I co-authored a research paper in my final year of university

Charlie Heywood-Heath, SMI Student
Charlie Heywood-Heath
Current student
BA Applied Social Sciences
Charlie Heywood-Heath is a final year BA Applied Social Sciences student.
Charlie Heywood-Heath, SMI Student

I've been so lucky to have the encouragement and support of the wider team who have given me the chance to actually publish research before I've even finished my degree.

Charlie Heywood-Heath

BA Applied Social Sciences

What did you study at college/sixth form?

I studied A-Level Theology, Sociology and English Literature, and AS Drama. 

What made you choose to study the BA Applied Social Science degree?

So my decision to study the BA Applied Social Sciences degree arose from doing a social science course at another university. I realised after my first year that I really wanted something more applied that gave me research experience and offered a year in industry. The BA course offered at Sheffield was like nothing else I’d seen. It was flexible to my interests, a smaller cohort and allowed us to practice what we were taught. 

Has there been any module in particular that you've enjoyed?

Where do I start? There’s been so many modules I’ve enjoyed. One of my favourites was the Doing Qualitative Research module in my second year. This was my first proper experience carrying out research into something I cared about. My group and I worked with LGBT+ students to see what support the university could provide. I loved getting to hear from students about their experiences and using this research to make recommendations. It showed me the genuine, transformative impact research can have. 

What has your time been like at the Sheffield Methods Institute?

My time has been amazing. We are so lucky at the SMI with the brilliant academic and support staff. In non-Covid times, I really enjoyed getting to know the staff and get their advice. Since it’s a really small department, they really get to know you and support your journey. 

Can you tell us about your year-in-industry experience? 

My year-in-industry was based within the Welsh Government's Social Research Division. By chance, I was based within housing and environmental policy primarily, which is also closely related to my specialist subject in urban studies and planning. My role mainly involved supporting government evaluations. This included evaluating policies, appraising possible intervention options, working with policy colleagues to identify research needs and what methods we should use. It gave me so much experience in practicing my methods training. Since my placement was 2019/20 it also meant that in March I moved on to supporting Covid-19 analysis. This was quite a weird change and happened pretty much over night but it gave me some great work experience. My role was to support evidence gathering, so I was in charge of collecting primary and secondary data, appraising its quality, translating it for dissemination and then working with policy officers to inform any evidence requests. Despite being a stressful time, it allowed me to contribute to real-life decisions that affected everyone in Wales. I got to contribute to policy briefs, lockdown reviews and share my findings with other colleagues during regular meetings. Overall, it was a highlight of my degree and allowed me to think about research in ways I'd never considered. 

What advice would you have for anyone thinking about doing a work placement?

Go for it! It will provide you with so many skills and experiences. The graduate market is so competitive these days and it can really position you strongly to have a year experience and to show you’ve already been considering job prospects.  You might think you’re not ready or it's too soon in your degree but the SMI has offered so much advanced training, employers will be crying out for your skills! I didn’t realise how much more ahead we were until my placement year. 

You’ve recently co-authored your first research paper, congratulations! Can you share how this happened?

So in between my second year and commencing my year-in-industry, I spent a couple of months as a research assistant as part of my SURE project. I had a really supportive team within the Crick Centre with Dr Nikki Soo and Dr Alexandra Anderson (who is now in the SMI!). Once the research had finished in July, we decided that there were some really original and important findings. Our research was concerned with why political actors valued public opinion and how this actually informed their work. Given this was at the height of Brexit, we thought it was a really pertinent question. As our research distinguished between different types of political actors, we felt that this was something that could be shared further since previous research had not been as nuanced. After nearly two years of long work, drafting an article, re-drafting and dealing with lots of journal reviews, we finally got it published in Politics. It's been an amazing learning curve and I've been so lucky to have the encouragement and support of the wider team who have given me the chance to actually publish research before I've even finished my degree!

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities with the SMI or the university?

I am. I’ve always written for Forge Press, the university newspaper. I’ve always been interested in the theatre so I’ve mainly spent my time doing theatre reviews which has meant I get to see lots of shows (for free!) and sit in the press box. It’s really important to take advantage of all the opportunities at university.

Do you have any plans for after graduation?

I do! I've been really lucky to be offered a job as a research consultant for a global infrastructure and development company in Manchester, providing clients with social and economic analysis for different projects and evaluations. I'm really excited as it brings together all my urban studies and planning experience with my research training. Since they cover an array of projects from housing and regeneration to water and energy systems, I think it'll really widen my research repertoire. 

What would you say to anyone thinking about studying with the Sheffield Methods Institute?

If you have the chance to study at the SMI, you will soon realise how privileged you are to be in such a close-knit and caring department. They really get to know each student and help you progress throughout your degree. If you're unsure about what you want to do, this is a department which will provide you with the flexibility and support to enjoy that journey to discovery rather than stressing about it and confining yourself to something before you've even finished college/sixth form. I've thoroughly enjoyed my last four years here and feel quite sad for it to end. Since the department is always developing and offering new skills and training within the modules, you will always be at the cutting-edge of social research!

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