Published: February 15, 2021
My name is Sam McBride and I’m currently an MSc Psychological Research Methods student, and I transitioned straight into Postgraduate study after graduating from our Psychology with Counselling BSc in July 2020.
When the final year of my Undergrad began I was thinking about what I wanted to do after graduating and in all honesty, I wasn’t really sure when it came to specifics, but some ideas were to become a lecturer, go into clinical psychology, or to do something that’s likely to involve psychology research such as a research assistant or assistant psychologist. Because of the entry requirements for these ideas, I knew that a Masters would definitely be beneficial – if not essential – to getting into the sort of job that I want, and also it’d be good experience and buy some time to decide which career route to go down.
From there, choosing the course and whether to stay at Sunderland was the big choice, and it really didn’t take much deciding for me because as interesting as something like a Clinical Psychology sounded, I didn’t really want to box myself in when it came to future routes for psychology. Psychological Research Methods wasn’t only ideal for it being general in terms of the area of psychology, but was something that would further develop the skills that are essential for psychology-related careers, as well as being one of my weaker areas in my Undergrad. Something I’d definitely recommend for a Masters – especially if you’re planning on doing a PhD – is to do something that can help address any weaknesses you have, rather than to make a strength even stronger or to give yourself an ‘easy’ year’s study heading into a PhD.
Another huge factor as to why I wanted to stay is also a big part of why I choice here for my first degree – the staff. The staff in the School of Psychology are great and I knew that if I were to have any problems during the course that they’d be really supportive and helpful, and it can go a long way to making sure you perform at your best.
The initial transition to Postgrad study was a bit of a weird one, as was the end of UG study, both due to COVID, but if anything, I think that it might’ve actually made it a bit easier because obviously mid-March we went from being in three or four days a week to just not being in at all; at least due to the restrictions being loosened in September we managed to be in for one day, albeit just the half a day as opposed to a full day that the course would’ve done pre-COVID. A small thing that differed from my BSc to MSc is the class size, we went from 100+ on Psychology with Counselling (as we’re mixed in with Psychology students in most modules) to just 10 of us on Psychological Research Methods, which not only has made it easier to get student rep feedback but also is really handy that we can realistically fit the entire cohort into a group chat and be able to help each other with things and quickly be able to decide what to do with any problems that could crop up from time to time. The biggest change from UG to PG has definitely been the extra freedom around your studies due to there being less contact time as it’s a lot more self-directed study, which can be both a blessing and a curse, probably more so a curse at first.
I think that biggest potential issue for the transition into a Masters is definitely time management, because it’s mostly on you now to make sure you’re disciplined in your learning as well as assignments, whereas at Undergrad a lot more of the learning time is managed by just making sure you turn up to lectures and seminars. One thing I’ve found that helps with this is to get yourself a notepad or a reminders app on your phone and make a checklist of any tasks that need to be done by the next time you’re in uni – or by the next Teams seminar, COVID permitting – and just work your way through it across the week. It sounds incredibly simple, but it really does work and there’s not really much point in wasting your time developing a complicated system to manage your time. I haven’t managed to follow the plans flawlessly, maybes leaving an assignment till closer to the deadline than I’d have liked, but it definitely was more effective than trying to remember what needs to be done week-to-week.
The course itself is interesting but hard, although they’re not meant to be easy, and each module can be summed up quite simply into what they’re about and how they’d help someone who wants to go into a career in psychology. So for the first semester we have PSYM63 and PSYM67, the first of which focusses on employability and ethics, both getting assessed through a portfolio of smaller tasks: using reference management software, adapting presentations from one study for both experts and laypeople, a lesson plan for first years, a job application, and an ethics application. I’d talk a bit about how they went but as of writing this I’ve not got the marks back, they were okay to do and will probably be helpful for the future but I’ve no idea what sort of mark I’ll have got.
Onto PSYM67, this is basically stats but also has a focus on how to write a grant application, and can be a bit of a nightmare and overwhelming at times but as I’ve always said to people who’ve been worried about doing a Psychology Undergrad because of stats, it’ll come with time and perseverance, and this ended up being my second highest mark ever only behind the second year stats exam, which goes to show that it really does come if you stick at it. The main stats is assessed through an exam which usually would be four hours (I think, it might be three) on campus but due to COVID we did it from home over the course of two days, which in fairness is more realistic to any future job settings than a traditional exam would’ve been. We also have a grant application to do on a study of our making (not that we’d actually do the study, but could do a free version for the dissertation) and that was an interesting yet hard one to do simply because I had an idea I really liked and realised it wouldn’t have been affordable for the hypothetical £10k limit, so any advice I’d give on this assessment for anyone who does the course in future would be try not to be too ambitious in your initial ideas.
As of now I’m not too far into the other modules but again they’re also interesting and challenging, with the current two being PSYM72 and PSYM73, essentially research assistant experience with/for a lecturer and then qualitative methods. Maybe in a future post I can talk about how they end up going alongside the third semester dissertation module, PSYM70, and how things vary in terms of the content, difficulty, and any potential changes to the delivery throughout COVID.
BSc (Hons) Psychology with counselling)/Msc Psychological Research Methods