On Saturday 2nd of July, St John’s College welcomed a group Year 12s from non-selective state schools across the UK to a pioneering Inspire Research Study Skills Day


These pupils were all recipients of the newly developed Inspire Research Awards, through which pupils are supported to independently research a topic of their choice, and offered training and resources through the Inspire Programme for Year 12 & 13. The Inspire Research Study Skills Day was generously supported by Oxford University Press, Blackwell’s Bookshop, the Bodleian Library, graduate students from across the University of Oxford, and Professor Dorothy Bishop.

The day began with an electrifying keynote session by developmental neuropsychologist Professor Bishop, who presented ‘Taming Your Brain: Why It’s Hard To Do Good Research’. Professor Bishop discussed the importance of well-designed research, how ‘negative’ data is still a useful contribution to the wider research community, and how errors are commonly introduced into research studies, all important topics for the pupils embarking on their own Inspire Research Project. This was followed by a workshop on ‘How to Present Your Research’, which explored the ways in which different kinds of research can be communicated, and what pupils should consider when producing their own research poster.


Pupils were then taken to lunch in Hall, where they had the chance to talk with graduate students Katie Croft, Christian Harding, Connor Beattie, Chloé Agar, Luca Ricci, and Alex Benham, about their research specialisms and experiences. After lunch, pupils took part in a fast-paced research presentation workshop. In this workshop, pupils were divided in to small groups and presented with current news articles that covering subjects from the ice-melts of Mount Everest to the goat invasions of Llandudno. With the help of graduates, pupils puzzled through how they would frame these current news stories in the form of a research question, and how they would present the material as an academic research poster. Pupils then received a highly informative session on ‘Intelligent Searching’ presented by Ollie Bridle from the Bodleian Libraries, who discussed the advantages and disadvantages of different sources (including an excellent video of flying penguins), and how to use the University of Oxford’s SOLO search engine, from which pupils can explore open-access research.


It was then time for the session that all of the pupils had been looking forward to: a tour of Blackwell’s Bookshop and the chance to spend their £100 vouchers, which they had been awarded for submitting their research proposal, and which would fund the purchase of books they would use to undertake their research. Pupils were taken on a special tour of Blackwell’s, which included visiting the secret ‘Gaffer’s Office’ which was used by Sir Benjamin Henry Blackwell and Sir Basil Blackwell, and which has played host to a range of famous authors including J. R. R. Tolkien. The pupils returned to St John’s with armfuls of books which included texts on twenty-first century dictators, the formation of languages, the future of the NHS, and nineteenth-century romance novels.

Over the coming months, pupils will work on either their Inspire Research Projects, or another independent study project such as an EPQ, using the books they bought with their Blackwell’s vouches, access to the Very Short Introduction series and Oxford Scholarship online, and their newly-found research skills. Those who submit their Inspire Research Projects Posters will be awarded a certificate and invited to return to St John’s with a guest for a celebratory event in April 2023. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who was involved in the running of the day, and to all of the pupils who attended. You can read more about our Inspire Programme for Years 12 & 13 here.