Case study

Laura Burgoine — Government social research officer

HM Revenue and Customs

Laura’s undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in psychology helped her to decide that she really wanted a career in research

Describe a typical working day…

In general, it almost always involves talking to the person or team (stakeholder) who has requested the research in order to understand their requirements, developing the data collection methodology, collecting, analysing or disseminating data back to the stakeholders.

In the past year I have also:

  • Conducted literature reviews, of both internal and external/academic research. This involved developing a search strategy, screening and reading through literature and summarising it into a report.
  • Developed staff sample surveys by creating the survey questions and inputting them onto a survey tool, formulated a sample of the population, sent out the survey and analysed the results.
  • Analysed large scale external customer survey data.
  • Conducted qualitative analysis on free text survey data.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Conducting research which has real life impact is the most enjoyable aspect. Seeing your research being disseminated to high-level decision makers and influencing the decisions being made is very rewarding.

What are the challenges?

The main difficulty is providing high-quality research within often short and strict deadlines.

It’s also important to disseminate research in a highly engaging and efficient way, as most stakeholders don’t have time to read through lengthy reports. Being able to get across the most important messages, while highlighting the main caveats is a very important skill to have.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

As my role has developed I have become more involved with the management of my projects and talking to stakeholders. My technical skills have developed too, having worked on a variety of methodologies and subjects.

I currently work in an internal, operational focusing team. Therefore, my career ambitions include getting experience working on externally commissioned research and working on external policy research.

How do I get into government social research?

  • Have a variety of research methodology experience. If necessary, ask for some volunteering where you’re less experienced, from lecturers, for example.
  • Be aware that you can get into government social research through the Civil Service Fast Stream and Main Stream recruitment (Civil Service Jobs).
  • Read through some of the externally published research on the website. This may give you an idea of the sort of research which influences policy decisions.

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