A week in the life of a research assistant

Following on from Miriam's (very helpful) typical week in the life of a CP, I thought I'd add to this for people who are a little further down the ladder.

A typical week in the life of a research assistant

I currently work as an RA, here's what I might spend a typical week doing


Drive out to CMHT base to introduce the research project to the team working there, as we want to use their patients as research participants. Explain to them why we are doing the research, what it will involve (for them and for their patients), what will happen to the information/results etc. Discuss issues of confidentiality, informed consent, etc. Answer any questions they have (these can be very brutal!).

Drive back to university/hospital base. The PI is thinking of including a new rating scale in our interview schedule, so spend a good few hours on PubMed/google scholar researching it. Look at past studies that have used it, psychometric properties, alternatives available. Write up as concise report for research team meeting.


Continued training in implementing research interview/questionnaire. Spend a few hours with a senior research assistant working on the most approriate way to work with mental health patients for research (and learn a good few lessons about how it is different from clinical work!). Work with senior RA and consultant psychiatrist on implementing the BPRS & how to make GAF assessments. We watch past videos of psychiatric interviews and learn how to rate appropriately.

Me & the other junior RA practice conducting interviews on each other. Try to be stoical and professional whilst pretending to have psychotic delusions. We identify parts of the interview schedule that do not run smoothly, and either alter minor adjustments accordingly or discuss it with the PI/senior RA for more major difficulties.


Identify potential participants that fit the study criteria. Send the caseload lists to the statistician for randomisations.

Research team meeting: we discuss progress so far. I give my short presentation on the proposed new scale, we weigh up the pros and cons, and decide to use it. We need to send an amendment application to the ethics council for approval of the new scale. Administrative tedium ensues.

Attend a guest lecture after hours because the speaker is very big and important (and, it turns out, interesting)


Preparing materials for interviews; making up packs of consent forms, information sheets, questionnaire booklets, etc. Write short presentation on our research project for presentation to department.

Attend a clinic base for interviewing. Introduce study to potential participants, answer any questions. Obtain consent (or let them leave, whichever) and conduct research interview. Gotta love those tick boxes!

Pack up, thank key workers profusely for their help


Compare notes on interview with other RA. Enter data on to the spreadsheet, compare results to make sure we're both rating properly.

Keep article data base up to date, catch up on some reading.

Attend ethics approval meeting for another study we're running concurrently. Justify existence.


I hope this helps! Feel free to ask me for more info

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