The Voluntary Research Assistant Scheme (VRAs) is an experience offered to all UG and PG students enrolled in a Psychology programme at Heriot Watt University.


  1. Increase your employability profile by including the scheme in your CV
  2. Develop further your transferable skills in terms of data handling and reports preparation
  3. Get greater knowledge of a research environment, including team work, and of the research environment in general
  4. Get hands-on research experience on a specific topic of Psychology of your interest


By taking part in a research project led by a staff member.

Minimum duration: 2 months; Maximum duration: 12 months
Minimum hours/week: 2 hours; Maximum hours/week: 4 hours

The number of hours undertaken will depend on the time of year and your commitments in relation to your studies and should be discussed and agreed with your supervisor.

Is there a selection process?

The VRA experience is agreed with the supervisor. If the supervisor accepts the application and there are places available, then no further selection is needed. If there are more applications than places available, then there is a selection process.

The selection is based on:

  • CV (qualifications acquired up until the application and extracurricular relevant activities)
  • Personal statement highlighting the reason for pursuing this opportunity ( e.g. experience useful for pursuing Masters programme or PhD position; experience useful for developing particular skills; experience useful for deciding between clinical and research career)
  • Match between abilities-project (e.g. if project requires use of SPSS independently, unlikely to benefit year 2 student).

Here is what previous students have said about their experiences…
Video 1
Video 2

If you are interested in becoming a VRA for any of the projects below, please email the relevant staff contact copying in VRA Coordinator: Dr Mel McKendrick



Project:Understanding factors that influence facial expression recognition
Description:There are a number of factors that affect emotion recognition including age, gender, use of BSL and mental health.  Most research to date has investigated this by comparing the mean performance of two or more experimental groups.  This research seeks to understand the relationship between the visual signals in the image and emotion recognition performance at the level of the individual.  This will be achieved by presenting participants with a series of images on a computer screen and asking them to make decisions about the expressions.  Looking at their responses to these images tells us how sensitive they are to the emotions.

There are currently two projects that you can engage in:
1. the effect of ageing on sensitivity to emotions
2. effect of social anxiety, autism and BSL on sensitivity to emotions

Eligibility criteria: The candidates will need to have normal or corrected to normal vision.  The candidates will need to be confident using computers and have an interest in visual perception
VRA Role:1. Data collection
2. Data analysis
3. Write-up methods and results
Start Date: November 2021
Duration:As needed weekly from November 2021 until June 2022 (N.B. it is not expected that you will be available each week during this time, a schedule of engagement will be arranged between us, normally at least 2 hours per week during term time).
Benefits to VRA:Experience collecting, analysing and preparing data for write up.  Training in data management and analysis.  Working as part of a research team with other VRAs.
Staff Contact:Dr. Louise Delicato

Project:HATS: How are Academics Thought of by Society?
Description:The aim of the study is to understand how different social groups perceive academics based on the form of social knowledge of the group expressed by their shared values, norms and attitudes.  A Qualtrics study has been prepared and ethics application has been submitted.
VRA Role:1. Monitor and encourage recruitment to online Qualtrics study
2. Data preparation – Getting the data into suitable forms for analysis
3. Data analysis and interpretation – This will include considerable qualitative analysis and so confidence using or learning to use techniques (g., thematic analysis) and software for qualitative data analysis such as nvivo will be important. Some SPSS analysis may also be required
3. Write-up results
Start Date: May 2021
Duration:As needed weekly from May 2021 until September 2021 (N.B. a schedule of engagement will be arranged between us, normally at least 2 hours per week).
Benefits to VRA:Experience collecting, analysing and preparing data for write up.  Training in data management, analysis and using Nvivo software.  Working as part of a research team with other VRAs.
Staff Contact:Dr. Louise Delicato & Dr. Mioara Cristea

Campus:Edinburgh, Dubai, Malaysia
Project:Validation of a potential training paradigm for student presentation skills
Description:The aim of the current study is to trial a combination of exposure and cognitive restructuring in a training paradigm with live social performance situations in order to provide the basis for research development in a virtual training application programme 
VRA Role:We are looking for students who can help running the study and act as audience members where participants engage in presentation practice. You will help with administering feedback exercises and in analysing behaviours.
Start Date:Ongoing
Duration:The study will involve coding, helping to recruit and conduct the study and analysis.
Benefits to VRA:You will gain experience of working with groups of participants in an online video study and learn about social anxiety in relation to speech content, gestures and attention. You will also gain knowledge of analysis and statistics depending on your role. 
Staff Contact:Dr Mel McKendrick


Supervisors and students may also be interested in applying for an externally funded internship. 

The BPS and EPS schemes are designed to provide a stipend to 3rd year students to assist the supervisor on a research project driven by them. (Early March) (Early March) Must be supervised by an EPS Ordinary Member – only one per department. 

The Carnegie scheme is designed to give 3rd year students the direct opportunity to propose their own research project. (Late January)