A week in the life of Sadie Bell

About Sadie

Sadie is a first year PhD student in the Department of Health Sciences, living locally in York. She studied for a BSc in Evidence Based Nursing (Adult) at the University of York and qualified as a registered nurse in 2011. Sadie is currently undertaking a full-time PhD exploring the acceptability and accessibility of sexual health services in the UK to the over 50s.

Sadie writes: "What is a typical week like for a PhD student in Health Sciences? In my experience, one of the most enjoyable aspects of being on the programme is that no typical week exists. Taking ownership of your own research project gives you the freedom to develop research skills, explore in-depth the research areas that interest you, and work in a way that is best for you and your thesis. The way in which individual students work on the PhD programme differs, although my colleagues may be at the same stage in the timeframe of the PhD, there is variety in how we work and which projects we are working on. I am well supported by my PhD supervisor and from our discussions my work schedule is planned. I find that my weeks are varied and interesting, producing fresh challenges and attainments."


After my first cup of coffee, the Monday morning mission is to list the tasks I plan to complete both that day and over the course of the week. I try to set myself an achievable workload, with manageable timeframes for each task. I have no lectures today, so I spend my morning writing part of my research proposal. The afternoon is spent reading for tomorrow’s modules and re-drafting a presentation I am giving with another student as part of the Public Health and Ethics module.

The day is spent working at my desk in the Research Centre for Social Sciences (RCSS) building on campus. I appreciate working in this environment as I am around other PhD students, including those from other departments. This means that, as well as it being helpful to share research ideas and to ask questions, there is an enjoyable social aspect too. It is a welcome break to have lunch with other PhD students and catch up on what everyone did at the weekend.


I attend lectures all day on Tuesday. In the morning I have Research Methods and in the afternoon I have Public Health and Ethics. I am currently attending these postgraduate modules, which are part of the Health Sciences Master’s programme, to gain the skills I need to be able to conduct my own research for the PhD and to improve my general ability as a researcher.

I am finding the Research Methods module challenging at the moment, trying to get my head around statistics, but the lecturers are all very helpful and answer my many questions! The afternoon lecture really is the highlight for me; in Public Health and Ethics we apply moral and political theory to evaluate public health interventions. This week I am delivering a presentation with another student on the use of harm reduction strategies in relation to illicit drug taking – a contentious topic which sparks debate within the group.


I have a meeting with my supervisor today to discuss the work I have completed over the last week. I find these meetings very valuable and they really help to guide my work. We discuss the lectures I have attended and talk about what I am currently doing on my research proposal. I feel able to freely discuss any problems I am experiencing and to ask for further guidance. 

At lunchtime, I go to a seminar held in the Health Sciences Department. Each week during term time, a guest speaker provides a talk on their area of research. These have included topics such as: ‘North V South: The State of England’s Great Health Divide’ and ‘Health and Activism’.

I spend the afternoon preparing work for the Research Methods module.


On Thursday morning I work on questions I want to include as part of a survey for my research project. I try to use the skills I have learned from the Research Methods session on questionnaire design – remembering the lecturer’s advice to produce questions which are not ambiguous, leading or difficult to understand!

In the afternoon, I spend some more time on my proposal. At 5pm I head over to the library to meet students from my Research Methods group. We have been assigned a group task for the last few weeks. Our assignment is to produce a statistical report based on data collected by the class from a survey. 


Today, I finish a draft of my research proposal to send to my supervisor. It’s a great feeling to submit a draft version before the weekend. The rest of the day is spent working on questions for the questionnaire, and reading literature for my research project.

At 5pm my working week is over and the weekend has begun! Although not every weekend is work free, I do try to maintain a 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday work pattern. I find this is the best way to achieve a healthy balance between work life and home life. This weekend is all about fun and relaxation with my family and friends – a nice walk along Filey beach, food in one of our favourite restaurants and a Sunday cinema trip.