A week in the life of a Research Assistant...

How do we compare to other professions, what roles do we take, etc. Includes descriptions of "a week in the life" of relevant posts.
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A week in the life of a Research Assistant...

Post by eponymous85 »

Following on from Miriam's (very helpful) typical week in the life of a CP, I thought I'd add to this for people who are a little further down the ladder.

A typical week in the life of a research assistant

I currently work as an RA, here's what I might spend a typical week doing


Drive out to CMHT base to introduce the research project to the team working there, as we want to use their patients as research participants. Explain to them why we are doing the research, what it will involve (for them and for their patients), what will happen to the information/results etc. Discuss issues of confidentiality, informed consent, etc. Answer any questions they have (these can be very brutal!).

Drive back to university/hospital base. The PI is thinking of including a new rating scale in our interview schedule, so spend a good few hours on PubMed/google scholar researching it. Look at past studies that have used it, psychometric properties, alternatives available. Write up as concise report for research team meeting.


Continued training in implementing research interview/questionnaire. Spend a few hours with a senior research assistant working on the most approriate way to work with mental health service users for research (and learn a good few lessons about how it is different from clinical work!). Work with senior RA and consultant psychiatrist on implementing the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale & how to make Global Aseessments of Functioning. We watch past videos of psychiatric interviews and learn how to rate appropriately for the study.

Me & the other junior RA practice conducting interviews on each other. We identify parts of the interview schedule that do not run smoothly, and either alter minor adjustments accordingly or discuss it with the PI/senior RA for more major difficulties.


Identify potential participants that fit the study criteria. Send the caseload lists to the statistician for randomisations.

Research team meeting: we discuss progress so far. I give my short presentation on the proposed new scale, we weigh up the pros and cons, and decide to use it. We need to send an amendment application to the ethics council for approval of the new scale. Administrative tedium ensues.

Attend a guest lecture after hours because the speaker is very big and important (and, it turns out, interesting). He has a beard and glasses and a shiny laser pointer and everything.


Preparing materials for interviews; making up packs of consent forms, information sheets, questionnaire booklets, etc. Write short presentation on our research project for presentation to the wider research department.

Attend a clinic base for interviewing. Introduce study to potential participants, answer any questions. Obtain consent (or let them leave, whichever) and conduct research interview. Gotta love those tick boxes!

Pack up, thank key workers profusely for their help


Compare notes on interview with other RA. Enter data on to the spreadsheet, compare results to make sure we're both rating properly.

Keep article data base up to date, catch up on some reading.

Attend ethics approval meeting for another study we're running concurrently. Justify existence.


I hope this helps! Feel free to ask me for more info, and if anyone else works as an RA, please add some information about how your week is similar or different to mine.

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Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on 28/01/2018 by BlueCat
Last modified on 26/02/2012
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Re: A week in the life of a Research Assistant...

Post by psychtob »

Thank you for your 'Day in the Life of an RA' - Very interesting.
I was wondering whether you have had the opportunity to publish during your time as an RA?

I am very much looking forward to eventually working in this position - i have a way to go.
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Re: A week in the life of a Research Assistant...

Post by Hippoc »

Hello! I currently work as an RA and thought I could add to this thread, with a little 2017 update! :)


Today I travel to our hospital based office for a meeting with the site team who work with me on the project. We discuss recruitment across the areas us researchers are working in, and the CI gives us ideas about improving patient involvement and contacting psychiatrists to try and encourage them to include their patients.

We also talk statistics in terms of people we have screened, recruited, and done follow-up's for.

In the afternoon the researchers meet with a clinical psychologist who kindly gives us an hour of her time to provide clinical supervision. This is something that is considered important as we are working with a clinical population during our assessments, and I think it's something we all find very useful.

For the rest of the afternoon we email clinical staff about potential participants.


Today I am working from home. I am currently completing a PhD on the research project I work on. I update the current study protocol, read a couple of papers, and read as much of a statistics textbook as I can handle! In between I am also doing my washing/loading the dishwasher, because you have to take advantage of working at home sometimes!


Today we are training a new site of researchers in our assessment. It's quite a long process that lasts most of the day as we introduce the study, recruitment methods, the actual assessment, clinical issues, etc! We do this training at the university we are associated with.


Today I start by ringing a bunch of potential participants, I get a few declines... doh!

In the afternoon I attend an assessment with a new researcher, so they can have some assistance learning the intricacies. I do consent and the assessment with the participant, it takes about 2 hours and goes very well!

Afterwards, me and the other researcher compare scores on some of the questionnaires and record them to measure inter-rater reliability.


In the morning I complete data entry and sign our assessment form, this takes a while! Headphones in.

I then begin data cleaning a database from a previous study, we are nearly ready to analyse this qualitatively and have recently attended training for this.

[color=#8080BF]Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on 28/01/2018 by BlueCat[/color]
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