Getting into Research

Every practising CSP member is involved in assessing research evidence. Taking a step into presenting or doing research might not be as daunting as it looks, says CSP adviser Nina Paterson.


All CSP members – including students and support workers – are critical users of evidence.

So when I was asked to write about how to ‘get into research’, and to encourage readers to think about going from ‘using’ to ‘doing’ research, I knew I wouldn’t be short of material.

Evaluating the effectiveness of your service or your own practice is, or should be, a normal part of everyday life for anyone working in health and social care. For example, you might be benchmarking what you do using local or national guidelines, measuring the effectiveness of a particular intervention, or changing your practice after reviewing the available evidence.

Whatever area of physiotherapy you work in, as part of a structured organisation such as the NHS or as a lone private practitioner, your responsibility to provide the best possible care to your patients, service users or clients means that you have a professional obligation to be ‘into research’.

Many of you will have just come back from Physiotherapy UK 2014, having listened to great platform presenters and reviewed posters. Like any conference you attend, it will have made you think, taught you something new, consolidated your knowledge, and ultimately changed your practice. By being able to present your work, not only are you evidencing your professional development, but you’re also increasing the profession’s evidence base, demonstrating that physiotherapy works.

Support is available

As my colleague Imogen Scott-Plummer, CSP research adviser, notes: ‘Abstract submissions for Physiotherapy UK doubled this year.’ It is also great to know that the CSP received more enquiries from members thinking laterally about research – seeking advice about how to present findings; from quality audits, service evaluation and projects, not only randomised controlled trials.

Another colleague works for a large trust, where staff can access a range of opportunities that develop research skills, such as journal clubs, best practice, audit and research forums. They regularly produce posters and present project and research findings in a multidisciplinary setting.

If you are fortunate and work somewhere similar, where organisational processes support your development, make the most of such opportunities. Going a step further and presenting at a conference shouldn’t be that daunting, you’ve had great practice. Down the line you might also want to share your experiences and support others who may not have had the same opportunities.

The description above may be a world away from your workplace. The responsibility may rest with you in your own time to keep up-to-date with research but even if this is the case, that shouldn’t stop you. Think carefully about what’s in it for your employer, focusing on the benefit it will bring to the team and organisation.

Think about what support you might need time to write up, financial support for travel, poster production, time off to present and so on. When negotiating this level of support, it is important to do your homework – know what your employer’s policies are, who to speak to, what funds are available and how to access them. If you need financial help, the CSP Charitable Trust has awards available. Full information about these can be found on the CSP website, but both the Conference and Presentation Award and the Robert Williams International Award would be worth exploring.

There are a number of support routes available. The Council for Allied Health Professions Researchis one example, CSP research advisers another. The iCSP research network is also thriving. If you are lucky to have formal mentoring routes at work, make the most of them as well as informal routes such as a friend or colleague who present regularly.

There are any number of books, blogs, information websites that address the process of writing and submitting.  You’ll find some tips to get you started, but you’ll also find links to some of articles in the box. As with the last continuing professional development article (1 October 2014), no specific activity has been suggested – simply think about your own work and what you would be interested in writing up - what would you need to do to disseminate? Make a plan: identify what you will need to do to achieve your goal. Set realistic timescales and think through solutions to any potential barriers.

And finally, give it a go! Remember if your proposal doesn’t get accepted the first time, take on board any feedback and try again. Even seasoned researchers experience this.

This article assumes that you have a research topic area that you want to present. If you are reading this and you’re not at that point yet, then hold that thought. A forthcoming article in this CPD series will look at ‘data and its uses’.

So stick a marker in this article and come back to it later. fl

Top Tips

Rather than making your research ‘fit’, look for a conference whose themes match your research use the submission criteria to help you shape your abstract rationale - that’s what you’re being scored against make a note of the submission deadlines. Leave plenty of time to edit; whatever the word count it won’t be enough, and leave enough time to submit via the online portal.

Don’t give up. If you aren’t successful the first time, try again

Nina Paterson

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