What is it like to study Research Methods for Social Science and Health? Hear Edward Morgan’s perspective

Edward Morgan recently completed the Postgraduate Certificate programme in Research Methods for Social Science and Health. Here, he discusses his background, reasons for pursuing the programme and what he intends to do in the future.

The world welcomed its 7 billionth citizen, marking a significant milestone in human history, whilst I was studying Demography as part of my Geography degree at St Andrews University. Such important events invariably reignite the ongoing debate over the implications of world population growth. It seemed pertinent then – as it does now – that a career contributing to this debate would be extremely worthwhile and necessary given current population forecasts.

I went on to do a taught MSc in Population and Development at the London School of Economics which helped deepen my understanding of population dynamics. However, I was still missing much of the essential research skills and experiences expected of modern academia. I chose to spend the 2014-15 academic year filling in many of the knowledge and experience gaps I was missing, especially fieldwork, research methods and computer programming experience. I spent the start of the year volunteering on a research programme in rural Uganda, gaining vital fieldwork experience. I also went on to do a three month short course in Demographic Methods at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands during the winter months. For the months January through to June, I enrolled on the PgCert in Research Methods for Social Science and Health at King’s College London.

I decided to pursue this programme because I wanted to have a practical training experience that solely focused on research methods and was free of any theoretical modules. Furthermore, the teaching was timetabled on a single day per week which suited students already in work and students like myself who were working on PhD applications and commuting from outside London. I gained a lot from all four of the modules I undertook, but especially the modules that acquainted students with SPSS. These were syntax driven modules that assumed no previous knowledge of using statistical software. I was able to learn the software quickly and by June I was able to code relatively complex commands. Moreover, many of the data manipulation techniques are transferable to other statistical software packages such as Stata or R.

By June, I returned to Uganda with the same organisation, but this time employed as a research leader. I was offered the job not just because I was a previous volunteer but because I had a solid training in social research methods and was able to apply them out in the field.

The combination of all these experiences helped me gain an ESRC doctoral studentship at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where I will use parish registers to reconstruct historical trends in infant mortality in East Africa. Before I start in autumn 2016, I’m lucky enough to be attending the European Doctoral School of Demography held at both the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock and the Sapienza University of Rome as part of my doctoral research methods training.

Follow Edward on twitter: @Edward_Morgan

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