MSc Research Methods in PsychologyRebecca Hart


MSc Research Methods in Psychology graduate Rebecca Hart

Rebecca is a graduate from the BA Psychology and the MSc Research Methods in Psychology at the University of Strathclyde

Tell us a little bit about your background before beginning the course...

Following high school, I knew I wanted to go to university but I was unsure about what I wanted to study. I decided to study Psychology because my school offered it and I really enjoyed the subject, but I still did not know where I wanted the course to take me. I went on to study BA Psychology at the University of Strathclyde. I was attracted to this course because of its wide range of applications and career prospects, but quickly discovered that Psychology was the right career path for me.

What drew you towards undertaking this degree? 

In the summer break before the fourth year of my undergraduate degree began, I received a summer scholarship which allowed me to carry out my own research project. This experience made me passionate about research, which was further solidified by my undergraduate dissertation project. I realised I had a deep interest in studying memory and decided that I wanted to become an academic psychologist in the field of cognition. I knew this career aspiration required me to undertake further study, so I began exploring my options for Masters courses. I decided to continue my studies at Strathclyde because of the great experience I had during my undergraduate degree. Strathclyde Psychology has an incredibly friendly environment, with supportive staff members who helped me every step of the way. I chose the MSc Research Methods in Psychology to prepare me for undertaking PhD study. I was drawn to this course as it combines developing a substantial research project with taught modules which provide you with the training required for future careers in research. Not to mention that a degree in Strathclyde Psychology allows you to work with internationally recognised researchers and have access to specialist research equipment to give you the best start for a career in psychology.

Tell us about the format of the programme. What is a typical working week like?

The course had five areas of training over two semesters. In semester 1, I studied Perspectives on Social Research, Quantitative Research Methods, and Research Design. In semester 2, I studied Qualitative Research methods. Across both semesters, I worked on my dissertation project. A typical working week was therefore very varied, as the course offers broad-based research training and subject-specific training. I really liked this aspect of the course as it meant it was never boring or repetitive and always kept me engaged. One of the highlights for me was the various practical activities and assessment styles. For example, writing essays, delivering presentations, carrying out qualitative interviews, hands-on statistical classes, recording a podcast, and conducting a critical review. This really challenged me and made me feel much more confident in my abilities to be a competent researcher. I also particularly enjoyed that certain assessments were based on your research interest (e.g., delivering presentations about your dissertation and writing a critical review about your research area). This helped me to delve deeper into my research interests and really developed my understanding. This even resulted in me identifying that a critical review of the literature was actually a literature gap in my research area, and I worked to develop this piece of coursework into a manuscript, which is currently under review for an academic journal.

Tell us a little bit about your dissertation topic...

My dissertation project focussed on developing a strategy training intervention with the aim of boosting young and older adults’ visual working memory. Short-term memory (i.e., working memory) has a limited capacity and this declines with age, but performance on working memory tasks can be enhanced by using efficient strategies. Some individuals, particularly older adults, use a less efficient strategic approach when carrying out working memory tasks. However, strategy training has the potential to boost older adults’ working memory and may help to decrease the age-related gap in performance. I had to carry out an online project for both my summer scholarship and undergraduate dissertation research due to COVID-19 restrictions, so this Masters project was particularly rewarding. Carrying out data collection in the lab with older adults really put the research into perspective and solidified my interest in the importance of healthy cognitive ageing. I feel so much more confident as a researcher after this experience.

What is the academic support like at Strathclyde?

I only have positive things to say about my academic support at Strathclyde. The staff in Strathclyde Psychology are extremely helpful and supportive, and genuinely want to see you succeed. I have always felt comfortable asking questions or asking for support, which has been crucial in my development as a researcher. The support I have received, particularly from my amazing supervisor Louise Nicholls, has made my time at university so enjoyable. I have also gotten so many great opportunities during my time at Strathclyde which would not have been possible without the outstanding academic support. As a whole, all of the staff are all really fantastic.

Where do you work now? How has completing this degree helped towards your current role?

I am currently a PhD student at Strathclyde. After my undergraduate and Masters finished, I still didn’t want to leave. So here I am for another three years! Completing the MSc Research Methods in Psychology degree has prepared me extremely well for PhD study, and thanks to this degree I finally feel able and confident in my abilities, which does not come naturally to me. I feel very capable to read and understand research and conduct and publish research of my own. Furthermore, a major skill required to be a successful PhD student is time-management, and the MSc really forced me to develop my time-management abilities, something I struggled with previously. Despite the high levels of organisation and time-management required from the MSc, I particularly appreciated the time within the course that was devoted to the preparation of applications. This allowed me time to write strong PhD applications and ultimately led to me to securing the funding which has gotten me to the position that I am in now.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for this course?

If you are passionate about pursuing a career in psychology, I would say to absolutely go for it! I feel like there may be people like me that do not feel overly confident with statistics that may be put off applying for this course. But I would say to not underestimate your abilities. I was always apprehensive about quantitative statistics, but I wanted to challenge myself, and that ended up being the module I performed best in during the MSc… The hands-on, workshop-style of the statistics classes as well as the support from staff allowed me to truly understand statistics for the first time. This has ultimately put me in the position that I can now be a confident PhD researcher. Overall, if you are looking for a postgraduate course that will equip you with the necessary training for a future career in Psychology or further doctoral training, I really recommend this course.