How to Select Your MSc Research Project.

At this year’s Healthcare Science Education 2019 event with a focus on “What is the role of collaboration in education?” the trainee network board members were invited to facilitate a session on How to select your research project. The session involved stake holders of various levels including trainees, trainers and assessors. Thank you to the session participants for sharing their points of view on How to select your research project.

The workshop focused around some key questions, the answers that resulted from the discussions are summarised below:

Question 1: What makes a good research project?

  • Specific goal
  • Reasonable time frame
  • Good supervision
  • Money and resources
  • Patience
  • Impact on the department

Question 2: How might a trainee’s research project benefit your workplace?

  • Help to boost the research output, since the trainee in supernumerary
  • Improve the service by developing new skills, and technology which can be shared with the department
  • Raise the profile of the department
  • Keep the department up to date with current research
  • The trainee can help complete additional projects

Question 3: Regarding previous projects in your workplace or that you have been involved in – what aspects were successful or unsuccessful?


  • Trainee presented their idea for a project to the department, so potential problems could be identified and gain support/contacts within the department
  • Supervisor could give introductions to researchers currently doing work in the area
  • Great posters and publications were produced to share the work being carried out
  • Ethics approval: Join and taking ownership of a part of a project that already has ethics approval
  • Carrying out a project that doesn’t require a lengthy ethics approval process
  • Regular meetings with supervisors
  • Developing contacts through supervisors
  • Supervisor enthusiastic about the project
  • Developing contacts across different areas


  • Involving only one member of staff that understands the project, because if they unexpectedly leave, the trainee is less supported – Trainee shouldn’t only rely on one supervisor but a team of people
  • People failing commitments e.g. not supplying samples – Need written confirmation and a plan B for everything and everyone.
  • Project does not involve problem solving

Question 4: What are some of the biggest barriers to facilitating a successful research project?

  • Ethics approval takes time – supervisor should advise on limitations
  • Experience of supervisor
  • Time constraints with conflicting schedules
  • Money
  • Team fulfilling roles
  • Time constraints on ambitious projects – Projects should have a narrow focus, with the underlying aim to gain MSc

This is the feedback from the session attendees, collected via post-its shown in the image below:

The main points people took away were:

  • A trainee doing a project can actually be very beneficial to the department (not a burden/annoyance)
  • Projects reply on a team of people to make them happen
  • The supervisor’s role is paramount
  • Appreciation of challenges to gaining ethical approval
  • Insight into the purpose of STP project from a trainer’s perspective
  • Projects need to be focused / not too much for time constraint
  • Need to think about how realistic a project is e.g. resources / ethics approval

Questions people still had at the end were:

  1. Do any 3rd years fail their projects? There are a range of grades achieved, but due to the high standard of candidates failure is very unlikely. Trainees should get regular feedback from supervisors as the project progresses to keep on track.
  2. Is there a database of previous projects sorted by speciality? There are abstracts from previous trainees on The National School of Healthcare Science website.
  3. Is there a list of where students can access research grants? There isn’t a list and it may use up your valuable time looking and applying for grants
  4. How much choice do trainees get when deciding on project? This depends on the department, some departments have a specific project they have been waiting for a trainee to do, and some give a choice of projects.
  5. Apart from the supervisor where can I get support? Good people for support are your peers and colleagues from work.
  6. Is there any help for trainees to pick a project who have not spent much time in their department due to rotations? Not a problem, talk to people in the department, to get an idea of what people are interested in. University supervisors may also be able to give input on what projects are good.
  7. Should my elective relate to my project? No, the elective is separate to the project.
  8. What do you do if your supervisor is the biggest barrier to your project? Find someone else in the department to help you, or schedule a time to speak with the supervisor, to remind them of their commitments, and make use of the academic supervisor.

James O’Sullivan
LondonHCSTN Board

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