The do’s and don’ts of using focus groups in prevention research

Nikki Gambles is a third year PhD student studying at the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University. In this article, she reflects on some of her experiences of using focus groups in her PhD research.

For this month’s blog, I take time to reflect on my recent experiences conducting focus group (FG) interviews with young adults and share the challenges that I faced along the way. Beginning my first qualitative research project was a daunting experience. When it came to planning the FG study, I was met by a plethora of conflicting research outlining the dos and don’ts of FG practice. I found it difficult at times to understand which of the practices would do my research justice and which recommendations I should adhere to. Here, I share my own experiences of the challenges I was faced with and reflect on what did and did not work.

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How to promote effective evidence-based prevention when no one is listening?

Good intentions but ineffective or even harmful prevention measures? In this blog post, Sanela Talič from the Institute for Research and Development UTRIP, Slovenia, shares her critical insights to current and past developments in the field of prevention research. She makes a strong point to implement existing prevention programs that have proven effective and calls for an increased collaboration between the different stakeholders and experts in the field.

The topic of my second blog was encouraged by recent events and conferences in Europe and some insider information from our allies – Slovenian NGO’s active in the field of prevention. Overall, 10 years of intensive prevention work have resulted in only few sympathizers who actually understand the basic principles of prevention. Often, we receive very valuable information about prevention in schools from them. So, let me start from the beginning…

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A European perspective: Traineeship at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

In today’s blog post, Stefanie Helmer, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics at the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, shares with us what it’s like to complete a traineeship at the European Union’s central agency on drug-related issues: the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in Lisbon, Portugal.

When you work in an interdisciplinary team and you are the one responsible for drug prevention, this goes along with a lot of comments. You are tired on a Monday morning? You can be sure that everybody will ask you about your “field research” at the weekend. If there is a dinner with colleagues, you are the one that is responsible for selecting the wine because you certainly know all about it. So, I thought: let’s go the whole hog – apply for a traineeship in Lisbon at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the people working there are never going to ask you that kind of questions1.

Even though this was not the real reason behind my application, I was convinced to apply for a traineeship in November 2015 and luckily got it. And now I would like to convince you to do so, too.

The EMCDDA building in Lisbon (Picture: © Stefanie Helmer)

Being a trainee at the EMCDDA

I applied for a position in the prevention unit. Continue reading

  1. As most of you may know, the EMCDDA is an agency of the European Commission that was set up to provide information about drug use and the responses to it in the European Union’s member states, Norway and Turkey. If you are interested in their work, you can find more details here: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/. []

A week in the life of the EUSPR President

We thought you might be interested to read this recent piece by Prof David Foxcroft, Professor of Community Psychology and Public Health at Oxford Brookes University, UK, and current President of the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR). David documents what a week in his life looks like.

Originally posted at https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/~p0072582/My+week on 31st January 2017; reposted here with permission 2nd February 2017.

“My week”

I’ve been asked to provide a profile, a description of who I am and what I do, and rather than just writing out a bit of a list I thought it would be interesting to describe my week. This isn’t a typical week, as I don’t have a typical week, but hopefully it illustrates my interests and activities, including research, administrative, teaching and some leisure time as well. Oh, my name is David Foxcroft and I’m Professor of Community Psychology and Public Health at Oxford Brookes University.

Sunday

Head off to the sailing club, but no sailing today as the lake is frozen over. Continue reading

How to motivate incarcerated youth? Issues of an early-career researcher

This month’s contribution comes from Aniek van Herwaarden, who is a graduate student at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. She is involved in research projects which address behavioral problems in youth with mild intellectual disabilities. In this blog post, she evaluates her experiences as an early-career researcher in this field.

As I am currently working as a student assistant on a project for youth who are resident in juvenile institutions, several ethical, practical and societal issues cross my mind. In this blog post, I will describe some of these issues. In particular, motivation of incarcerated youth and being an early-career researcher are two of the major difficulties I encountered during my work at the juvenile institution.

How to make your participants as excited as you are about your research?

Within the research project “Change Your Mindset! – Forensic Care”, a newly developed, short-term, on-line intervention program is being carried out. This project is a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam and Pluryn in The Netherlands, by principal investigator Petra Helmond. The intervention targets at changing the participant’s mindset from a fixed mindset to a so-called “growth-mindset”. The latter includes a way of thinking in possibilities and growth, rather than pessimism and disabilities (see also: Yeager & Dweck, 20121).

As a researcher, you would think this program sells itself: it is on-line, it contains fast videos and interactive animations, it involves peers who have been in prison as well, and gadgets (rewards) are provided after each session. Unfortunately, practice shows differently. Continue reading

  1. Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47(4), 302-314. []

Prevention science in its struggle for a better reputation

In this month’s blog post, Sanela Talič will share her experience in her work as a prevention scientist. Sanela is the Head of Prevention at Institute for Research and Development UTRIP in Slovenia and currently also a PhD student of prevention science at University of Zagreb. In this blog, she will address the importance of acknowledging prevention research as a distinct science.

The year 2006, the time when I first entered the field of prevention. When I look back, it was like a love at first sight. But beginnings are often not easy. Imagine a baby taking his first steps. Awkward steps, lots of downs and ups but determined to continue mainly due to the richness of this field. People I met at this “first stage” of my prevention career were talking in specific jargon and I admit… back then a special “prevention dictionary” would have saved me from unenviable situations. Often I was giving the impression that I totally understand them and agree with them but at the same time there was only one question in my head: “For God’s sake, what are these people talking about?” But that didn’t stop me from “digging deeper” as I wanted to broaden my horizons. Because very soon I realised that prevention is one of those fields where learning never ends. Continue reading

The seven “deadly traps” for an early-career researcher (from my own notebook)

Maria Rosaria Galanti is a Professor in Public Health Epidemiology at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. In this article, she provides her insights into the seven “deadly sins” that she feels she could have avoided as an early career researcher.

And suddenly I was full-time in research… September 1992, 38 years old and an honorable career as a Medical Doctor behind me. Three and a half years later I was a graduate, thereafter a licensed researcher and with time a respected member of one of the most prestigious medical universities in the world. All this went so quickly that I did not have the time to consider my mistakes or to complain for what I could have done better.

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‘Public Health PhD Symposium 2016’ – reflections on organising and delivering a postgraduate research conference

Rebecca Crook is a postgraduate researcher at the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. In this blog post, she describes her recent experience of organising a one-day symposium for postgraduate researchers and shares her lessons learnt for others who might find themselves in a similar position.

The following blog post is a reflection on my recent role as Symposium Director for the 2nd Public Health PhD Symposium at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). I chose to focus on this topic for the blog hoping that it might encourage other postgraduate and early career researchers if they are considering organising a networking event, and give some hints and tips along the way.

Flyer used to advertise the symposium (© Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University)

Screenshot of the PDF flyer used to advertise the PhD Symposium (© Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University)

The invitation

The idea for the ‘Public Health PhD Symposium’ came about last year. Following a successful event in April 2015, it was decided that this would become an annual affair organised by a student from the Public Health Institute (PHI) at LJMU. Earlier this year the Director of the PHI, Jim McVeigh, approached me and asked if I would be interested in organising this summer’s symposium. Having attended and presented at the event last April, I accepted and looked forward to taking on this new role. Continue reading

The non-existent bridge between research and practice

In today’s contribution, Miriam Blikmans, research master student at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, shares some thoughts on how she has experienced the gap between the worlds of research and practice during her first year in the academic world.

How it all began

My first serious encounter with research took place while I was conducting my bachelor thesis abroad. During a period of three months, the University of Örebro in Sweden gave me the opportunity to take a look into the world of research. I learned a lot: how to come to an innovative research topic, how to conduct more advanced statistical techniques, but most of all it taught me the power of research. During my study on the effectiveness of parenting programs for children with externalizing behaviour, I found that the reduction in children’s problem behaviour was partly due to a decrease in parenting stress. Although being overall effective, not all families benefit from these programs. I thought this insight into parenting stress as a working mechanism might help increase the effectiveness of these parenting programmes and therefore it could make a difference in the lives of certain families. Of course, I was a little naive Continue reading

Why you should care about reflexivity in prevention research

In today’s post, Angelina Brotherhood, doctoral researcher at the University of Vienna, invites us to reflect on ‘why’ we conduct our research and how our own values and beliefs influence our research. She argues that being clear on research purpose and underlying values is especially important in fields such as prevention research.

As a full-time doctoral student, one of my favourite things is having the opportunity to think, read, listen, and talk about things that are not strictly project-related. Though I might receive my degree sooner if I focussed solely on ‘getting the job done’, I take the view that the doctorate is not just about completing a research project. Ultimately the doctorate (and the early career phase generally) should be about determining what kind of professional you want to be, right?

Sometimes it is worth going a bit slower but having time to breathe and look around (picture © Mike Brotherhood, used with permission)

Sometimes it is worth going a bit slower but having time to breathe and look around
(picture © Mike Brotherhood, used with permission)

In this post, I summarise where my thinking has led me thus far. I highlight some questions that I found useful and illustrate how answering them has helped me in my research. Continue reading