Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction

Book Review: The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

Star Rating: 4/5
Title: The Wicked Girls
Author: Alex Marwood
Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 384
Genre: Mystery, Thriller and Crime

Purchase here

One fateful summer morning in 1986, two eleven-year-old girls meet for the first time and by the end of the day are charged with murder.

Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside town when her investigation leads her to interview funfair cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since that dark day when they were just children. But with new lives – and families – to protect, will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?

I have been reading this book for a very long time. My thesis has completely taken over my life and made my desire to read fiction pretty much nonexistent! There was a point where I just stopped reading for – probably an entire year. But this started to help me get back into reading and I found myself lost in the story.

Firstly, I loved how this book went back and forth between the present day and the past of the girls in the story. It kept me going and it didn’t reveal what happened immediately which helped as you really wanted to know how it happened. I did have to keep reminding myself who was who when they were adults as they of course had changed their names, but after a while I started to get used to it.

I really enjoyed the fact that the two girls ended up with two entirely different lives, ones which meant that one would resent the other for being able to have a good, nice life after everything that happened. I found myself feeling sorry for the characters despite their past, which is likely due to the way in which the murder occurred.

I don’t want to give away too much about the story, but this book was almost like a story in a story. Which kept it really interesting and was a good parallel with the past events. I really enjoyed the novel, the writing and the characters. I would definitely like to read more from this author, I really liked the style of writing!

Posted in Psych Bites, Psychology

Psych Bites: Tuskegee Syphilis Study

In 1895, Booker T. Washington outlined his dream for economic development for the ethnic minority community. Over the subsequent years, this led to funding into the development of schools, factories, businesses and agriculture. Around the late 1920’s, there was a severe problem with Syphilis. In 1929, the disease was treated with mercury and bismuth and only had a cure rate of 30%.

This led to the funding of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study bu the US Public Health Service. The purpose of this study was to record the progression of syphilis in the hopes of justifying treatment programmes for African-Americans. The official name of the study was “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male”.

At the beginning of the study in 1932, 600 black men were involved; 399 of these already had syphilis and 201 did not. Participants were told that they would be treated for “bad blood”, a local term used to describe several ailments such as syphilis, anaemia and fatigue.

Participants did not actually receive proper treatment for their condition. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals and burial insurance. The study was originally supposed to last 6 months but went on for 40 years.

In 1936, the study published a major paper on the health effects of untreated Syphilis. The study was criticised as it was not known if the men were being treated, this led to the involvement of local physicians who were told by the researchers not to treat men. Decision was made to follow the men until death.

In 1945, penicillin was found to be a successful treatment for syphilis. However, the participants of this study were left untreated despite “Rapid Treatment Centers” being established for the treatment of syphilis. It wasn’t until 1972 that the study ended.

Following the termination of the experiment, the surviving participants were given treatment for the disease. By the end of this study 28 people had died from the disease, 100 had died from related diseases and 40 spouses and 19 children had also been infected as a result of this research.

In 1974, a $10 million settlement was reached as well as lifetime medical benefits and burial services to all living participants. The Tuskegee Health Benefit Program was established to provide these services. A year later wives, widows and offspring were added to the programme.

In 1997, President Clinton issued a public apology on behalf of the nation. The final participant of the research passed away in 2004.

This research is an important marker in ethical procedures as it is a perfect illustration of why we need to have ethical principles for research in order to stop things like this occurring. As it is such an important piece of research I wanted to have this included in my psych bites feature on my blog, what are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Education Help and Advice, Life as a Research Student, PhD Journey

How to keep on top of everything on a PhD.

I like to think one of my strong points is organisation. But at first, when I started my PhD (two whole years ago now!) I often found that I would forget everything that I had to do, when it had to be in for and it can often be difficult to prioritise.

Get a whiteboard.

Getting a whiteboard has been really useful for me, I got pretty pens that were quite thin and in different colours to use as well. I then used the whiteboard to write everything down that I needed to remember, I would draw rectangles in different colours with titles on such as:

  • Conferences
  • Teaching
  • Thesis
  • Data collection
  • Research assistant (this was something I did alongside my PhD part time in my final year)
  • Internship (something I did part time in my second year)
  • UREC (I was part of the university research ethics committee which met once a month)
  • Athena Swan (I was also part of the Athena swan committee for my school)
  • PGCert (I was also completing this during my PhD and needed to keep track of my assignments)

This makes it easier for you to break things down and see everything that you need to do, underneath the title you can write down what you need to do for each thing. For example, you might have written under teaching “Go over notes for lesson on Tuesday”, under conferences you can have dates of those you want to apply for/attend with all the deadlines for things you need to do such as writing an abstract, travel, making the poster/presentation etc. I just found it useful to have one place where I can see all my tasks, all my areas of work so I don’t forget anything or miss anything!

The other thing I decided to do was to set a day for each thing. This made it easier for me to know what my focus was going to be for each day. For example, I would say on a Monday I will write for my thesis. Obviously, sometimes, this can’t always be the case, but it helps to have a bit of a structure to your work and what you decide to work on rather than getting up each day feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to dive in!

I would also use the whiteboard, and sometimes a piece of paper, to mind map out any ideas for things I wanted to do, such as papers that I could write or a type of data collection I could do.

Everyone’s whiteboard will of course look different, but this took a long time for me to perfect and to get it to work even though I had in my head what I wanted to do. It’s definitely something that has helped me to stay focused and make sure everything gets done!

Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction

Book Review: Eeny Meeny by M J Arlidge (Helen Grace 1)

Star Rating: 4/5
Title: Eeny Meeny
Author: M J Arlidge
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 448
Genre: Mystery, Thriller and Crime

Purchase here

The girl emerged from the woods, barely alive. Her story was beyond belief. But it was true. Every dreadful word of it.

Days later, another desperate escapee is found – and a pattern is emerging. Pairs of victims are being abducted, imprisoned then faced with a terrible choice: kill or be killed.

Would you rather lose your life or lose your mind?

Detective Inspector Helen Grace has faced down her own demons on her rise to the top. As she leads the investigation to hunt down this unseen monster, she learns that it may be the survivors – living calling cards – who hold the key to the case.

And unless she succeeds, more innocents will die . . .

For quite a while now, I have been struggling with reading for pleasure. I know that when I pick a book up, I will enjoy it and can read for quite a while; however, as I have been reading a lot for my PhD recently, I have been finding it difficult to have the motivation to pick up a book in the first place.

I decided to try a brand new author, but a book that had been recommended to me. This case, the book was recommended to me by my mum, who loves crime fiction. I decided to give it a go.

Firstly, I thought the premise of this book was incredibly interesting. The problem with crime fiction can be that a lot of them will use serial killers and it can get very tedious reading book after book with a very similar premise; but, this book was very original. Without giving anything away, this killer doesn’t actually do any killing themselves. They simply kidnap people in pairs, lock them away, and tell them they can be let go if one of them kills the other. It was something I myself had never read before.

All the way through the book there was chapters of a flashback perspective. You don’t know who the flashback is from or why it’s being included, though you begin to guess, which I really enjoyed and thought it added to the story very well.

I really enjoyed the authors style of writing, as someone who is only just getting into crime fiction, I feel like he is a good author to start with as it’s easy to follow, the language makes it easy to picture what’s going on and you get very involved with the characters themselves.

One small word on the ending itself, I definitely did not guess it and I was not expecting it either. I will definitely be reading more books by this author and I recommend giving him a try. This was the first book in the Helen grace series and I can’t wait to delve into her life further.

Posted in Education Help and Advice, Life as a Research Student, PhD Journey

What I Learnt from my Teaching Observation.

As part of my PhD I have to do a couple of hours teaching a week to students. Due to this, I had to undertake a short week long course as well as engaging in a number of assessments in order to gain the qualification. One of these assessments was to observe a lecturer and to write about the techniques they use and I wanted to share some of the things that I learnt from observing.

I’ll start off by saying that the lecture I observed was for Level 5 Psychology students and the lecture focused on individual differences in learning styles. The lecture itself was incredibly engaging, well-structured and prepared, which is why I particularly wanted to write about my experience.
1. Recap on previous week.
I noticed that the lecturer not only recapped what had been learned in the previous week, but he also related his content to both previous and future lectures so that students’ were able to grasp where they were within the course and how it all fits together. I have not long finished my undergraduate degree myself, and I think that this is particularly important because it helps to stop the feeling of “what is the point of this” or “am I even going to need this information”. If the student is constantly reminded as to why the content is being taught and how it all fits in, then it also helps with engagement as they will realise that the information that is being given to them is important.
2. If you can give the lecture/lesson without students being there; you’re doing it wrong.
This sentence itself is something which was said whilst I was doing the teaching course and it is one that has completely stuck in my mind and which I will definitely try to follow. I definitely saw this within my teaching observation. The lecturer constantly asked questions to the students’ to keep them involved and to guide the content of the lecture. This can also be done by giving the students’ an activity such as discussing a topic in groups or in pairs.
3. Humour = engagement.
This is something which some people are going to be scared of, it’s almost like performing. But, if you can, putting humour into your lessons can really help with engagement. I found that the lecturer I watched would often crack little jokes, some so bad it made people tut and some that actually did make people giggle. It’s worth giving it a go, it also makes you more likeable and approachable meaning that students are more likely to answer your questions!
4. Use real life examples.
This applies especially to more difficult/boring topics. I found that the lecturer would often use small little anecdotes and stories to bring the teaching to life. Not only will it help students to understand the topic, but it also means that they are more likely to remember it if you are able to put it into context.
5. Don’t just read off the slides.
This is something I learnt myself from being a student and hating it, but was reinforced by the teaching observation. If you are literally just reading off the slides, then what is the point in the students being there when they could simply read the slides themselves? In my observation, the lecturer would more use the slides as visual aid rather than for what he would say. This is why you need to be prepped for a lecture and ready to teach the subject.
Posted in Education Help and Advice, Misc

Career Choice: It’s okay to change your plans.

I was always the kind of person who changed their career plans very often. I believe the first ever job I wanted was a lollipop lady (if you’re not from the UK this is the person who helps children to cross the road safely) when I was around 6 years old. During our high school years we are told we need to know what we want to do, what path we wanted to take and what we needed to do to get there. But the truth is, sometimes we can take steps towards a certain goal to then decide to cast a wider net and not just stick to one path.

I wrote a blog post not too long ago about my desire to teach and lecture. The truth is I don’t think I want to put myself in such a bubble to not try new things and potentially find something that I love and never thought I would try before. I have applied for something which I never thought I would go into and I’m actually excited about it! The point is, you don’t need to know what you want to do, it doesn’t need to be set in stone forever and it is more than okay to change your mind!

Posted in Education Help and Advice, Life as a Research Student, PhD Journey

Top 5 Books that saved me on my PhD

I love reading and I always have. So, when I started my PhD first thing I asked about was “what books do I need to read?” And whilst I was met with a lot of people who didn’t use that many books on their PhD, I did manage to find some books myself which I think were really useful to me and could be used across a wide range of disciplines.

Discovering Statistics Using SPSS by Andy Field

I will never stop recommending this book. Not only does it help with SPSS (he has one for R too) but it helps with understanding the statistics behind it, knowing what test to use and why you’re using it. I’m one of those people that if I don’t understand why I’m doing it then I just can’t understand it at all! This book is good right from the basics up till the more advanced. I myself bought it in my first year of my undergraduate and have used it since!

PhD: An Uncommon Guide to Research, Writing and PhD Life by James Hayton

When I first started my PhD I actually got this book for Christmas, it’s only short but it really helps you to get started, understand what you should expect from your PhD and how you should plan your time. I have actually met the author as well (he did a talk at my university) and he was super nice and really helpful! He also has a YouTube channel where he discusses about doing a PhD so I’d also recommend checking that out.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

As I have written about before, publishing is an incredibly daunting experience on your PhD and I am still trying to figure it out and learn from it. This book has been really helping me, although written by the American Psychological Association it can go way beyond the psychology discipline and a lot of journals do actually recommend you read it if you are thinking of submitting a journal to them.

Doing a Literature Review by Chris Hart

I honestly think the majority of my books are from sage publications, and this is no exception, as it’s part of the sage study skills. This is a must have book for every scholar, it really helps with writing a literature review and puts it very simply. This is especially useful for those who struggle with organising themselves or understanding the best way to tackle a literature review. It’s a super useful book and really helped me to be more efficient with my literature review writing.

Qualitative Research Methods by Monique Hennink

Clearly my love for publications by sage continues! I really wanted to find a book to help me to get to grips with qualitative research. I myself prefer the quantitative methods but this book has completely helped me to understand the processes around qualitative research and analysis. It’s really easy to understand and very useful for anyone undertaking qualitative research.