How do I get involved in research?

I would like to do some research but how do I get research experience?

Why are you thinking about research

There are essentially three reasons why you may be thinking about research:

  1. You want to see if you like doing research.
  2. You have a passion for doing research and see this as your future career.
  3. (Third and very much last) You want/need something for your CV. This is not a good reason for doing research and unlikely to lead to a productive or enjoyable experience. 

The following is intended to point you in the right direction.  

Ultimately you need to ally yourself with an established research group (meet local active researchers), be imaginative and original, roll up your sleeves and get going. 

An example of a 4-5 year research pathway would be:

  1. identify a research topic
  2. do the systematic review
  3. identify where research is required
  4. obtain pilot data/feasibility study
  5. obtain funding and undertake the research (vi) write up and publish your findings. 

What stage are you at in your career?

  1. Medical student: Think of doing an intercalated degree and/or look for a summer studentship to gain experience and hopefully a publication. Apply for an academic FY post. Look to get the “3Ps” on your CV, ie projects, presentations and publications.
  2. Foundation year doctor or ST1-3 trainee: Rotas and passing clinical exams curtail academic activity, even if you have an academic post. Go for dry projects, eg systematic reviews, data linkage studies and case histories.  
    Look to get the “3Ps” on your CV. Think of applying for a SCREDS post (out-of-programme research training leading to a PhD, see useful links) which will extend your previous work and be the obvious next step in your academic journey.  Complete audit projects, attend journal clubs and understand how research is used for evidence based medicine.
  3. ST4-8 trainee: It is not too late to get an academic CV with the “3Ps”. Go for dry projects, eg systematic reviews and case histories. Consider getting Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training and help recruiting and running clinical trials (see useful links). Creating a bespoke SCREDs post is going to be a challenge but keep your eye out for someone who has funds for a clinical PhD post. Complete audit projects, attend journal clubs and understand how research is used for evidence based medicine
  4. Consultant or non-consultant career grade doctor: Some of us realise very late in our career that we have academic ambitions but fitting research into consultant job plans is not straightforward. Ally yourself with an established research team, get GCP training and become involved in clinical trials. Apply for an NRS clinical research fellowship (see useful links).