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The University of Southampton
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Susan Keane

BSc Psychology & Statistics 1968, Chartered Psychologist

BSc Psychology and Statistics 1968
Sue Keane

In 1965, the Psychology Department was one of the smallest in the University, comprising only 13 undergraduates under the wise leadership of Professor Gordon Trasler. I was one of only 3 students to take a joint honours degree in Psychology and Statistics. Sadly, this amazing course was discontinued in 1969 through lack of demand.

My tutor, Dr D.H.Taylor, was a defining influence in my life. In his spare time, he was a consultant to various government and commercial research organisations. He was a pioneer of qualitative research in the commercial world. In the days before cassette tape recorders, he needed a note taker and I fulfilled this function. In the process, I learned from an expert how to conduct depth interviews and moderate group discussions. I found qualitative research so fascinating that I have worked in the field ever since.

On graduation, I joined a small research company and became responsible for its qualitative research unit, as no one else had these new skills. In 1975, I went freelance and worked on a wide range of projects for household names, like P&G, J&J, Gillette, M&S and Sainsbury’s, besides various advertising agencies and service industries.

In June 1987, I conducted a nationwide study comparing the childhood experiences of 60 year olds and 10 year olds to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Nestlé Milky Bar. This achieved widespread national and regional press coverage, besides numerous radio interviews. Subsequently, I developed a second string to my career as a spokesperson on consumer issues for radio, television and the press.

In recent years, I have continued to do UK research but have taken on more international projects. For example, in the past year I have worked in Japan, China, USA and Russia. One of the joys of international research is that it has given me the chance to learn about the lives and aspirations of consumers in different parts of the world as they discuss their attitudes to and usage of the simplest products. Qualitative research has given me insights into countries that I could never have acquired as a tourist.

As I approach retirement, I look back on a fascinating career which has taken me all over the world and which developed only through the opportunities I was given at Southampton University. It is great fun to join other alumni working in the media at annual gatherings in London and to see how the University continues to offer development opportunities to its students.

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