Chloe Brennan, Psychology, University of Liverpool (2018 Cohort)
I have wanted to learn R since I started my PhD and after learning about the benefits of doing structural equation modelling (SEM) in R I knew I needed to bite the bullet and sign up to a training course since I would be using this method in my PhD. Although training courses can be pricey, I am lucky to be a NWSSDTP funded PhD student because I can use the Research Training Support Grant to cover the costs.
First up, it’s not easy deciding which course to go on, there’s a lot out there and it’s hard to figure out which are the best. I found the course I attended, “(Online) SEM in R workshop” which was hosted by University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre on the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) website, and that’s a good place to start looking. The course was a full week of 9-5 days and having a whole week blocked out with no distractions was the perfect way for me to learn. Despite good intentions, my usual attempts to self-learn R are usually put to the bottom of the pile when other research tasks crop up.
So, I turned up to the zoom session, completely new to R, and with only limited knowledge of SEM. The format consisted of lectures and hands on practical tasks which we usually worked on in breakout groups of four people. Having attended an in-person training course pre-pandemic, I have to say, I preferred the online format. Networking was super easy, especially in breakout rooms, and I met some great people from all over the world (kudos to those that woke up at 2am to join the course)! We helped each other out where possible and I was even sent some helpful research papers by other attendees which saved me hours of scrolling through papers myself. It was easy to ask questions using the chat function or by un-muting yourself and it was nice working from the comfort of home rather than staying in a hotel for the week.
The course itself was fantastic and I highly recommend it. We were provided with great teaching and had access to all the slides, references to help when it comes to write up of the statistics, and most importantly R code. Having a basic script to work from will save me so much time and stress in the future. It is also a real boost to morale learning a new skill, and socialising (virtually) with others. For me, the greatest challenge of both a PhD and lockdown is the isolation and so although statistics can be daunting, attending this training course was really enjoyable.
And of course, the biggest perk of working from home was having a little puppy to keep me company when I needed a mental break from statistics/coding!