Guest post by Jane Johnson, PhD student at Teesside University
Have you ever had the experience of thrusting your hand into the air, “Oo! Oo! Pick me! Pick me!” and afterwards think, “Uh oh, why did I offer to do that?” Despite being invited to give a poster presentation at CAMSTRAND, the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Strategic Direction and Development Conference hosted by University of Warwick’s Medical School, I felt apprehensive. The topic of the conference was ‘The Application of Qualitative Methods in CAM Research’ and not only is my research mostly quantitative, I have only been doing the PhD for eight months so thought, “how on earth will I hold my own in a room of forty experienced researchers?” My intention to seek out and explore opportunities to learn and to contribute during the limited PhD time frame of 36 months had yet again left me with my hand up, and not in an air-punching Bruce Springsteen Born in the U.S.A. kind of way.
But I was glad to have been brave enough to attend because the experience was invaluable for many reasons. I heard 18 presentations and in addition to learning about the variety and content of on-going qualitative research into complementary therapies, discovered the following:
Standing up in front of experienced researchers gave me heartburn but not heart failure.
Even experienced researchers don’t always get their point across to the audience in the way they intend.
Researchers are curious. They ask questions and reflect on what people say.
For the most part, researchers want to share their experiences to help prevent other researchers making the same mistakes.
Researchers are solution-focused. They can’t help but start questions with, “have you thought of trying…”
Researchers like to network.
Everyone presents their posters differently. I made a mental note to make the font size of the title of future posters even larger than PowerPoint’s recommended 24 and to use more yellow.
Even as a novice researcher I can contribute. I helped out two attendees who were struggling to understand the concept of ‘coding’, proving that sitting in on Dr Maura Banim’s qualitative methods lessons at Teesside Uni has not been wasted on me.
Even when you think you are alone at a conference, there are opportunities for surprise and comradery. “Oh you’re that Jane Johnson,” said a woman noting my name badge, “I was looking at one of your books the other day in the library.” I braced myself ready to explain that I didn’t write novels featuring romance in the Moroccan desert. “Posture …something,” she said. I relaxed. “Yes,” I confirmed, “I was that Jane Johnson”, suddenly feeling an affinity for a woman I’d never met and slightly more at ease.
CAMSTRAND is an annual conference organised by the Research Council for Complementary Medicine and I look forward to attending other conferences that provide equally good opportunities for me to learn how to be a researcher.