Research

How to get involved in research and actually enjoy it

Research can be challenging, stimulating and fun. Your involvement will range from providing data to studies, to supporting multisite studies through to leading research yourself.

Like most things, when you start out you need support. The best way to get a taste of research is to link with an established academic team and work alongside them. They will welcome serious offers of help and should be able to support you with your own work in due course. Be patient. You rarely get awarded Michelin stars for the your first few efforts at cooking. Research is likewise a complex process that takes planning, knowledge, expertise and resources.

Guide to research for child and adolescent psychiatry

Before you start your research, it's a good idea to have a clear research question. We've put together a short list of what to think about before you embark on your research.

Key principles

  • Have a clear research question. What is it that you are setting out to find out? The days in which unstructured audits or needs assessments could get published are over
  • Make sure that your methodology is appropriate to your question and the way that you write it up. There are various standard text books to help you with this, and many areas have access to a Research Design Service via the National Institute of Health Research, whose role is to assist clinicians with developing your ideas into viable research projects
  • While ambition and drive are assets in many areas, be careful not to overreach. If you are an inexperienced researcher, keep it simple, get advice and better still, consider collaboration with someone with more experienced
  • The Equator network has guidelines about how to report all kinds of studies and most journals now hold authors to them. This is what you are aiming for and it is often worth thinking about before you start to ensure that you collect the data that you need
  • Make sure that you have the necessary governance such as approval from an ethics committee or registration for an audit. All journals will want a statement about ethics approval in the method section. More importantly, you can get into all kinds of trouble if you start without it.

Writing well takes time, planning and good supervision. Follow our simple ground rules to increase the likelihood of getting your paper published.

When you're writing:

  • Most academic journals receive many more papers than they can publish. They reject 85-90% of submitted papers. Writing well takes time, planning and good supervision
  • Read the guidelines to authors and stick to them; you want the editors on your side, not beset by yet another article that is double the word limit and lacks structure
  • Pick a journal that 's published papers like yours. Check that your work falls within its remit. Speak to or email the editorial team if you're not sure. Don't waste your time by submitting a paper that will be rejected as out of scope immediately
  • When you write up your work, keep to the subheadings given in the guidelines to authors. Also, your introduction should set up the research question and describe your aims. What you did belongs in the method, what you found belongs in the results and what you think about it belongs in the discussion. Weak papers bleed information from each of these sections across the paper, which makes the paper harder to follow and the reviewer worry about the rigour of the underlying research
  • The discussion should place your findings in the context of the literature, as well as current policy and practice. It should also cover the methodological strengths AND weaknesses of your study and suggest future avenues for research
  • Pay attention to the abstract. Be aware that editors often screen on the abstract so if it's scrappy, your paper may be rejected regardless of how polished the main body of the text is, simply because the editor didn't read any further
  • The same issues listed above apply to the abstract; stick to the guidelines and keep things in their prescribed sections
  • Check carefully for typographical and grammatical errors, and ensure that your references are correct. If your write up is sloppy and strewn with errors, why should anyone trust your data or your research?
  • Seek opinion from peers and / or leave your completed work for a week or two before submitting. It's amazing how much easier it is to spot errors in someone else’s work or after a break. The same applies to cutting down text that seemed essential initially.

Reviewing others work is an important part of the research process and will help your own writing. We've got a few tips on reviewing others' work for you.

Why review?

  • Reviewing others' work will help your own writing. You see the common mistakes and it helps you avoid them
  • If you're reviewing, try to be constructive and polite. It's not helpful to make global statements about how rubbish something is without letting the author know what they need to do to improve it. It's also unhelpful to avoid making any criticisms at all; there's no such thing as a flawless paper
  • It's fine to highlight to editors where you think you lack expertise to assess a paper; for example statistical review or other highly technical areas.

Find out how the publication process works and what to expect when having your work seen by a reviewer.

How it works:

  • Editors screen your paper submissions and a large number are rejected for being outside the scope or poorly conducted at that stage. It's unusual to receive feedback if rejected at this stage
  • If sent out to review, you should get feedback. Your paper might still be rejected or you may be asked to revise it. Revision at least once, and often more than once is the norm
  • Respond politely to reviewers; they may have got the wrong end of the stick but it will not be intentional and mostly they have some good points
  • If editors request revision, they're unlikely to accept your paper without the revisions or clear justification of why you're not making them. Your default should be to follow reviewer’s advice for most, if not all, of their suggestions, unless they're very clear reasons not to
  • If at first you don’t succeed...keep trying. While a rejection can feel crushing to the inexperienced, most academics I know submit with a list of journals in mind and they feel almost thwarted if a paper is accepted by the first journal on the list.

Child and adolescent research resources

Making research fit with your clinical or academic training life:

  • There are now jobs at all grades that offer protected time to undertake research for junior doctors in training – contact your deanery or your local academic psychiatrists to find out more
  • Academic clinical fellows get 25% of their time to undertake research. These jobs are aimed to give interested trainees a chance to test out research and, assuming that they enjoy it, to develop a strong CV and the application to undertake a PhD
  • Various clinical training doctoral schemes are around, including NIHR (focus on the clinical and population/policy facing research), MRC (more basic sciences) and the Wellcome Trust for postdoctoral schemes and beyond (now regional schemes)
  • Academic clinical lectureships offer 50% time in research while moving towards being an independent researcher. You have to have a doctoral degree to be eligible and a year or more clinical training in most areas

Team lead

University

Specialism

Tamsin Ford Child Mental Health Research Group, University of Exeter Medical School The effectiveness of services and interventions for children’s mental health, particularly at the interface with schools.Visit the website (opens a new window)
Dr Tony James and Prof Francis Szele University of Oxford Stem cell research in early-onset schizophrenia and healthy adolescents.
Stephen Scott and the National Academy for Parenting Research Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, Kings College London Interventions work to improve child functioning, including reduction of antisocial behaviour and promotion of secure attachment.
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Dennis Ougrin Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, Kings College London Therapeutic interventions for adolescents with self-harm and understanding early predictors of self-harm
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Prof David Skuse, Prof Lucy Raymond, Prof Jeremy Hall and Prof Marianne van den Bree. A collaboration between UCL (Prof David Skuse), University of Cambridge (Prof Lucy Raymond), University of Cardiff (Prof Jeremy Hall and Prof Marianne van den Bree) IMAGINE-ID

Intellectual Disability and Mental Health: Assessing Genomic Impact on Neurodevelopment
Anna Need and Tony James Anna Need, (Imperial College London) and Tony James (University of Oxford) Genetic variants underlying the development on childhood onset psychosis.
Anita Thapar, Stephan Collishaw, Frances Rice (Medicine) and Kate Langley (Psychology) Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section, Cardiff University School of Medicine and School of Psychology Child and adolescent mental health epidemiology, risk factors and adult outcomes
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Barry Wright Professor of Child Mental Health within the Hull York Medical School in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York. Child orientated interventions for child mental health problems and research resources for deaf children with mental health problems
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Moli Paul University of Warwick Health care decision-making by children, young people and their families, including empirical research on consent and rights in biomedical ethics and health care law; transitions between adolescent and adult health services
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Helen Minnis, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Adverse Childhood Experiences Lab, University of Glasgow Our work aims to understand and develop interventions for the mental health problems associated with maltreatment
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Paul Ramchandani, Elena Garralda, Tami Kramer, Matthew Hodes Child and Adolescent Mental Health Group, Imperial College London. We focus on early prevention, mood disorders and the interface between physical and psychological health.
Andrea Danese Stress & Development Lab at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London Our work aims to understand how stressful experiences in childhood affect development and later health, and how to best support children who had such traumatic experiences. 
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