Samantha Parsons

Research Fellow, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education


“It was great to have a keen and enthusiastic student working with us and I would most definitely recommend the Nuffield programme to other social science research centres and academic departments.”

What type of research project did you offer?

Our project was a piece of analysis on the longitudinal data from studies such as the British Birth Cohort Studies.

Our Nuffield student used data collected during the period 2000-12 and investigated whether domestic tasks were shared more when couples were aged either 30 or 42, and whether men take on more responsibility for domestic duties as they get older. She also looked at whether men and women agree that domestic tasks are shared equally or not.

How did you design a suitable project for a Nuffield student?

We wanted our student to gain a good understanding of longitudinal social science data – from survey design, data cleansing and production, contact with cohort members, managing online communications as well as manipulation and analysis of data.

Given the size and complexity of the dataset arising from the British Birth Cohort studies, we devised a short list of specific topics which could be realistically investigated during a 4-6 week placement. Our Nuffield student selected the one which interested her the most and we asked her to tell us the reasons for her choice, so that we could be confident she understood the nature of the project before getting started.

What motivated you to offer a Nuffield Research Placement?

The Regional Nuffield Coordinator contacted us about the possibility of offering a statistical social science research project. We thought it was a great opportunity to promote the Centre’s work and give A-level students some exposure to longitudinal datasets routinely used in the social sciences, hopefully inspiring them to pursue quantitatively orientated degree courses.

Our department will be offering an undergraduate degree in quantitative research methods in the near future, so providing a Nuffield Research Placement seemed like a great way to promote the new course.

What are the key benefits of hosting Nuffield students?

Having a 17 year-old student working with us resulted in several unforeseen benefits. At the time of the placement, we were launching a new website aimed at members of the Millennium Cohort Study, who are now 14 years of age. It was really useful to have our student’s input on the content and layout of the site, given that she was far closer to the age group than we are!

She also gave us some excellent feedback on the materials we prepared to teach students about longitudinal data and SPSS software. These experiences will enrich her A-level studies and hopefully enable her to make informed career choices in the near future.