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Charnpreet Marshall is a Pre Reg Clinical Andrologist at the Shropshire and Mid Wales Fertility Centre

The night before the live event I was filled with dread, the R word and the S word…Research and Statistics. For a first year STP who is very new in their training program, these words can be overwhelming. I was pleasantly surprised to see the introduction into research was gentle.  The event organiser made great effort to make the event appealing to everyone.

The first speakers were inspirational, talking through their own STP research projects and the hurdles they overcame. They provided tips for managing our own research projects followed by an overview of statistics (my perceived nemesis). This was incredibly helpful and very well explained. Research is only as good as the study design and analysis. 

This was followed on by several prominent speakers, each talking about their own perspective and practices in research. I found the use of examples such as a good and bad poster design very helpful, explaining how the design of the poster can draw the reader in if it is set out in a simple but structured way. There were tips on how to write a lay summary, to avoid jargon and write concisely avoiding excessive or peripheral details. After each speaker there was a short question and answer session. The experts chairing the event were very approachable and enthusiastic, nothing felt like a silly question. Some participants asked specific questions regarding their own research while others just wanted more information on the session.

The second part of the event was possibly the most useful for me. We were asked to critically analyse a particular research article before the event. This was then discussed in the session, encouraging audience participation. Sometimes it does feel like you are drowning in mediocre research articles and need to sieve through hundreds of articles before finding a significant research article. It was very useful to get tips on how to critically analyse a research article at this point. It was described as the hardest skill to acquire. A tip was to start reading the method first and evaluate whether it was robust then work through the article to check the methodology was sound. Another was to check the journal where the article was published as some are more reputable than others, specific examples of journals were given.  It was good to be shown different examples of research articles which looked very promising but once evaluated were full of flaws. Another tip was to think outside the box, you might find a significant finding even if the researchers were not looking for it.

The experts chairing the event were very approachable and enthusiastic, nothing felt like a silly question

The event ended with a breakout session where we were able to speak to the experts and ask questions. Again, all the experts were very approachable and so were the other participants. I found other participants being helpful, even suggesting some research projects ideas to me. Hearing their ideas and opinions was comforting to me as everyone had different levels of experience.  I regret not having any specific questions in the breakout session, but it got me thinking about where to start with my own research project. For example, how long would it take to get regulatory approval, would I be able to complete the research project in the given timeframe. It would have been beneficial to discuss my research project ideas with experts and other participants to see whether the ideas would be feasible. I am sure the experts would have pointed me in the right direction for getting started on reading relevant research articles too. They raised my awareness that it is critical to get the research project organised as early as possible.

This was a very well organised event with enthusiastic expert speakers. I gained very useful knowledge that will help me get started with my research project. Also, I have now been acquainted with my ‘nemesis’ statistics and may even lead to becoming friends in the future. My advice to future STP participants is to think about what you want to gain from the event, start thinking about your research projects before the event and ask plenty of questions.