A week in the life of a postgraduate research psychology student
PhD Health Psychology student, Laura Carter, shares a typical week for her as a postgraduate student at Surrey.
The following timetable is a personal example - for the latest course information, visit the PhD Health Psychology course page.
8:30am - Walk in to campus with fellow PGR students
9 to 10:30am - Read and answer emails and figure out a plan for the day
10:30am to 12:30pm - Read! Usually try to figure out a methodological problem, so back to the literature to find a solution. Take notes and a lot of thinking!
12:30 to 1:30pm - Lunch Club with fellow first and second year PGR psychology people. Good opportunity to brainstorm any problems, but usually catch up on everyone’s weekends.
1:30 to 4:30pm - Back to problem solving – more reading, more thinking! I may take this opportunity to pick the brains of my office mates.
9 to 10am - Prep for supervision! Try to write some notes to make sure I ask all the questions I need to.
10 to 11:30am - I usually have fortnightly supervision sessions where I will discuss what I have been doing the previous fortnight, any problems I have managed to solve and next steps for the following fortnight!
11:30am to 12:30pm - Consolidate notes and thoughts from supervision. If there are any smaller tasks that arose in supervision I try and get these done while it’s still fresh in my mind.
12:45 to 1:30pm - The Lunch Club
1:30 to 3pm - I often need to go back to the literature to consolidate my thinking. This could be reading up on various methodologies or contentions in the literature.
3 to 4:30pm - I may need to prep for an ethics application, so this involves acquiring all the necessary forms and admin for this. If not, I may attend a departmental seminar with a guest lecturer.
11 to 12pm - Attend Researcher Café, run by the Doctoral College, for an informal chat with fellow PGRs from across all the faculties. It's good to share experiences and advice, as well as grab a free hot drink!
12:30 to 1:15pm - The Lunch Club, as always!
1:30 to 3:30pm - I may use my afternoon to prep for any teaching I am signed up to do, so this could be reading the prep for any Graduate Teaching Assistant work I need to do or writing or practising my lecture.
7pm - I try to do social things with PGRs outside of work so I may go to Bright Club, an academic stand up night, or try and do a Pub Quiz!
9am to 12:30pm - I may spend my morning completing an ethics form, gathering my literature, finalising some methods for one of my studies or creating some of the methods, for example creating my online questionnaire.
1:30 to 2:30pm - Proofread an ethics application or reread some background notes. Probably spend time thinking about how to solve my latest methodological issue!
2:30 to 3:30pm - As a Trainee Health Psychologist, I attend Service User Meetings about every 4-6 weeks so this is a good opportunity to interact with people who engage with health services as well as to chat with the fellow Trainees.
3:30 to 5pm - Pilot a fellow PGRs study or take part in other's research. It's good to remember what it’s like to be a participant!
6 to 7pm – I get involved with the Marketing team, so I may be involved in a webinar or a Facebook live event talking about my experience as a PGR.
9am to 12:30pm - More reading and thinking probably! I might tweak an ethics application following feedback from my supervisor or read a recently published paper on my field.
12:30 to 1:30pm - Lunch Club! We also have a baking rota with the neighbouring office, so we may have a little bit of homemade cake!
1:30 to 2:00pm - I like to read the BBC Health News as it keeps me up to date on what is going on in healthcare. I can also try and apply my knowledge of health psychology to some of the topics!
2:00 to 4:30pm - I will try and set myself a to-do list for the next week based on what I have done this week. I’ll print a few relevant papers to read next week. I’ll do some scribbling and mind maps in my notepad to incorporate any interesting ideas that have arose over the past week!
My typical week varies a lot! I may be doing some teaching (I have and will be lecturing again on the MSc Health Psychology course and will be working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant on the BSc Psychology course soon!). I need to prep for this teaching so I may use some of my week for that.
I also recently did a conference presentation so a good proportion of the week prior to this involved preparing the presentation and practising it to my office mates.
No week is the same for me, some are busier than others but I make a point of being in the office nearly every day and treat it like my full-time job. Not only does this help me to stay disciplined and focused, but also helps me consolidate my cohort and build a support network of fellow PGRs.
I also book in for relevant courses run by the Doctoral College to help me develop my skills as a researcher. The next few I have signed up for are about the Confirmation process!
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