Dr Claire Lee is an Early Career Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Oxford Brookes University. Claire's recent doctoral research was an arts-based dialogic inquiry into the learning lives of children from armed forces families in a UK primary school.

Can you tell us what got you into your field of study in the first place?

Like many others I’ve come across in this research field, I have a service background myself; my father was in the RAF for 36 years. Even though my parents chose ‘weekending’ over accompanied postings, I realise in retrospect how much of my childhood was tinged by the service lifestyle.

Later, I worked for many years as a primary school teacher in a school with a sizeable proportion of children from service families. Through everyday conversations and incidents, I realised we needed a better understanding of their priorities and concerns. Finding a gap in the research literature, and specifically a dearth of UK qualitative research, I did a small-scale arts-based study with a group of primary-school-age service children for an MSc in Educational Research. That led to ESRC funding for my PhD, a dialogic, arts-based inquiry into the learning lives of children from armed forces families, which I completed in 2020 at the University of Bristol. I am now an Early Career Research Fellow for the Children and Young People Research Network at Oxford Brookes University.

What advice would you like to give PhD students and early career researchers that you wish someone had said to you?

I would encourage you to present early and often, and use presentations as a way of developing and refining your thinking. If, like me, you come from a previous career in which you are judged heavily on your performance, it can be unsettling to present something that is still evolving and unfinished, but it is a valuable way of gaining feedback from experienced researchers on your ideas as well as suggestions for further reading. At the same time, learn how to present interestingly: use striking visuals and avoid text-heavy slides and reading through them. Try not to be tentative: if people are interested enough in your research to attend your presentation, they deserve something that is engaging.

What are your top tips for getting published?

It can be helpful to learn how the publication process works. I was offered the opportunity to co-edit a journal special issue and I have found this experience invaluable, not only for understanding how the peer review process works from the perspective of a reviewer and editor, but also for learning how authors respond to reviews, especially harsh ones, and use them positively to improve their work. An important point is to make sure your article closely meets the brief of the call for papers. Another piece of helpful advice I’ve been given is to read a number of papers from the journal you are targeting to get ideas for style and structure.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been working with a number of researchers recently who take a posthuman and sociomaterial theoretical perspective to their research, and have been dipping into that literature. Karen Barad’s 2007 book ‘Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning’ is a challenging but rewarding read. After that I’m planning to read Donna Haraway’s ‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’ – another daunting but intriguing title. For a recent project I’ve been reading a lot of research articles in the field of digital inequalities. And it’s important to me always to have a novel on the go; recently I read the four ‘Neapolitan’ novels by Elena Ferrante, which I’d recommend for the vivid picture she paints of life in a neighbourhood of Naples and her stories of women’s friendship.

How do you see your research field progressing over the next ten years?

In the last five years I think there has been a growing awareness among policymakers of the inappropriateness of one-size-fits-all approaches to children from service families. This has partly been driven, I am sure, by qualitative researchers working in this field. I hope that research funding will be made available for qualitative studies that can look beyond cohorts and generate nuanced understandings of the complexities of individuals’ ever-changing lives, as well as attend to the diversity of experience among service children. I would also like to see research that both challenges common discourses that position service children as individually either resilient or needy and attends critically to the contexts and structures that shape children’s lives.

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