I’m very lucky because no two days are alike in my job. I work as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Experimental Psychology.
Our lab or office is a large room with desks, computers and filing cabinets, much like any other office…. albeit a bit less tidy, perhaps! We usually have props from previous experiments lying around, such as cuddly toys, books and large foam letters. More on this later.
I usually start by checking my emails. There are Twitter posts from academics working in the area of child development and emails about upcoming seminars and lectures.As I have just come back from gathering data in a school, my colleague and I spend some time organising the data and entering it into files, which we then pass on to the Post Doctoral Researchers to analyse. Sometimes we help with the analyses too. This is improving my Excel skills! I then spend some time contacting more schools who might be interested in participating in our research. I spend a lot of time emailing or on the phone. It’s always great when we find schools who are supportive of our work.Once a week we have a lab meeting with the whole team and Professor Kate Nation, who runs our lab. We talk through how data collection is going, any findings or problems and do some forward planning.
Later, I might write a brief summary of findings from a recent experiment which I can then post on the ReadOxford website. We also share these with the schools who have taken part. We’re spending a lot of time writing for our new website at the moment. We want more schools and parents and children to be able to find out more about our research, and participate. We also organised a photoshoot to provide more photos for our website. We took pictures of children reading, having fun with books and holding large foam letters. A good hour was spent with scissors and glue cutting these out from coloured foam. I also had to make sure we had everything we needed for the photoshoot: snacks, drinks, props, rugs, colouring books.
As a Research Assistant I also spend time helping with the creation of new experiments. This might involve searching for words to be used in a word-decision task using the Oxford Children’s Corpus or the writing of short stories to be used in an eyetracking experiment.
There is always plenty to do and the hours whizz by. If I ever get near the bottom of my to-do list, there are always plenty of journal articles to read about reading development. I learn new things every day.