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Amelia is a DPhil Research Assistant in the Medical Sociology and Health Experiences Research Group. Find out how Amelia adapted to online research, and what she plans to take away from the last two years.

Woman working on laptop in library © Shutterstock

Adapting to remote research

I'm a qualitative researcher, which means that face-to-face contact is really important. You can pick up on body language in your analysis. You get to know if the participant is more distressed or if something is more important to them.

At the start of the pandemic, I thought that it would be very difficult to do such in-depth research at home where you have to do things via Teams or Zoom.

But my supervisors helped me find a way around it and they were really supportive. We thought of different research methods I could use, such as online research, and a systematic review, where I didn't necessarily have to talk to participants.

By using these online research methods I was able to explore a different methodology and learn new techniques.  I don't think I would have done that if it wasn't for the pandemic.

I research treatment-resistant depression, and I have definitely noticed a lot more people tweeting about their experiences of this type of depression than before the pandemic. So I think that added a lot of depth to my data too.

Support during hard times

There were definitely negatives from the pandemic– particularly around socialisation: getting to know other DPhils and other people in the department. The University and the department are putting on different events now, whether it's coffee mornings or department meetings or different welfare programmes, and that's been really helpful. 

The University Counselling Service were really there for me and a lot of other DPhils . The service is just excellent, they were able to help me with different anxieties I had and also help me with my research and point out different opportunities in the department to help develop my skills. 

Building on my experiences

I'm really glad that I learned new skills during the pandemic, and now we're returning to the office we are sharing what we’ve learned and research methods that we’ve used. I've shared my online research and I've had people come up to me, curious about how they might use it in their own future research. 

What I enjoy most about being back in the office is seeing people from across the department. During the pandemic, I only really had contact with people in my research group, whereas now we're back in the office I can talk to people in different groups and find out what they've been up to during the pandemic and what their future plans are. It really benefits my professional life in that I now have new networks. I am also finding out about opportunities that are in the department that I might not necessarily have known about before.

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.

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