Service related project (SRP) guidance (2016 cohort onwards)

It is a requirement for each trainee to submit one SRP for examination during their training. Although the planning for this SRP will start in your first year, it will not have to be submitted until part way through your second year (or later if you are on a bespoke training path). This project is designed to provide you with experience of the following which are also required elements of the assessment:

  • choosing (together with your field and research supervisors) an appropriate project
  • developing this project in terms of its methodology, in collaboration with relevant others
  • considering the ethical issues for the project and applying for ethical approval, from either an NHS ethics committee, or the Faculty ethics committee when necessary
  • following all appropriate R&D procedures where applicable
  • collecting your own data or extracting relevant data from datasets collected by others
  • analysing your own data (with appropriate advice)
  • writing up your project in not more than 6,000 words
  • considering appropriate dissemination routes
In choosing your SRP, you must make sure that it is an example of service-related research within a clinical context. While it does not necessarily have to be explicitly psychological in focus (e.g., it could include an analysis of referral patterns to a clinical psychology department), it has to address issues of relevance to the practice of clinical psychology, and ideally should be of interest to local practitioners. If it is not particularly service-based (e.g., research around clinical psychology training) it has to have relevance to the practice of clinical psychology. In terms of its scope, it should be methodologically sound, ethically responsible and appropriately analysed. Within the SRP there is an expectation of a strategy for the dissemination of your research findings. This will likely involve identifying a journal to publish your results or writing a report for the service that commissioned the research. The dissemination strategy should be realistic (do not aim for publication in a very high impact factor journal) and take account of the various audiences (e.g., professionals, service users/experts by experience, carers, patient organisations) who might be interested in the research.

Examples of suitable projects could be:

  • evaluation of a therapeutic intervention using appropriate quantitative or qualitative methodology
  • evaluation of the operation of a new aspect of a service (e.g., a new support group or a client assessment strategy)
  • staff's experiences of a particular aspect of a service
Alternatively the SRP could be used to inform the development of the thesis research project by incorporating pilot work of a suitably advanced nature. The SRP does not have to be directly linked to any placements but, since it is service-related, it will need to be linked to a service of some kind (even one offered at a national level). Alternatively it may be linked to one of your placements (or to none of your placements). It could even be linked to training course developments as this impacts on the practice of clinical psychology more widely. Previous SRP titles can be seen here.

There are no specific requirements for the methods to be used in SRPs, although it is expected that SRPs will, for example, not just rely on descriptive statistics as the sole form of analysis. It must involve the consideration of all relevant ethical issues and could also involve an independent submission to an ethics committee (NHS- or university-based). It is also expected that, if using qualitative designs and collecting new data, you will transcribe the data yourself. The programme does not usually pay for transcription or allow others to transcribe your data for you.

SRP supervision

Trainees are encouraged to develop their networks with clinical psychologists practising in the region and, ideally, approach a potential SRP supervisor. In some cases, however, the clinical (or 'field') supervisor for the SRP may be a member of the programme staff and, in some cases, a placement supervisor may take up the role of SRP supervisor. In addition to this 'field' supervision, all trainees will be allocated a research supervisor (from the Programme's Research Team). You will be given a number of suggested ideas from local clinicians and programme staff at the SRP introduction days (in September/October of the first year) and you are encouraged to contact local clinicians to discuss these further and find out whether they would be willing to act as your field supervisor. Your project also needs to gain the agreement in principle from one of the research team staff to supervise it.

Building a good supervisory relationship involves a process of negotiation, learning about each other's strengths and areas of expertise, and ascertaining what each party can bring to the SRP process. Some trainees may already be strong in their chosen topic area or research method, and need little guidance on this. Some trainees may specifically seek a supervisor because of their expertise or their access to prospective research participants. There is no single, fixed set of things that supervisors will need to offer. Instead, deciding what is needed from supervision will involve a process of discussion between the trainee and the two supervisors.

The following list gives an idea of the kinds of things a field supervisor may be able to offer. Not all of these attributes will necessarily be needed; the needs will depend on the trainee and on the nature of the particular SRP. It is perfectly possible for someone to take up the role of field supervisor without being able to offer all of these.

  • support in choosing an appropriate topic
  • identifying how it fits with a particular service or clinical question
  • support in developing the necessary networks
  • support in identifying the relevant ethics committee and R&D personnel
  • support in developing the project, including thinking through issues of feasibility
  • support in making contact with prospective research participants
  • feedback on the written proposal
  • feedback on the ethics application
  • feedback on up to two drafts of the SRP report

When you arrive on the programme you will be allocated a temporary research tutor who will offer you advice and support on choosing an appropriate topic in the first few weeks. Once this has been decided upon you will be allocated a research supervisor, who is usually a member of the research team and who will also become your research tutor for the duration of your SRP. Once your project has been approved (see process below) you will then complete a contract with both your supervisors so that everyone is clear about their role. You can expect the following support from your research supervisor:

  • advice on the general suitability of the proposed research project
  • support in developing this project in terms of its methodology
  • advice on a power calculation, if applicable, although you will be expected to have attempted this previously
  • support in applying for ethical approval and following R&D procedures where necessary
  • advice on data analysis
  • detailed feedback on up to two drafts of the SRP report (provided submitted to agreed deadlines)

The kind of draft feedback that can be expected from supervisors will include: general advice on the content, format and clarity of the draft; comments aimed at the structural elements of the work. It is not the draft reader's responsibility to: advise on the comprehensiveness of the material covered or the accuracy of your understanding of that material; correct work to make it conform to APA style. Please consult the consistency framework for further guidance on how your supervisors will contribute to the SRP.

The proposal process

To begin the process of working up your SRP you will need to discuss your ideas with your temporary research tutor. By the end of October (precise dates will be given in your SRP teaching) you will need to submit an SRP topic form. This outlines briefly the general area you intend to research (e.g., research in learning disabilities or physical health) and the methodology (quantitative or qualitative) that you intend to employ as well as the likely field supervisor. This form will be used to allocate you a research supervisor.

You will then work with your supervisors (field supervisor and research supervisor) to develop a formal SRP proposal using the SRP proposal form. This will be submitted towards the end of November (dates to be given in SRP teaching) and will be reviewed by members of the research team, including the Research Director. The aim of this process is to provide a rigorous examination of the relevance, design and feasibility of the proposal.

You and your supervisors will then receive feedback on this proposal which you need to record formally on the feedback form, along with how you intend to address any concerns. Once any concerns have been addressed satisfactorily and we have a final version of your feedback form, you will receive notification (by email) that your SRP title has been approved by the Exam Board.

The SRP co-ordinator will give guidance on appropriate procedures and a timeline to follow.

What makes a good SRP?

It is difficult to provide clear rules about what makes a good SRP; indeed, part of the purpose of doing one is for you to be able to judge for yourselves what is an acceptable project. However we think the following list will be useful for all service-related research: Projects that have gone well have...

  1. Started early to allow for things to go wrong
  2. Carefully investigated the feasibility of the project
  3. Gone through any of the relevant NHS R&D and ethical clearance procedures in good time
  4. Addressed a clear research question
  5. Used an appropriate research design and method to address the question
  6. Used an appropriate research design and method for the resources you have
  7. Addressed an issue of importance to a local service
  8. Had the active support of key personnel within the service
  9. Allowed plenty of time for data collection, analysis and writing up
  10. Conformed to the American Psychological Association (APA) formatting guidelines
  11. Been sensitive to the data actually collected in the written report
  12. Clearly written why the project was done, how it was done, what it found, and what the implications are

Projects that run into difficulties have...

  1. Started late
  2. Relied on others' reports of feasibility, rather than trainees' checking for themselves
  3. Not checked early enough on local R&D and/or ethical approval procedures
  4. Been unclear in their aims
  5. Been over-ambitious or unrealistic about what can be achieved
  6. Been conducted in the face of indifference or outright opposition from key personnel
  7. Have addressed an issue seen as irrelevant by the local service
  8. Been extremely rushed in terms of data collection, analysis and writing up
  9. Used inappropriate statistics/analysis
  10. Been sloppy in presentation
  11. Been written in a way that is vague, unfocused, careless, or effortful to understand
  12. Did not have a clear dissemination strategy (e.g. either in terms of publishing the results or formally feeding back the results to the service)

Available guidance and ethical procedures

For detailed guidance on the research process, please consult the handouts and materials suggested in the research teaching. You can also access information on how to write a research protocol in the online handbook. Further guidance on storage of data is given here.

Trainees are encouraged to check the relevant websites to locate the appropriate NHS ethics committee where relevant, rather than emailing supervisors for this information. It is part of your research competencies to develop an understanding of how to navigate such procedures. See the HRA website and IRAS website (suitable for NHS and other public agency approval)

R&D information can be found via the NHS R&D Forum.

Be sure to contact R&D (if appropriate) as well as the Ethics committee administrator so that you fully understand how to work through these processes in a timely way.

If your project involves research participants who are not recruited via the NHS, you will probably be applying to the Faculty Ethics Committee. However, precise procedures can vary from project to project - more details will be given in your ethics teaching and if in doubt consult your supervisor.

Expenses for research

Details about research resources including information about research expenses can be found in the online handbook.

You need to ascertain as early as possible whether your project is likely to incur any additional expenses above those covered in the research expenses documentation as this will need to be discussed with your research supervisor and field supervisor and approved by the Research Director. An example of such expense would be the use of interpreters or room bookings, and you need to discuss as early as possible with your tutor and supervisors whether your project may warrant the inclusion of participants who would need this service to take part in your research.

Timeline

Individual projects will vary. The following is intended only as a general guide:

Date Stage
Oct Define your SRP topic and identify a likely field supervisor
Nov Work on literature review, submit initial proposal
Dec / Jan Address any concerns from feedback and submit feedback form. Receive approval email from Exam Board
Jan / Feb / Mar Arrange three-way meeting with supervisors to discuss SRP research contract, find out about R&D and ethics processes, and develop research protocol and materials
Mar / Apr / May Finalise research materials and submit ethics application (when appropriate)
Apr / May / Jun / Jul Work through ethics and R&D processes where necessary
Aug / Sept / Oct Fieldwork and begin writing up introduction and method of report
Oct / Nov Analysis and writing
Dec / Jan Submit draft for supervisors' feedback
Feb Submit SRP
Make sure that you follow through with the services that have supported the research, ensuring that they receive feedback in an appropriate form. As detailed above, this is now a formal requirement for the SRP and you will be asked to demonstrate an appropriate dissemination strategy within the write up. In most cases, it is expected that this will involve writing up the research for publication. However, there are cases where the work is not appropriate for publication, so alternative dissemination strategies needs to be demonstrated (e.g. PowerPoint presentation, report to the service, etc).

If for some reason you feel that data collection needs to continue beyond the hand-in date this needs to be discussed with your research supervisor.

The report and its appendices

The format and style of presentation of the SRP must reflect the purpose of the project and all reports should be in the publication format of the American Psychological Association (see the APA publication manual for details; a copy of the most recent, sixth edition is available in the trainee room). The SRP should normally include the following sections (unless a radically different format is required, in which case this should be agreed in advance with the course team). More detail about how to split the document for submission is given here.

  • Abstract (no more than 200 words; not included within the 6000 word limit)
  • Introduction to the research question, referring to any relevant literature and providing a clear statement of the specific question being addressed by the project. The introduction should provide justification for your research, demonstrating that it is timely, needed, and appropriate and that your chosen method of analysis is relevant to the research question
  • Methods What was your research design or strategy? Who or what was your research sample? Which research methods did you use and what procedure(s) did you carry out to collect the information? Briefly mention ethical issues and refer readers to the main ethics section (see below)
  • Results or Findings These should be presented in a clear and concise manner. Clarity of presentation is more important than wowing the markers with fancy inferential statistics
  • Discussion A brief discussion of the project's findings. How do they relate to the research question? What were the limitations of the research project? What recommendations can you make for service provision and future research?
  • Reference list
  • Required appendices
  • Dissemination Strategy This is a short section that details your dissemination strategy. It may give the journal of choice for your submission and give evidence of your thoughts about the appropriate vehicle of dissemination. Alternatively, you may have agreed to produce an article for a service publication (e.g. newsletter) or produce a report for the service
  • Ethical reflection The report should also contain a separate section where the ethical issues which were pertinent to the project are considered
  • Ethics section Include your proposal to the ethics committee (if appropriate) and any ethical committee application forms, your information sheets and consent forms, the approval letter of the ethics committee (all appropriately redacted)
  • Other appendices as appropriate
The report of the SRP should be no more than 6000 words. This word count is for the introduction, methodology, results/findings, discussion and conclusions. This does not include the abstract, dissemination strategy, ethical reflections, the ethical section, any tables, the references and any other appendices. Within the ethics section it is expected that it contains any appropriate ethical material including, where relevant, the ethics application, information sheets, consent forms, and approval letter from the ethics committee. For qualitative projects, quotes from participants are included in the word count.

Thus the 6000 words for the main body of the report could be divided up like this:

  • Introduction: 1500 words
  • Method section: 1200 words
  • Results: 2000 words
  • Discussion and Conclusions: 1300 words
It is expected that the dissemination strategy with be approximately 500 words and that the abstract will be no more than 200 words.

The word numbers given above provide you with a rough guide only. Marks are not allocated per section of the SRP but, rather, the SRP will be marked as a whole document (see the SRP trainee feedback marksheet for details).

Qualitative projects will typically need more words in the results section than quantitative projects do. This will automatically affect the balance of word numbers between the results, the discussion and the introduction. It is important that you (in consultation with your supervisors) make this balance work well for your particular project. It is perfectly acceptable in qualitative projects to combine the Results and Discussion sections. You will not be penalised for this. It would then be usual for this joint Results and Discussion section to be followed by a much shorter Conclusion section.

A full set of the ethics materials - appropriately redacted to exclude identifiers - does need to be included (this may be scanned). The ethics materials should not impinge on your ability to do justice to the research write-up. For this reason, the ethics section is not included in the word count. However, it is expected that you are succinct in your ethics section. Examiners should be able to see the approval letters from your ethics/R&D applications.

It is important to use the write-up to demonstrate transparency in the research process and thoroughness in your critical reflections on the process, and to engage with relevant methodological literature.

Writing tips and draft reading

Please try to ensure that drafts are written to a timetable agreed with supervisors well in advance. This will help supervisors give feedback in a thorough and timely way.

The value of a carefully-written report cannot be overstated. Do pay close attention to editing and proof-reading and leave plenty of time for this part of the process. Apostrophes, spelling, grammar, paragraphing and the clear expression of ideas are all crucial to the overall impression. Be aware that draft readers will not have time to do proof-reading and editing: this is your job! You will also need your report to be written in APA style. Copies of the APA style guide are available in the trainee room.

Submission process

Details of the submission process will be sent to you nearer the time, although some general guidelines are available in the online handbook. This includes a list of the required documents for a complete submission.

Presentation guidelines

Following the submission of your SRP, you will be required to give a short presentation of your work to fellow trainees, supervisors and members of the wider faculty. This should be thought of as a public presentation and afterwards trainees are given the option to make their presentations available publicly through the course website. You should bear this in mind when choosing what to present and include on your slides.

Previous SRP presentations can be seen here.

HRA website
IRAS website
Contacting NHS R&D Offices
Faculty Ethics Committee
SRP proposal form (2017 cohort)
SRP proposal form (2016 cohort)
SRP feedback form (2016 cohort onwards)
SRP topic form (2016 cohort onwards)