Jisc banner

Cover image

Participants 101 - Part 4 - The other side

03 March 2016

In our final part of this series on what taking part in research is and how to do it, we are taking a behind the scenes look at the life of scientists and what it means to conduct a research study. This will give you an idea of where your participation fits in with the wider research study.

Conducting research

What you see on Call for Participants is only a small part of the research cycle. It all begins with the scientists identifying a problem that they wish to solve, or something that we yet don't know about. This leads to a research question. In psychology for example, think along the lines of: "What makes us feel different moods?" or "Where does our personality come from?"

A lot of research goes into getting to the point where you can even ask the question. There is a lot of knowledge out there and researchers need to understand where their interests and questions fit in. Research knowledge most commonly takes the forms of conference proceedings and journal articles, which explain the discoveries other researchers have made and how they did it. If you want to get to know these a bit better, take a look at google scholar where you can search for many of the articles available online.

When the researcher knows their research question, they begin to design experiments that answer the question. Often they form a hypothesis, for example, "I think our personality comes from a specific part in our brains," and then test it to see whether it is true. And this is where you come in. Many research areas, notably psychology, require human participants to observe or perform test on to prove the hypothesis. In other cases, think biology, or engineering, the scientist may never leave the lab, and you will only know about their work when if becomes a commercial product and you buy it.

After the research experiment is over and all data has been collected, the researcher analyses it using statistical methods or qualitative methods. This gives the researcher the answer to their original question, which they will then submit to a conference or a journal, that we spoke about earlier, and the whole circle starts again.

Meet a scientist

Dr. Adam Gazzaley

At this stage, the whole concept might seem a bit alien to you, that's okay. In reality, scientists are just the same as you and me. Earlier we brought the example of a hypothesis about personality coming from a part of the brain. This field is part of the study of nervous systems and is called neurology. Dr. Adam Gazzaley is a neurologist and his research focuses on cognition - the brain's processes that take care of learning, thought, and sensing. His team is building tools to keep exercising our brains as we get older.

You can listen to this great People Behind the Science podcast with him to find out more about somebody working in this field, get a behind the scenes glimpse into the life of a neurologist, and hear about how Adam ended up studying brains because he was fascinated by how a water gun worked.

If you are interested in hearing from other scientists from different fields, be sure to check out the whole People Behind the Science podcast. It's a great listen if you want to hear from Nobel prize winners, people working with chimps (let's be honest, who doesn't want to hear that), or other fascinating scientists.

Other episodes from People Behind the Science

Get involved

And since we've been talking about brains and cognition throughout this post, why not take part in some cognition research as well:

    • Call For Participants' Blog brings you news on research studies, trends and impact - plus insider knowledge from the world's first and largest open recruitment platform.

  • Follow us


Keep up to date