City Q-Step Centre
Victoria is a final year student in the School of Arts & Social Sciences. She chose to do the Q-Step programme as part of her course; we asked her to tell us about her experience.
As Q-step isn’t available at most universities, could you describe what Q-Step is?
The Q Step Programme is an optional part of your degree at City (for Sociology, Criminology, Media, Communications and Sociology, Psychology and International Politics students) - by choosing the programme you can experience quantitative data research in the field. As part of the programme one module includes a placement, where you get to choose a work place to go to for one day, every week, for a term. It means that you can put your data analysis skills into practice in a more professional environment and understand how research works in the 'real' world.
I heard about the Q-Step programme before coming to City and it was one of the reasons I choose to study here. I think studying within the social sciences can be difficult as it has many pathways, thus any additional experience can be vital when applying for jobs. I was really drawn to how many opportunities the programme gave me, but also to learn more about the quantitative side of social research.
Quantitive data sounds intimidating, do you have to be good at maths to be good at Q-step?
I was really nervous about my data skills before I started the programme, particularly because whilst I did take A-Levels before coming to uni, on the Q-Step programme you learn how to use new software, like SPSS, R and Tableau, to help design questionnaires and to analyse the results. Being good at Maths is not essential to Q-Step however, as the software takes care of the maths behind the analysis and you learn how to interpret the results.
Data Analysis is the process which comes after collecting a set of results. For example, you hand out surveys to find out what a City Student’s favourite food, colours and clothes are. Data analysis is the step taken afterwards, to interpret and make statements based on the results collected as part of the research. Data analysis can explore trends within the data, and is an essential part of the research process where results are found.
Data skills can be used in lots of jobs, any research jobs, like for charities in Cancer Research, or even the charities that Project Oracle work with, the civil service and research organisations like Natcen and Office of National Statistics. They are always looking for data literate candidates because it's quite a unique skill that a lot of students do not have. The Q-Step will give you this skill.
How do you feel has Q-step benefitted you?
I think taking part in the Q-Step has increased my confidence in data analysis, having being able to practice things learnt at Uni in a professional environment. At first it sounded incredibly scary, but by developing my skills during placements, I could consolidate my learning from University. Sometimes it feels like assignments are given to just test how much you have learnt during a particular module at Uni, but, with the Q-Step you work towards a purpose within the organisation, on real projects.
Q-Step is a great opportunity, use are taught to use software like Tableau and huge data sets like the Census where you can learn to map data across London. This puts a fun spin on data analysis. You also get to go on placements within organisations in London as one of the compulsory modules and experience optional placements abroad, particularly during the summer.
I was given the opportunity to go to Dublin for a week and worked at Eurofound. Here I learnt about social research in more of a global context and gained essential experience for applying for jobs upon graduating. The placement is organised by the University, so you literally have to turn up.
Some Q-Step modules are offered to all students, why opt in to the full programme?
By doing Q-Step, your confidence within data analysis is far greater than your peers that are not in the programme. It also means that upon graduating you may have more experience on your CV in terms of work experience. You even get the opportunity to expand your network and have an advantage when applying for graduate jobs.
The only module offered exclusively to Q-Step students is the placement modules where you apply/ request a placement and are then allocated to work somewhere once day a week for 10/11 weeks. Many of my friends were put off, at the thought that they don’t have the appropriate skills in order to go into an organisation. But, the organisation understand that you are a University student, will support you and help you learn such great skills for employment.
Also, the opportunities you are given to expand your data analysis in year 2 and 3 gives you great scope in your Sociology Project, which is worth 3 modules in your final year.
Doing the full Q-Step programme means completing an organised work placement. Where did you go?
I went on 2 placements both organised by the University.
The first work placement I went to was with a company called Project Oracle and they help small youth and children's charities with their research skills in order to help them get extra funding from the government to run their charity.
My role whilst I was on placement was to help the charity Fight 4 Change analyse their gang intervention programme and suggest how their after programme questionnaires compared to the participants pre programme questionnaires. I was mainly running descriptive analysis, but also learnt how to do T-testing which is not learnt as part of my degree.
My second placement was at Eurofound in Dublin- I spent 5 days here and the travel and accommodation costs, were all covered by the Uni. I worked within the social policy department within the European Quality of Life Survey. I was given the task to run descriptive in order to compare the outcomes of both the European Quality of Life Survey and the European Social Survey (which we use to learn SPSS at Uni). Everything I was doing
mirrored my learning at Uni, but the placement reassured me that I was capable of working in such environments, which I didn't believe beforehand. I also got to work on mini projects running descriptive analysis for members of my team.
As part of my time here I got to meet the interns who worked in various different departments within Eurofound and was able to meet people across the company and ask them questions about their job.
What was a typical day on your work placement?
At Fight 4 Change I would typically arrive at 10am with the other employees. I would set up my laptop and sometimes attend a morning briefing which was held in the office I was working in. Then I would get on with the analysis I needed to do for the day.
As it was a small charity everyone knew the project I was working on really well and every week I had the same team around me, so any time I had a question I could ask them.
I was assigned my own project and was essentially working for Project Oracle. So Project Oracle gave me training beforehand and I had a placement contact, so I could email them with any questions. I would usually leave between 4 - 6 pm, most of the staff would leave by 3 to go run the after intervention in East London. I also had the flexibility to work from home.
At Eurofound, I would arrive at 9 o'clock and have breakfast and meet with my supervisor who would explain my schedule for the day. I was given my project 2 days in and had a few meetings to attend where I got to meet various members of staff to discuss what they do for their job. At lunch I would either meet my supervisor or the interns. I would go home at 5pm when my supervisor left too. So the day was structured around what my supervisor had organised.
Both placements were better than I expected. I thought that the work I would be given would be beyond my capabilities but everything was very similar to what was being taught at Uni or explained to me by a member my team. My work placements definitely helped me decide that I want to go into social research upon graduating. I realised I am passionate about maths. By going on the placements I have found that I really enjoy data analysis and the process of quantitative social research. Without taking the Q-Step programme I do not think I would have been able to find this passion.