The benefits of regular physical activity for older adults are well established. However, most older adults do not take enough activity to benefit their health. Walking is the nearest thing to perfect exercise and is a low cost, accessible and widely socially acceptable form of activity for older adults. Evidence suggests that interventions delivered by peers may be an effective way to engage older adults in physical activity. The Walk with Me study is a peer-led walking intervention which has been successfully piloted with older adults in Northern Ireland and is now proceeding to a fully-powered randomised controlled trial.
In addition to assessing effectiveness, process evaluation is an essential part of designing and testing complex interventions. It seeks to understand the delivery and uptake of the intervention, the causal pathways through which the intervention is expected to act, and the contextual factors affecting the implementation and outcomes of the intervention.
The ‘Walk with Me’ study is a collaboration between the Schools of Health Sciences, Psychology and Sport and the Institute of Mental Health Sciences, in addition to the University of East Anglia. As part of the study, a theory-driven process evaluation is planned, guided by the MRC Process Evaluation guidelines (1).
This PhD Researcher will contribute to the full trial of the “Walk with Me” Study, and specifically focus upon the process evaluation within the trial. In preparation for the process evaluation, the PhD Researcher will undertake a systematic review of process evaluations of older adults physical activity programmes to synthesise the learning from previous studies and evaluate their research questions, methods and conduct against the MRC Process Evaluation guidelines.
Based on these findings, the PhD Researcher will undertake an analysis of the implementation fidelity of the intervention assessing the extent to which the intervention is delivered as planned by the peer mentors, adapted to suit the participant and their context, and determining if participants understand and are acting on the behaviour change support received. This will involve assessing audio-recording meetings between peer mentors and participants for content, delivery fidelity and the receipt and enactment of the intervention by participants (2).
Finally, the PhD Researcher will conduct focus groups with peer mentors and participants to explore what impact contextual factors have influenced variation in the implementation of the intervention and outcomes and mechanism of impact and implementation of the intervention. These would include participant characteristics, the relationship between peer mentors and participants and local opportunities to be physically active (e.g. access to parks or safe place to walk). Audio recordings of focus groups will be transcribed and analysed using appropriate analysis techniques.
The findings from the PhD will inform will inform the real-world implementation of Walk with Me in a range of settings.
"References will be requested for shortlisted candidates"
AccessNI clearance required
Please note, the successful candidate will be required to obtain AccessNI clearance prior to registration due to the nature of the project.
- To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
- Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
- Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
- A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.
- First Class Honours (1st) Degree
- Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
- Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area
The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:
Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)
Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,500 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)
Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,750 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)
Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Department for the Economy (DFE)
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,500 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies
The Doctoral College at Ulster University
Ulster University has very enhanced independent learning. I strongly recommend my students to go abroad to broaden their vision to get new motivation. I tell them that when studying at Ulster University, they will receive an abundance of knowledge, new experiences and strong technology to enhance their life.
Professor Stenver Lin - PhD RadiologyWatch Video
I am currently the Director for the Department of Nursing-midwifery and Women's Heath at NTUNHS. I studied at Ulster University for 3 years and it was a very happy time. Ulster is very good for study, not only in academic work but it also shows you how to be a good teacher.
Professor Chein Huei Kao - PhD Health Science of NursingWatch Video
My career has spanned working within the community for both voluntary and statutory organisations. After completing my degree (Psychology) and Masters many years ago I was drawn once again to the academic life and the challenge of a PhD. I was tremendously privileged a secure a fellowship from HSC R&D office to fund my PhD. After having most recently worked within a health Trust supporting family carers, I wanted to investigate the impact of support services for family carers. I knew that male carers were 'hidden' and as such were particularly in need of support, so my PhD was within this area.I'm definitely most proud of MYSELF! My proudest moment was when I initially secured the funding for the PhD. My favorite memories involved data collection with the wonderful interview participants; and also the camaraderie of my PhD peers, who were always on hand to share the laughter... and the tears. I'll never forget.... my viva!
Anne Fee - PhD in Nursing and Health
As an undergraduate I studied Psychology at Queen's University Belfast which inspired me to work with individuals with brain injuries as a support worker. I later became an occupational therapist and began my PhD at Jordanstown. My research project looked at the psychometric properties of outcome measures implemented in a stroke clinical trial and the acceptability of mirror therapy as an upper limb treatment with stroke survivors.My favourite memory was attending the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Celebration of Excellence Awards 2018, held at The Shard in London. There I was awarded early career researcher for my presentation at the Annual Conference and I got to share and enjoy this experience, and the drinks reception, with my mum!! Truly an enjoyable day out. The support and encouragement I have received throughout from my supervisors, my peers, friends and husband have been immeasurable. I am proud of the person I've become.
Beverley Turtle - PhD in Nursing and Health
I am a medical doctor by training, graduating from the University of Khartoum. I have a clinical MD in Community Medicine from Sudan Medical Specialization Board and a Masters in Molecular Medicine in from Institute of Endemic Diseses/University of Khartoum. I was the head of the Community Medicine Department at Shendi University in Sudan from 2010 – 2013 before moving to Northern Ireland to complete a Master of Public Health at Queen’s University, Belfast. I moved to Northern Ireland to complete a Master’s of Public Health at Queen’s University, Belfast in 2012/13. I was awarded the Ulster University Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship (VCRS) to undertake a PhD in the prevalence and risk factors of congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland which contributes to the primary prevention of congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland by determining the extent to which specific maternal risk factors are associated with the risk of having a baby with
Hafi Saad - PhD in Nursing and Health
I started my career as a podiatrist and progressed into management within health and social care and am currently Deputy Director of Assurance at the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority. It has been a privilege to be academically supervised by two inspirational deep thinkers, Professor W George Kernohan and Dr Paul Joseph McCullagh. I also have a role as a single mother and have five brilliant kids who give to me joy and purpose and I am blessed to have loving and supportive parents.This has been a very long time in the making, first considered at the end of my MBA in 2000; twenty years later, in the middle of a pandemic, my book was finally printed. The past seven years of part-time study have probably been the most challenging period of my life, with life events beyond belief to confound the faint hearted; only with the patience, encouragement and support of my supervisors, Professor W George Kernohan and Dr Paul Joseph McCullagh, have I made it to the winner’s
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