As a new researcher (or non-researcher) exploring the Veteran/military sphere, what do you think are the most important things to understand to build a solid foundation? Do you have any go-to resources to recommend for those starting out?
This question was submitted to us prior to the Forum Takeover. Nick Wood will be with us live on Mon 22nd Feb at 1.30-2.15 to share his thoughts.
I came into the sector directly from military service and with no experience of research. I was lucky to be part of the Veterans’ Transition Review team, and the report http://www.veteranstransition.co.uk/ remains a very good starter/primer for understanding the sector. The VFR Hub and its Snapshots are a great resource for deep dives into specific subjects https://www.vfrhub.com/research-summaries/ (but I would say that..)
Q1 – As a new researcher (or non-researcher) exploring the Veteran/military sphere, what do you think are the most important things to understand to build a solid foundation? Do you have any go-to resources to recommend for those starting out?
I think my first advice would be try not to follow the crowd or duplicate something. There are a number of research publications that focus on topical areas such as PTSD, although a significant and extremely important theme of research.
Check other sources to see what others have written about to avoid duplication. Here are some useful resource links this is a short list with many others available.
Veterans & Families Research Hub
Journal of Veterans Studies
Forces in Mind Trust
Directory of Social Change
Dept Veterans Affairs Australia
Journal of Military and Veterans Health
BMJ Military Health
Royal British Legion
Army Families Federation
Naval Families Federation
RAF Families Federation
Try and think about the lived experience of military people and their families and what we don’t know about it. The new JSP 100 Holistic Transition Policy is taking transition into a different sphere and focuses on the HARDFACTS approach and aligned to the Strategy for our Veterans approach. This has been done for a reason because the shift is a recognition that transition is not just about employment and housing (although critical of course) but how the individual and their families experience transition and what are their need might be.
H – Health A – Accommodation R – Relocation D – Drugs & Alcohol F – Finance A – Attitude, Thinking & Behaviour C – Children & Family T – Training, Education & Employment S – Support Agencies
By taking each individually the different themes can create a research question such as:
R – Relocation: What are the concerns for families relocating from Germany back to the UK?
This opens a whole range of enquiries around schools, healthcare, employment, change in family dynamic, cultural changes between UK and European processes etc.
A – Accommodation: Why are the Armed Forces encouraging serving personnel to buy their own houses and how might this affect transition?
This provides an opportunity to explore why it is beneficial for families to feel secure and embedded within a local community compared to living in married quarters a with the possibility of having to move. What are the positives and the negatives?
D – Drugs & Alcohol: Why are drugs and alcohol viewed differently in the Armed Forces and are there circumstances where people use drugs as a discharge option, why?
This can be a very topical theme as it can generate historical research around the role of alcohol use in the military, criminal justice concerns even why people use drugs as a means of leaving the Armed Forces, is it always related to drug using behaviour or something else such as fear of being deployed.
H – Health: Has the use of anti-malaria drugs affected the long-term health of Gulf War veterans?
This can create opportunities to research international forces and how they approached vaccination of personnel. Did they use different methods and why? Is there any evidence related to UK inoculations from side effects etc.
These are just examples and my jottings, but I think demonstrates how we can utilise the holistic approach now being adopted to create evidence gathering questions and research.
These are just ideas and thoughts but relate to topics often discussed. It’s worth joining or looking at Military sites on social media to see what people are talking about or feel has been overlooked. This might provide a theme for a unique and previously un researched area of concern.
One area that is becoming more evident is the female veteran voice around transition, Salute Her the military charity are a great place to start and have a conversation with
Also, other themes such as BAME personnel and their transition experience and the challenges experienced such as commonwealth personnel. An announcement this week was to recognise LGBT veterans and the ban on gay people serving in the Armed Forces being lifted and been given the opportunity to claim for their deserved medals.
By exploring the social issues and concerns discussed it can generate impactful and meaningful research which could go on to inform policy later on.
To build a solid foundation for any research there is a clear need for a good grasp of research principles and theoretical themes and perspectives. The themes and principles being those appropriate to the discipline involved, sociological, medical, psychological and so on. My own discipline is Sociology and as an army veteran I am familiar with the military environment of when I served. With respect to transition to civilian life the help and advice on offer has changed over the years but a large amount of research points to the main needs of those leaving the armed forces being little different now to 50 years ago IMHO.
Thanks Nick, good summary of the HARDFACTS approach.
Thinking about what Alex said above as well, what about others on here, did you have military experience before moving into your current role? If not, what was most helpful for you when you took on your role? What helped you ‘understand’ more?
Thank you for your comprehensive answer! A lot of useful advice for those starting out here.
The HARDFACTS acronym jumps out as particularly useful for those finding the topic they wish to focus on, but also useful to remind us about other needs that might be inter-related to that primary focus. E.G health and support agencies or relocation and children & family.