Trying to get a grip on social sciences research as a medic

Monday 12 August 2019


Brain Plate

My research project this year is quite unconventional for a medical student – I’m carrying out a historical review of depictions of the accessory in sources from the 18th and 19th century. As such, I have had no experience whatsoever in this type of data collection or analysis so it’s been challenging in many ways but a good opportunity to learn some new skills in the world of research. Due to the novel nature of researching ‘objects’ rather than ‘sources’ most of last week (the first week of my project) was spent learning about the methodology used in this type of research. A lot of the preparation for my data collection has felt more like art history than medicine. Despite the unfamiliar academic environment it has been a useful experience in widening my understanding of how other areas of research operate. I have also had to come to terms with allowing a bit more flexibility in my methods of research. A lot of what my final title ends up being depends on the data that I collect in the next couple weeks. This is a novel approach for me as I am having to try and detect themes in the objects that I am analysing and dealing with much more categorical data than I am used to.

This week I’ve had the chance to start my data collection. This has involved visiting the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow to view a variety of objects in their collections. A lot of my analysis of the objects involved looking more into the context of where and when they were created rather than simply their content; making me feel more akin to an art historian than a medic. Despite this it was a nice change of pace to go from the rote learning that is necessary in my studies during term time to thinking in a more analytical manner.

I’d also like to say thank you to my supervisors: Ourania Varsou and Fraser Chisholm, for helping guide me during the project. I’d also like to thank Lord Laidlaw for his support of the Laidlaw Scholarship program, which I have greatly enjoyed so far.


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