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!