We have recently adopted a portfolio model for the final year thesis. The benefit of this is that trainees will learn key research competencies, with the resulting research outcomes in a format which will facilitate publication of the research. We believe this gives our trainees a “real life” experience of research and allows them to complete the research process (i.e. dissemination of their research) in a more efficient way which will also enhance career and employment prospects. The research training on the doctoral programme at UEA is therefore aimed at teaching ways and means of conducting ecologically valid, high quality and generalisable research of direct clinical relevance to the NHS.
The doctoral thesis portfolio offers trainees the opportunity to engage in a significant piece of research, supported by an academic supervisor. The thesis is based on research carried out by trainees in partnership with staff within the specific research programmes, and sometimes with clinical supervisors in the region. As research is rarely carried out by individuals in isolation, collaboration between trainees and staff is encouraged to embed skills as competent scientist-practitioners. Dedicated days for research and academic study are allocated in each year of training. There are good library and computing facilities within the University and in NHS departments around the region. There are opportunities for collaborative and team research including opportunities for working with colleagues in other disciplines within the School.
Planning for the thesis starts early in the first year with a Research Fair where staff provide information about the programmes of research and outlines of potential projects in the format of a conference poster session. We plan to involve patients and the public in these early discussions from 2016. Trainees then have the opportunity to develop ideas and present them for feedback in the Spring term. Following this, trainees submit their thesis proposal in June of Year 1. The portfolio thesis is submitted in March of Year 3 (giving candidates up to 21 months to complete their research) and are assessed via oral examinations (vivas). The thesis is submitted in a publication friendly portfolio format, normally comprising a systematic review, chapters on methodology, results and discussion, and a chapter in the format of a journal article highlighting the main findings.