Sex, Lives and Red Tape

It all comes back to the research question

Me: {rambling on about all my ideas}

Supervisor: “So… remind me what your research question is”

Me: “Ummm…. well I don’t have the exact wording yet, but I *think* it’ll be something to do with…”

Supervisor: “You really need to nail your research question down… its the first step”

Me: “…ah”

I do not know what my research question is (yet).

Ideally, I need to settle on a question that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Additionally, if it could be genuinely interesting – that would be a big bonus.

I realised the my clear research question was missing during my supervision session yesterday where I underlined, circled and kept drawing lines  back to the words >> *what is my research question?!*

Thankfully, it is reassuring to know that this is a normal part of the PhD process, and experienced by many others (as illustrated by my quick plea to Twitter…)

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 13.33.49

I’ve spent the past two weeks having many interesting discussions with various academics about potentially getting involved in various projects, different directions my research could take and information which my PhD could utilise… which I’ve been very grateful for, not least because everyone appears to be kind and welcoming. However, I need to find some way to process this information, otherwise how do I know whether it is relevant or not?

It has become very clear to me that, first things first, I need to decide on my PhD research question.

So I’ve been exploring what I know so far, and what interesting questions I’ve come across… my supervisors both have great expertise in the fields of sexual health, and my PhD funding is linked to the NIHR School of Public Health Research theme on young people and sexual health. This is a REALLY interesting area to me as…

  • from a public health point of view young people are disproportionately affected by sexual ill health; this has adverse health and social consequences for individuals, and is also costly to society and impacts upon health care resources.
  • from a sociological point of view, society’s understanding and acceptance of what is included within ‘sexual health’ is broadening from a biomedical model to being more holistic and including sexual function, pleasure, abuse ..etc. Yet, there is still so much more to be done in this area – illustrated by the House of Lords not supporting the amendment for mandatory SRE (sex and relationships education) in schools last night.

How conflicted Britain is about sex and young people. Rampant commerce uses sex to sell everything to young people, yet good quality sex education, access to contraception, and school nurses to dispense advice and condoms remain haphazard – Polly Toynbee

  • from a systems perspective, the context for sexual health provision changed in line with the Health and Social Care Act (2012) which specified that from 1st April 2013 local authorities were responsible for commissioning the majority of sexual health interventions and services as part of their wider public health responsibilities.  The impact of the legislative changes upon both sexual health service commissioning and young people’s health is yet to be established.

My next steps are to do more literature searching and reading (what has already been done? what research gaps exist?) in the hope that somewhere something will *click*

If you have any ideas or suggestions on how to approach this, do let me know. Even better – if you happen to have my research question, and you would like to share this information I would be very appreciative…!

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2 comments on “It all comes back to the research question

  1. The Pedagogical Explorer
    January 29, 2014

    Glad to know I’m not the only one!

  2. carotomes
    January 31, 2014

    Hi Pedagogical Explorer. It’s reassuring isn’t it? Handling the uncertainty, pressure and expectations. How are you approaching the quest for a PhD research question?

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This entry was posted on January 29, 2014 by in PhD and tagged , , , .