Our final blog in August’s ECR series is by Clair Gamble, who is a PhD student at the University of Dundee. However, stay tuned in September as we may have to continue the series! Read the series so far here

I am a Registered Nurse and final year PhD student at the University of Dundee. For my PhD project, I am applying advanced psychometric methods to dementia knowledge datasets, under the supervision of Tim Croudace, Judith Sixsmith, and Wendy Moncur.

I have worked in healthcare since 2010 and took a particular interest in the care of people with dementia in acute medical environments; this led me to pursue PhD training, which I began in 2015.

My PhD looks at how we assess knowledge of dementia across populations, including healthcare professionals, informal carers, and public groups. The measurement instruments currently in use often do not have established psychometric properties as quality indicators, leading to challenges when we try to compare knowledge levels within or between groups. Non-comparable instruments also cause difficulties when attempting to evaluate any improvements in knowledge levels with sufficient precision.

To explore solutions for these issues, I am applying advanced psychometric methods to already established instruments. Item response theory (IRT) methods provide more information about measurement instruments than the traditional classical test theory (CTT) models, as they allow us to examine the characteristics of each question (item) within a scale, alongside the characteristics of the scale as a whole. IRT methods also enable us to calibrate items from separate scales onto one measurement continuum, which facilitates comparable evaluations.

I was recently awarded a 3-month internship with the Scottish Government, funded by the SGSSS, during which I worked in Edinburgh as a data analyst within a team of Government social scientists. Stepping away from my PhD for a while gave me the opportunity to explore career options outside of academia, and ultimately allowed me to recharge before working through the final stages of my research.

On completion of my PhD, I would like to work in teaching and research in fields related to mental health and measurement theory. I plan to maintain my nursing registration and would love to incorporate a clinical component into my academic career.  

 Follow Clair on Twitter: @Clair_M_Gamble

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