From LuCiD Intern to Aspiring Researcher: Navigating Challenges and Embracing Opportunities in Speech and Language Therapy

My name is Jess and I am currently a final year student studying Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) at the University of Manchester. Over the summer 2023 between my second and third year, I had the opportunity to work as a LuCiD intern under the supervision of Dr Samantha Durrant and Dr Jenny Freed, both lecturers at the University of Manchester.

Prior to studying on the SLT programme, I was a Primary School Teacher with my main interests focused on language development in children. Specifically, I am interested in Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), speech sound disorders and social communication within the early years. During my time as an undergraduate student, I have had the opportunity to study clinical research modules which I have thoroughly enjoyed. These provided an introduction to research methodologies and statistics and inspired an interest in research. This led me to reach out to my supervisors, asking for any research experience opportunities. The LuCiD summer internship was the perfect opportunity for me to do this, giving me the chance to get involved with an exciting project about reading and comprehension skills whilst developing my own skills in research.

The project involved the recruitment of 30 typically developing reception aged children. I was very excited to be part of the participant recruitment process thinking about liaising with schools, organising consent forms and acting as a point of contact between schools and the project team. I also had meetings with my supervisors to discuss, adapt, and familiarise myself with the testing materials and resources. This was in preparation for me to carry out the testing and data collection in schools, which I was so excited about! These valuable learning experiences gave me such a good insight into the LuCiD research environment and a flavour of what a career in research looks like.

However, everything with this project wasn’t plain sailing (which I guess is what research is all about…right?!). Unfortunately, there were some delays to ethical approval which meant that we didn’t have approval before the school summer holidays. Obtaining ethical approval is an essential part of the research process before starting recruitment and data collection in schools – the ethics committee have an important role in the research process to ensure research projects meet the highest standards of practice.

As you can imagine, this was such a disappointment as I was really keen to carry out the testing with children in schools. However don’t worry…'s not all doom and gloom! This experience actually gave me a really good insight into the realities of research (which you don’t necessarily get when you just read a research paper) and it made me realise how important it is to have a plan B or even plan C when you do research. The project has now received ethical approval and I am excited to be able to collect the data for this study in summer 2024. This experience has definitely shaped my future practice as an aspiring researcher!

As I said, it’s not all doom and gloom… In the meantime, I was able to use my internship to get involved with another exciting LuCiD project with external collaborator Dr Jamie Lingwood from Liverpool Hope University. This project was about shared book reading between children and caregivers, particularly looking at the impact of book familiarity and book type within this dyad. In this project, I was responsible for coding the reading style of the caregivers during shared reading. To prepare for this, I researched the literature in this field and, with the help of my supervisors, developed a coding scheme to identify caregivers as story builders or story tellers. Story builders actively engage their child in the process of reading the story. Emphasis is on greater participation from the child, as they are encouraged by parents to join in discussions during the reading process that may have been triggered from the text. Story tellers, on the other hand, focus on reading the words in the book with little participation and engagement from the child. I have coded the majority of the videos and these are almost ready for the data to be analysed.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this project and have learnt so much that will be useful to me as an SLT in the future but also as a parent of young children! I have learned about the importance of interactive shared book reading and the benefits this can have on children’s early language skills. I have seen many good examples of this in the data and going forward, I will be able to advise parents/caregivers and teachers about how to enhance their reading style to provide maximal engagement for children.

At this point, I would just like to say a huge thank you to my supervisors Dr Samantha Durrant, Dr Jenny Freed and Dr Jamie Lingwood for all their support, expertise, and guidance throughout this internship. Being a LuCiD intern has definitely confirmed my aspirations of carrying out my own research in the future. Anyone that is thinking about a research career or just has an interest in research and is thinking about a LuCiD internship, my advice would definitely be…. go for it!


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