Crafting an artwork = Designing a survey (Warning: will attempt to collect as much information as humanly possible)




Who knew creating a survey could be so complicated? I don’t think I had previously considered the thought and planning required to design a survey. I admit, on submitting my original funding application to the NIHR, I did include a Gantt chart where I had to consider this a little. But to be honest at the time I felt I had been really rather generous in giving myself this time to create a survey – pah a survey! Now I know better:

Before I started my PhD, as a person on the other end of a survey, I had often pondered on the following issues:
– That’s an interesting email from XXX, I will try to get around to completing the survey after I have completed all my other clinical duties which my manager has demanded of me….two months later…argh I forgot to complete that survey after all.
– Should I really bother completing this survey – I mean it is only a survey(?!?!) and a prize draw never seemed that enticing to get me (I never win stuff like that).
– Why do they need to know all that personal stuff about me, where I come from and what I do – this does not seen relevant!
– I am just going to skip those questions – I don’t have the information handy, it probably won’t matter.
– Checking a box is easy, I am happy to do that but write a sentence!? I haven’t got the time or energy.
– This survey is going on forever….
– What a funny way to phrase a question! I would not ask it that way.

Now as a researcher designing a survey, desperately hoping to encourage others to complete my survey I must consider the following issues:
– How can I disseminate my survey far and wide enough to get enough respondents? Speech and language therapists can be a tricky group of people to track down. Hopefully I can email it to enough groups who can send it out to their employees or members and will remember / be kind enough to complete my survey.
– How can I motivate people to complete my survey!? Can I afford to reward them? Will they do it for “the good of mankind (and speech and language therapy)”.
– I have so many questions – I must cut it down to a manageable amount. Which are the most important ones? Which will be most useful for the next stage of my research?
– It will be so useful to understand the differences in services across geographical regions, services (mental versus physical health), settings etc as well as knowing what is actually happening in the service they are delivering….I need a lot of personal information afterall!
– It will be so useful to ask people to provide comments boxes for written responses as it is so hard to categorise everything into tick boxes.
– It is incredibly difficult to write a question that means the same to every reader and that gives me the information I need! Words do not always do the job on paper.
– Thinking about the statistical analysis of a survey blows my mind a little!

Now I am about to disseminate my survey…I just hope those speech and language therapists are a lot kinder than I used to be!

Back to the future: student to lecturer.

Image copyright of
Image copyright of

As a speech and language therapy student I was full of admiration and awe for the lecturers, researchers and speech and language therapists who taught us. I still recall some of those lectures very clearly. It really did influence my daily practice. When faced with a person with a communication difficulty, I was quite aware that my decision making was underpinned by what I had learnt at university.

I remember learning about dementia back in the year 2000 on an exceptionally hot and sunny couple of days in a UCL lecture theatre just behind tottenham court road. I recall admiring the vast knowledge that this speech and language therapist possessed. She threw about complex medical diagnosis, names of medications and exotic unusual therapy interventions we had not really heard that much about anywhere else. This was followed by another inspiring lecture by a researcher and academic who is basically famous in speech and language therapy. It seemed like a mammoth field for a therapist to understand.

Recently here in the future the same speech and language therapist and researcher/academic’s who taught me on dementia have both stepped back from these lecturers. And I was asked if I would like to deliver these lectures. What an honour and what a responsibility, I cannot quite believe it.

I have spent the last few weeks carefully studying the previous lectures and crafting what I hope will be something  useful for the students. The timing has changed- it will be February so not so hot, and the room is different. I wonder if I can communicate the information the students need to understand something about this fascinating yet destructive condition. I want speech and language therapists in the future to feel equipped to deliver therapeutic interventions for people with dementia and their loved ones. That is why I wrote a book about it back in 2013. Does that qualify me for these lectures? Fingers crossed and wish me luck! The “imposter syndrome” monster is looming up behind me as I type. But I will keep him under control  and attempt to inspire some future clinicians to continue flying the flag for speech and language therapists in dementia. Dementia is after all one of the fastest expanding areas of practice for speech and language therapists.