Patient and public involvement in doctoral research: reflections and experiences of the PPI contributors and researcher

Shoba Dawson*, Angela Ruddock, Veena Parmar, Rebecca L Morris, Sudeh Cheraghi-Sohi, Sally Giles, Stephen M Campbell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
142 Downloads (Pure)


Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) has received considerable attention in the last two decades and working in partnership and co-design have now become a prerequisite in health services research in the UK. However, there is a lack of evidence and consistency in recording PPI and related activities. Researchers and PPI contributors are encouraged to record and reflect on the impact of PPI on research. There is significant variation in the way PPI contributors are involved, and it is often limited to some stages of the research cycle than others, without any reflections on the decision-making process for such involvement or any transferable learning. This has resulted in failure to provide a narrative of the research journey including researchers’ and PPI contributors’ personal reflections of involvement. Therefore, this paper provides an exemplar of what PPI in a doctoral research context should look like by providing a detailed account of how PPI was embedded in a doctoral research project, the PPI contributors and researcher’s reflections and key recommendations for involving people specifically in doctoral research.

A reflective approach was taken using data from PPI contributor and researcher notes, e-mail correspondence, meeting notes. Data is presented narratively to reflect on the experiences of involvement throughout the research cycle.

Undertaking PPI enhanced the quality and relevance of the doctoral research, contributed to the recruitment of study participants, data analysis and dissemination. Building trust and relationships with PPI contributors was key to continued involvement throughout the life of the project and beyond. There is a need to adopt flexible approaches rather than a one-size-fits-all model when working with PPI contributors. Reflections by PPI contributors and the researcher emphasises that involvement was a rewarding experience.

This paper contributes to the wider literature by providing an exemplar of how PPI can be embedded in doctoral research and demonstrates the value of PPI to the research process and the individuals involved. We also present recommendations on how PPI can be incorporated by doctoral and postdoctoral researchers when planning PPI in their research project.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23 (2020)
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Involvement and Engagement
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020


  • Patient and public involvement
  • Doctoral research
  • Reflections
  • Impact


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