for those of us that are a little older? Anyone over 21 is traditionally labelled a mature student – I am not sure how I feel about being labelled in this way as I don’t want my experience at Staffordshire University to be any different to that of my peers. But it will be different and that is the reality. Finding myself as a student at the mid-point in my life with responsibilities of family does help avoid some issues associated with being a fresher. I can’t do crazy nights out and I would advise my peers to avoid that if they can. I can’t roll into a lecture late because I’ve hit snooze on my alarm too many times. I have to make sure that my boys are fed and watered and tucked up in bed on time, or I’ve got to work to make sure bills are paid and there’s food on the table, and so for me university life will be very different. I have joined some Students’ Union societies such as the Marvel Society and the Pagan Society and through these groups I will meet some other people from other parts of the University. I also want to get involved with the Psychology Film Club hosted by the department and Stoke’s Psychology in the Pub talks (what better place to observe human behaviour).

The things that have stood out most to me so far might sound pretty random. The unisex toilets in Verve are like wow, that’s pretty awesome, I’ve never seen that before but it’s a fabulous idea. I wonder if normal pubs and shopping centres will ever catch on to that!?! I’ve overheard some interesting conversations between other students discussing their nights out! I’ve found myself thinking about their parents, their mothers really, and how much these students will be being missed back at home… So I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to my peers, don’t forget your mum, don’t forget your dad, yes you are having fun, meeting people and exploring this vast new world that has opened up with new possibilities, but it takes nothing to send a text, an email, or just one half hour phone call a week.

Remember them because they really do miss you!

Sammy.

Oct Sammy R Photo