Framework for Ensuring Consistency in Research Work

Applies to assignments started after 01/09/2018

Background and aims

The numbers of trainees and research staff working on the DClinPsy Programme have highlighted the need to produce a consistency framework for the assessment and management of the research component of the course. The aim of such a framework is to:

  • Ensure that all research staff have consistent guidelines on the extent and type of input they should provide for every item of assessed work
  • Ensure that each trainee is aware of the extent and type of help which they can expect with each item of assessed work
  • Make explicit the programme's expectations in terms of the trainees' development in research skills.
It should also be noted that where trainees have been offered a development agreement either because of a previous assignment fail or as part of the support agreed for a specific learning need, then it is likely that the development agreement will offer additional support to that outlined here. The programme also supports the importance of trainees recognising their own developmental needs, raising them and seeking ways to meet those needs.

Level and type of input for each piece of assessed work

This specification is for trainees following the conventional three year training pathway. For trainees on different pathways, then the same support per academic assignment is available but focused on the specific assignment as opposed to its position in the training year.

Thesis Preparation Assignment

The trainee can expect:

  • Advice on the appropriateness of the subject area under consideration for the review and research proposal with guidance on matching to supervisors' expertise
  • Guidance on seeking appropriate literature for the review section and putting together the justification for the research.
  • Advice will include: general guidance on the content, format and clarity of argument. Major issues will be highlighted for attention.
  • Advice on the general suitability of the proposed research project and its methodology before completion of the proposal section.
  • Discussion of research governance, local NHS R&D procedures and other ethical considerations.
  • Advice on a power calculation, if applicable, although the trainee will be expected to have attempted this previously.
  • Advice on the suitability of the trainee's proposed analysis.

The thesis

Given that the thesis comprises several sections, these will be considered in turn. It should also be noted that where research staff are supervisors on projects which are not part of their own core research areas, trainees cannot expect more detailed feedback on specific areas or aspects of the relevant literature.

  • Ethics proposal: comments will be made on one completed proposal and research protocol per ethics committee. If the initial proposals need multiple corrections then these can be checked. Arrangements for submission must be managed by the trainee and this includes finding out relevant ethics committee dates and the logistic arrangements (e.g., when copies need to be submitted by). The trainee should not use their academic supervisor as a proof reader. All NHS ethics applications need to be signed off by the Pro VC for Research who acts as the university's representative regarding research governance issues.
  • Literature review: a draft of the structure of the literature review (1-2 sides of A4) can be submitted during the second year. This can include the type and scope of review being considered. The academic supervisor will comment on this structure. At the same time as the draft structure, the trainee should also submit the name of the target journal (with notes for contributors) for the literature review and the suitability of this will be assessed. The reader will provide detailed comments on one full draft of the literature review, including title page, abstract, literature review, tables and references. Although it is not the reader's responsibility to advise on the comprehensiveness of the material covered or the accuracy of the trainee's understanding of that material, should the reader uncover obvious errors or omissions, these can be indicated. Minor errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar can be highlighted and corrections made. If the work contains too many errors for the reader to correct, this will be brought to the attention of the trainee. A second draft may be considered, although it is not the reader's responsibility to make sure that the advised corrections have been made. Comments at this stage are at a more general level on any outstanding issues. At this stage detailed corrections of spelling etc. will not be made although the reader might want to indicate should they feel this is still an outstanding issue. It is not the reader's responsibility to correct the trainee's work to make it conform to the appropriate journal style.
  • Thesis research project: the trainee will be given guidance from both supervisors in relation to the completion of the thesis proposal form which should be formally submitted in the first half of the first year. The proposal must be complete and, while not being definitive, must provide an indication that serious consideration has been given to every aspect of the study. Research staff will not complete missing sections, e.g., on the proposed data analysis, although advice will be given if aspects of the method are not considered appropriate (see TPA). Feedback will be given on the proposal which will be communicated to the trainee. By January of the third year, the trainee will have submitted the name of the target journal for the research paper and the research team will advise on the appropriateness of this. The final choice of journal is the trainee's responsibility.
  • For trainees carrying out a quantitative project, the output of the analysis can be checked. For trainees carrying out a qualitative project, then it is reasonable to expect one/both of the research supervisors to look at a selected number of transcripts with the trainee to discuss coding etc.
  • The research team will provide comments on the introduction and method at a time negotiated in advance with the research team member. It is reasonable to expect detailed comments at this stage on general structural and conceptual issues. Minor errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar can be highlighted and corrections made. If the work contains too many errors for the reader to correct, this will be brought to the attention of the trainee. However, trainees should not assume that the absence of corrections indicates a flawless piece of work.
  • The research team will also provide comments on the results and discussion section separately, if submitted at an agreed time. Again, given the more provisional nature of this draft, comments are likely to be of a more 'broad-brush' nature.
  • A complete and final draft of the research paper should be submitted at a time negotiated in advance. The research team will provide comments on the clarity of all sections and the appendices. However, references will not be edited, checked for completeness or assessed on whether they conform to the specific journal's house style. Minor errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar can be highlighted and corrections made. If the work contains too many errors for the reader to correct, this will be brought to the attention of the trainee. However, trainees should not assume that the absence of corrections indicates a flawless piece of work. Ultimately it is the trainee's decision as to what advice they decide to take on board.
  • Critical appraisal section: If the first draft of this is submitted at a time negotiated with the research team member, comments will be made on its content, structure and clarity. Although it is not the responsibility of the reader to consider all possible methodological issues in the research, should these occur to the reader, these can be indicated. Minor errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar can be highlighted and corrections made. If the work contains too many errors for the reader to correct, this will be brought to the attention of the trainee. However, trainees should not assume that the absence of corrections indicates a flawless piece of work. Ultimately it is the trainee's decision as to what advice they decide to take on board.
In order to provide some consistency to trainees in the level of feedback from research staff, the following criteria have also been agreed:
  • If trainees submit an unfinished piece of work for a draft deadline this may be considered to be a full draft.
  • If work is submitted on the agreed date, it will be returned within one to two working weeks, unless alternatives arrangements are agreed. The standard of one to two week turnaround has been agreed by all the research team. Trainees are often asked to agree a meeting date at which feedback can be discussed.
  • Work submitted outside agreed dates will be returned within a maximum of one month. Trainees are asked to note that during the three months prior to thesis submission, research staff are extremely busy and will have to pencil work in their diaries (often drafts from other trainees) to make sure that all drafts are read. If a trainee misses his or her agreed deadline then the time set aside to read the draft will have gone. The research team staff will then have to find another time to read the draft; at busy times this can be very difficult.
  • Research staff will try to provide as comprehensive feedback as possible, but within the guidelines outlined above. Trainees are responsible for the quality of all submitted work. It is up to trainees to decide whether or not to accept their supervisors' advice and, if they do, they must be able to defend and justify all decisions taken in relation to their work.