Charlotte's MA Social Research Blog
I took a longer road into postgraduate research after first completing an undergraduate degree in History at the University of Sheffield over 13 years ago! Since then, I qualified as a social worker and I have spent ten years at Manchester City Council on frontline child protection teams. In 2021 I applied for, and was successful, in securing a pre doctoral fellowship from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). The aim of the pre doctoral scheme is to support workers embedded in local authorities to become competitive applicants for fully funded PhD study.
I chose to complete my fellowship in partnership with The University of Sheffield after speaking to Dr Michaela Rogers at the Department of Sociological Studies. Dr Rogers was so enthusiastic and supportive - I would not have been able to complete the pre doctoral application without her help. As part of the fellowship, Dr Rogers suggested that I complete some training with the Sheffield Methods Institute. The strength of my training and development plan and expertise of the SMI helped to secure the fellowship.
Despite complicated part-time working and funding arrangements, the SMI academic and support staff were fantastic
MA Social Research student
I did have some anxieties about managing part time arrangements, however staff at SMI are familiar with the needs of part time students and have encouraged conversations and solutions about any challenges this brings. After starting a PG Certificate I decided to upgrade to the full MA Social Research on a part time basis as I quickly realised that there would be huge benefits to completing the whole programme in preparation for PhD research. Again, I was fully supported (and encouraged!) to change my programme and re-work my academic timetable.
I also continue to work part time in child protection at Manchester City Council. I have found I am able to apply research methods learning to my work setting - I am already better at analysing performance data and asking better questions! I have also set up a social work research group for staff and we are meeting monthly after work to discuss our research interests and getting more research into practice.
In terms of the MA Social Research programme itself, I have learned so much and some of the ideas I have been introduced to through the course have helped me to start shaping my PhD proposal. I was initially concerned about returning to study after being in the workplace for ten years, however there is lots of study skills support available and all of the tutors on the course encourage students to use consultation and feedback hours to talk about their research interests and module assessments. One of the really positive aspects is that the course is multidisciplinary and students come from a mixture of different academic disciplines. Some students have recently completed undergraduate degrees and others, like me, bring practitioner experience.
The course has also increased my confidence to submit abstracts to social work and social research conferences and I will be giving my first conference presentations in the next couple of months. I am also preparing my PhD funding application which will be submitted to the NIHR this autumn.
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