DTC student Ruth Doubleday (Cardiff School of Social Sciences) recently completed an internship with the Welsh Government. “I have a greater understanding of the impacts and applications of social research in the policy-making process” Ruth said, “and I have gained invaluable experience of conducting research outside of academia.” Here are her reflections on the experience.
“The project involved exploring well-being in Wales, the UK and the EU. Several large-scale surveys were analysed to demonstrate the current state of well-being. Results were compared and recommendations for future research and analysis were given. A final substantive report was produced entitled ‘Analysis of well-being data: Well-being in Wales, the United Kingdom and the European Union’. The work will be used alongside a further co-authored report about the key drivers of well-being, as identified through a regression analysis of the National Survey for Wales. The work will be of relevance to policy and practice, especially in light of the recent Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
I applied for this internship in the hope that I would gain experience of working in a social research environment beyond academia, and expand my knowledge outside the field of criminology. I hoped to evidence my quantitative and qualitative methods skills, something that was especially important as my PhD is predominantly qualitative in nature.
I worked within the National Survey for Wales team in the Knowledge and Analytic Services branch of the Welsh Government. I expected to be working on the project as part of a large team and not to be awarded the level of independence that I was given. My team made me feel exceptionally welcome and I soon felt that I was a colleague as opposed to simply a temporary ‘intern’.
I was able to attend training which developed my research skills as well as my knowledge of Government Social Research (including courses on survey sampling and weighting, and the application of interviewing techniques in a non-academic setting). The internship surpassed my expectations in terms of the range of skills I have developed. For example:
- I have improved my writing skills, especially in terms of writing for non-academic and non-specialist audiences.
- I have been able to advance and, importantly, evidence my skills in conducting quantitative data analysis.
- I feel more assured of my ability to effectively search for, select, and critique literature and data sources.
The scope of the project was large and some further related tasks were set during the internship; these aims were met. I had expected to be able to complete a moderate amount of work on my PhD thesis during the internship, however this was not always possible as a full-time internship is extremely time-consuming. I would have benefited from speaking to others that had already competed an internship so that I would have been aware of this in advance.
Overall, I have a greater understanding of the impacts and applications of social research in the policy-making process and I have gained invaluable experience of conducting research outside of academia. My interest in pursuing a career in Government Social Research has increased.
I would highly recommend undertaking an internship during your PhD. I believe that the optimum time to do this would be following the completion of fieldwork. This would allow space and time to reflect upon your data whilst gaining an insight into possible career options prior to beginning the process of finding employment post-PhD.
For details of Wales DTC internships, see our internships page.