Jenny Hislop: “I take inspiration from the world around me.”

Jenny Hislop2015

Jenny Hislop

Jenny Hislop is Module Co-ordinator for Qualitative Research Methods. She is a Senior Qualitative Researcher in the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) at the University of Oxford.

What was your earliest ambition?

As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to teach. Throughout my career I’ve been really lucky to have been able to fulfil this ambition in a range of contexts. I’ve taught in primary and secondary schools, taught English as a second and foreign language (ESL/EFL), and lectured at university.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

As a social scientist, I take inspiration from the world around me, the places I go, the people I meet. My biggest inspiration in teaching has come from my training in ESL/EFL: I learnt how to simplify material, to teach communicatively and to incorporate realistic and meaningful activities to develop students’ confidence and skills. In academia, my PhD supervisor introduced me to a new world of learning and was inspirational in my career choices.

Why did you get into EBM?

I’m a social scientist who works as a qualitative researcher in the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) in Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford. I interview people about their experiences of health and illness conditions for the website Healthtalk.org. I believe that qualitative and quantitative research are complementary – each providing a strong evidence base to help us more fully understand health and illness.

What do you feel has made the most difference in EBM?

For me, the biggest difference in EBM in recent years has been the increased acceptance of qualitative research and the recognition of the important insights which it can provide to our understanding of health and illness.

Describe your approach to research in three words.

Enthusiastic, curious, organised.

What do you like most about teaching?

Passing on my skills, experience and enthusiasm about qualitative research to others and hopefully inspiring them to do quality research projects.

Do you have any regrets about becoming a doctor?

Getting a PhD has helped me pursue an enjoyable career in research and teaching. For me, the hard work was worth it and I’ve no regrets.

What has been your most innovative piece of teaching?

I’m very much into a communicative, interactive style of teaching and learning. I’m particularly proud of the sessions I’ve developed on qualitative interviewing and analysis. The focus is on using ‘real’ data and video clips to illustrate key concepts and skills, and activities which guide students from basic understanding to practical application.

When are you having the most fun at work?

Interacting with others, be it teaching or doing research.

If you weren’t a doctor/teacher, what would you be doing instead?

A hypothetical question… Probably a journalist or working in the performing arts.

What do you find hardest when teaching?

When the technology fails and I can’t meet the professional standards I set myself.

If you were given £1 million for research, what would you do?

More qualitative research into people’s experiences of health and illness conditions. We have 100 conditions on the Healthtalk.org website but there are so many more stories to record to help others better understand the social context of health and illness.

What one resource should every EBM enthusiast read?

I’m going to suggest two papers, now almost 20 years old, which have made an important contribution to qualitative research and EBM:

Green, J. and Britten, N. (1998) Qualitative research and evidence based medicine. BMJ  316 (7139): 1230-1232.

Popay, J. & Williams, G. (1998) Qualitative research and evidence-based healthcare. Royal Soc Med 91 (suppl 35): 32-37.


For more interviews in this series, please click here.