Student consultant a boost for Karin’s research

“We were able to attain a completely different selection thanks to Khawlah’s language skills”, says Karin Hugelius.

Karin Hugelius put medical student Khawlah Al-Maliki’s language skills to use to collect data for her research project. “The setup of the student consultant activities at Örebro University ensured a very smooth process,” says Karin.

Karin Hugelius is a senior lecturer at the School of Health Sciences at Örebro University and in her research, she looks at human response and needs in times of disaster and crisis. When in the process of collecting data and performing interviews with asylum seekers, she and her colleagues soon realised how much easier it would be to reach out to the target group if they had the assistance of people with other competencies and language skills than the ones they themselves possessed.

Karin had heard of other universities working with a model where students can take on assignments to assist researchers. She browsed the University’s website and found StudentUppdrag, a student consultant agency at Örebro University.

“I got in touch with Rebecca Wrigby at StudentUppdrag and explained to her what kind of support we were looking for. Together, we wrote a job specification and Rebecca issued a want ad.”

Assistance – and unique skills

Medical student Khawlah Al-Maliki jumped at the offer, and a meeting was set up with Karin. After one day of training, Khawlah was able to start collecting data for the research project.

“The fact that Khawlah speaks Arabic, made the contact with the asylum seekers easier, even if the data collection as such was done in English. In addition to easing our workload, of course, we were able to attain a completely different selection and data than we would otherwise have been able to, thanks to her language skills.”

Khawlah Al-Maliki was able to decide where and when to work. They kept in touch during the entire data collection phase and were able to deal with any queries arising along the way.

“We talked a lot about the practice of data collection, but also about questions relating to research methodology. Having a constructive dialogue and making ourselves available to answer questions and support the student if they were to run into problems is important. A lot of things can happen in a research project,” says Karin Hugelius.

And it was the constructive dialogue in particular between the two of them that Khawlah Al-Maliki appreciated very much.

“Karin was a fantastic supervisor and I enjoyed working with her. Karin was always available when I needed her and she provided guidance and supervision at the same time as she gave me the opportunity – and responsibility – to plan the work myself.”

No paperwork for the researcher

For researchers to avail themselves of student consultants is something that Karin Hugelius highly recommends. But it is important as a researcher, to first think through what it is you want help with.

“The assignment cannot be too complex or time-consuming. And since they are students first and foremost, it is important that both parties are in agreement – their studies come first.”

Thanks to the setup of StudentUppdrag, whose mission it is to relay assignments between students and employers both within and outside of the university, the process was simple and paperwork was kept at a minimum.

“The student is properly employed, insured and paid. So as a researcher, I don’t have to worry about all that – I just get an invoice. It was all very smooth,” says Karin Hugelius.

For Khawlah Al-Maliki, the student consultant assignment gave her work experience and a glimpse of what it is like to work as a researcher. It is something she happily recommends other students to try.

“It might be terrifying to reach out to employers on your own at the onset of your career, when your experience is very limited. The student consultant assignment is therefore a terrific opportunity for students to come in contact with various types of work and a secure way of getting work experience,” she says.

Text and photo: Anna Lorentzon
Translation: Charlotta Hambre-Knight