What does a Research Assistant actually do?

Although I work on different research projects, I still work as the Research Assistant on all of them. Even though the daily duties differ between projects, the overall job role is the same. I thought it might be useful to others looking at similar job opportunities if I gave a brief overview of what the job involves on a daily basis.

As a Research Assistant, I am mostly responsible for the general, daily running of the research project. This means that, depending on what stage the project is at, I could be searching the literature for information about experimental tasks, designing test materials, recruiting participants, collecting data, entering data or running data analysis. I report back to my supervisors to update them with where the project is up to, action any tasks they would like me to do and to discuss any issues that arise during the project or decisions that we need to make.

Being responsible for the general running of the project also means that I deal with the logistical issues of running the experiments as they arise. I may be liaising with technical staff to set up computers to run experimental tasks or booking testing rooms. I may be phoning potential participants to arrange testing times or to conduct screening interviews, designing the layout of paper-based questionnaires or nipping out to the supermarket to buy the materials I will need as stimuli in an experiment. These are more like the day-to-day duties, the sort of tasks I do on a daily basis to keep the project moving. Some of these days will inevitably be longer than others, especially when testing sessions run in to the evenings, but I generally manage my own working hours and can arrange the time as the need arises.

So, as for what a Research Assistant actually does, the answer is that it differs on a daily basis. Overall, the job involves the daily running of a project, but that in itself isn’t consistent. The daily structure of my job changes as time goes on and follows the evolution of a project from start to finish. I’m currently nearing the end of a project at the moment so will be experiencing what happens when a larger project starts to wind down over the coming weeks, so I’ll let you know what that is like as I find out for myself!


About Beth Mead

Hello! My name Beth Mead and I am a Research Assistant working on several research projects in the Psychology department of an English university. I work with clinical and non-clinical populations on projects investigating mindfulness, eating disorder symptoms, cognitive flexibility and more! I use a variety of methods and work in both a university and clinical setting. In addition to my research post, I also do a little bit of teaching with Year One Psychology students. I hope that my blog will be useful for people thinking about going in to research and for people in a similar position as me, at the start of a research career.

10 Responses to What does a Research Assistant actually do?

  1. Leo Deux Fils M. Dela Cruz says:

    Hi, Beth!

    Do you have researches in line with Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing in your field of exposure? I am a Level-2 EMDR Practitioner and a clinical psychologist in the Philippines.

    Keep in touch.


  2. Cassandra says:

    I am scheduled for an interview for a research assistant job and I think this is useful for me. Keep it up.

  3. That is really interesting, You are an excessively skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking extra of your wonderful post. Additionally, I have shared your site in my social networks

  4. Tus O'Neil says:

    Hi, Beth!
    I’m shortlisted for the final interview of research assistant. The job information given by you (beth) is superb.. I’m sure this will help me in my interview.. thanks..

  5. Chhanda Burmaan says:

    Thank you Beth! Your post was really informative. Can I ask you something. I am doing my Masters. If I get a position as a Research Assistant while completing my Masters, will I get paid for it? Do you have an ballpark figures that show how much an RA can expect to get paid?

    Thank you in advance.

  6. Pigeon says:

    I have a question, I work as a research assistance in science and I think my employer got my job description confused!!. I do most of the job tasks you mentioned above, however, my supervisor also demand of me to come up with research novel ideas, creating models from scratch, and to write the whole literate review for the whole proposal. He insist that part of my job coming up with proposals!! (i guess he is milking me for what I worth). its really stressful and am starting to hate my job.

    Thank you

    • tony carter says:

      that’s all part of it though makes it look like you’re Research Associate there but hey, if i were you i would work my ass off to get my contract done and after it trust me you’ll be in better position to negotiate better offers against top companies

  7. julie says:

    Instead of research assistant, you should be called a ‘project coordinator’.

  8. begira peter says:

    Thank you beth for the information above been shortlisted for an interview as a research assistant and am Sure will be helped by this .thanks God bledá your works

  9. Rosie says:

    Hi Beth,
    I have just been offered a position as a full time Research Assistant, I was wondering if you had any advice on preparation I could do for the job. I believe the post includes quantitative data analysis it has been a long time since I have studied this in my Masters. I have some experience as a RA so I understand the daily work it involves but any prep advice would be great.
    Thank you

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