For May 2019’s MedRadJClub chat we reached out to radiographer researchers, clinician scientists, academics and clinical academics and asked them – what do you wish you’d known when you started out? They responded to the hashtag #WishIdKnown to give support and advice to beginner researchers. People tweeted before, during and after the monthly one hour chat and the answers were interesting, informative and funny! We’ve summarised the best of them below.
First steps: What advice do you have about finding an idea, refining your question, picking a research approach and searching the literature?
Tips and hints for the initial stages of research included:
- First and foremost – have passion. Pick something you are interested in as you’ll be doing it for a while.
- Radiographers have unique perspectives and skills that can be capitalized on to improve patient experience through research so get going!
- Look for a problem or an issue that needs solving or improving (or something that “niggles” you) – you may get better buy in/support if it will improve local practice.
- Keep the question manageable and you’re more likely to get it done. Or break it down into a series of small problems to tackle.
- If it fits your type of research, use a tool like PICO to help scale down a research question. The FINER framework can be used for qualitative research.
- If you want to research and can’t think of a problem – ask around, there might be local opportunities to get involved on a team.
- Your professional body may have research priorities or a research strategy where you can find ideas (and you are more likely to be successful if they offer grants) – e.g. the College of Radiographers Research Priorities for the Radiographic profession.
- Talk about your question with peers, local experts or friends– or use social media – the more input you get at the beginning the better your project will be.
- Qualitative research is a thing! You can get involved in this patient-centred type of research as a radiographer, even early on in your career.
- Use a good reference management system and use it early! (E.g. Ref Works, End Note, Mendeley, Zotero). You can also stash papers online and make notes on ideas for the future.
- It can take a while to refine your question but it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
- The first stages of a research study can sometimes feel chaotic and unsure and that’s OK – it’s a question of understanding and narrowing down your topic and it will happen!
Getting going: What advice do you have about finding your support people, navigating research in academic or clinical departments, applying for ethics – the stage of beginning to tackle your project?
- Give it time, don’t feel you need to rush this part as you are building support networks.
- Universities (and some research hospitals) have research offices that offer help and like-minded people to talk to.
- You don’t have to know it all, seek out partnerships to prop up your weaknesses and offer help to support others based on your strengths.
- Reach out, people genuinely want to help, and mentors can make starting a project much less painful. You don’t have to go it alone.
- Your mentor may not be in your department, maybe a nurse researcher, doctor, medical physicist etc. can offer help and advice.
- If you’re unfamiliar with applying for ethics, call your local IRB (Institutional Research Board) as they are often really keen to help and many offer tutorials. Getting help at the beginning can save you hours later.
- Make friends with your local medical librarian who can help with literature searches.
- If you’re working with a team – have the “authorship chat” early. You may not be thinking of publishing at the beginning but sort out who will be first and second author now as it can cause headaches and heartaches if you disagree when you’re submitting a paper to a journal. Look at guidelines like these.
- Some people like to use a team charter to set out expectations, again, this can save some difficult conversations if someone isn’t pulling their weight.
- If you’re doing research within your department- talk about it to encourage people see the value (and they may offer to help!) Chat over coffee, put up posters, do an in-service etc.
- If you’re doing quantitative work and require statistics assistance find out what’s available through your local research department (e.g. they may have a statistician whom you can ask for advice BEFORE you start or gain access to software like SPSS).
Making a difference: What advice do you have about disseminating your research – going to conferences, developing posters, writing papers or policies – the stage of influencing practice (local and beyond)?
Collective wisdom included the following:
- Learn to fully embrace feedback – even to seek it out! The best advice can come from people who proofread your writing, and the reviewers when you finally send it off to a journal.
- If you’re looking to publish research done as part of your BSc or MSc – don’t wait too long! It’s easy to leave it and much harder to get back in the swing of writing after a few months (or years!)
- Try out a presentation or a poster at a small local meeting first, or even offer to do your departmental rounds. Then work your way up to bigger conferences.
- A poster is like a movie trailer or a preview of the paper to come!
- Imposter syndrome is real – so much good research doesn’t get shared because of this. You are the expert in your research area so own it and disseminate your valuable work!
- For your talk – practice, practice, practice and make sure the timing is appropriate. Don’t use too many slides or cram too much text on each one. Don’t panic if you forget a bit – your audience won’t know!
- Be intentional – who do you want to reach? How can you change practice? Your association journal or further afield?
- If you’re applying for a conference – your professional association may have travel funding. Some conferences also offer bursaries.
- If you’re writing for a journal – check the author guidelines early and often. If you get stuck, email the managing editor – they are very friendly!
- Even the most polished presenter is nervous and took hours on their slides! The best papers take multiple revisions. Don’t think you’re the only one!
Shared resources before and during the chat included these free clinical research collections from the Canadian Journal of Medical Imaging Radiation Sciences and Australia’s Journal of Medical Radiation Sciences. Also the Council for Allied Health Professions Research (CAPHR) have some useful leaflets about developing scientific posters, getting published, getting your abstract accepted and more!
Thanks to all the participants whose tweets have been paraphrased here. You can review the full chat on Wakelet.