I've been a social researcher for 14 years now, spending the last seven years working for market research companies, and have always felt slightly out on a limb within the industry. So when I read that the AQR was running a Social and Public Research Seminar I was so enthused that I rushed to bag one of only 30 places.

On the day, I was fascinated to see who turned up. There were those I'd expected to see but also many I didn't from companies that I had no idea were involved in social research.

The speakers were well chosen. The Central Office of Information's Ian Theo gave a thorough overview of the COI ­ the UK's biggest advertiser ­ and highlighted several of its campaigns.

I thought Neil Goodlad at the recently formed advertising agency Clemmow Hornby Inge gave a great paper on Creative Research for Sticky Advertising. I'll definitely be cribbing from this one for years to come.

As for the GLA's Guy Rubin, he gave a really interesting paper on public consultation and e-democracy.

Alan Hedges, representing the independent fraternity, gave a thorough overview of the role of qualitative research in social policy studies. Anyone interested in a career in 'Qualitative Research in Social Policy' should read his and Sue Duncan's chapter in Qualitative Research in Context..

The venue was a bit noisy and I sometimes struggled to hear the speakers over the sound of car horns outside. Coffee ran out rather fast, too.

Overall, I thought that the seminar gave an excellent introduction to social qualitative research. For anyone new to the social research field, it would offer a good overview and hopefully convince them that a career in social research can be challenging, but also rewarding.

My only fear is that, given that that many in the audience have been in social research for some time, I wonder whether they would have learned much. It was heartening, though, to discover other social researchers out there. I really hope this event is repeated next year, but perhaps another advanced 'social issues' seminar could be added. I'd be interested in something on either social capital or the changing nature of citizenship. Please send any ideas on a post card to . . .