Applications & enquiries are welcome from students in any of our areas of research expertise
This is represented by established strengths in family studies, health studies, and political economy, and newer strengths in sexuality, citizenship, and youth and student lives. The same emphasis on interdisciplinary social science is found in the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre, where some of our PhD students are based.
Over recent years the number of PhD students registered with us has grown substantially. We aim to maintain our sizeable postgraduate body and provide high-quality postgraduate education. Our PhD students all receive a free laptop for use during their studies, and we provide research training and supervision for all research students.
We are recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as an outlet to receive full-time doctoral students.
We are proud of our interdisciplinary research tradition covering sociology, social policy and social anthropology.
Three research groupings act as the intellectual focus for the development and exchange of ideas. All postgraduate students join one or more of these research groupings:
Sociology plays a major role in the cross-faculty Gender Research Group. Cross-school research synergies are also being promoted through research institutes including Newcastle Institute for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (NIASSH) and the Newcastle Institute for Sustainability.
We have numerous international links in our research activities and a number of our postgraduates are engaged in research abroad, currently including Taiwan, Korea, Germany and India.
To discuss your ideas and plans contact the relevant member of academic staff or the Director of Sociology PhD Programmes: Professor Bridgette Wessels
For any general information about postgraduate research please contact the Postgraduate Research Secretary Jenny Dawley at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our academic staff have identified potential research projects they would be happy to supervise and are confident would make for feasible and interesting PhDs.
If you're interested in doing a PhD in any of these areas or are keen to put forward a funding application for a DTC scholarship, you are encouraged to contact the staff member in question. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Sociology Postgraduate Research director, Bridgette Wessels.
Cultural and critical criminologyCultural and critical criminology
Innovative proposals for Phd prohects are invited in all aspects of cultural and critical criminology, and which look across disciplinary boundaries. Applications are especially welcome in the following areas:
- cultural perspectives on criminological topics, including questions of emotionality and aesthetics
- socio-spatial understandings of criminality and policing
- discourse, visual and media analysis
- the cultural politics of crime and punishment, law and governance, surveillance and risk
- work which develops a post-critique of modernist criminological theorizing and research
To express an interest in this research area contact Professor Elaine Campbell.
Personhood and Parkinson’sPersonhood and Parkinson’s
Personhood is not a given. Who counts as a person is a shifting and contested category that is not fixed but needs rather to be worked at. But personhood is also not simply a social or cultural matter: biology and development through the life course also have a role to play in who counts as a person. A case in point is later life and conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease which induces embodied changes in people’s relationships in and with the world. These include tremors, often culturally interpreted in the West as evidence of old age itself, but also facial masking whereby Parkinson’s Disease can limit the movement of muscles in the face, rendering it expressionless. This is often in turn negatively interpreted by social interlocutors as a diminished form of personhood.
In contrast to such conditions is the highly Westernised discourse of “successful ageing”. This prominent concept is premised on Western ideal forms of personhood whereby the ageing individual is encouraged to exercise agency and control, remain active, avoid dependency and resist ageing; emerging critiques of this point out how it can also do damage by silencing all other (and more difficult) experiences of ageing as ‘failures’ and as ‘spoiled’ or lesser forms of personhood (Lamb 2014).
This PhD research project would examine the consequences for personhood and everyday experiences of people with Parkinson’s Disease, seeking to challenge easy cultural assumptions around ‘spoiled’ forms of personhood, and to explore how who counts as a person is also a deeply relational and contextual matter.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr Cathrine Degnen.
Authoritative discourses on the socialist pastAuthoritative discourses on the socialist past
The government of memory of the socialist past in eastern-central Europe
PhD projects are invited that explore the production of authoritative discourses on the socialist past (for example in school education, commemoration, memorials) in a country of choice from the former eastern bloc and Soviet Union.
Memory is as integral to nation-building as it is to individual identity. The question thus arises how formerly socialist countries are integrating this period in wider historical narratives. Whilst there is considerable research on social memory and nostalgia in postsocialism in anthropology, there is a lack of work on the use of memory discourses and history-writing for the purpose of government.
The project asks how and why certain views of the past gain authoritative status; on who the actors in governmental memory-work are; and what past and present contexts drive narrative production. Some of this work has been done on eastern Germany, but other eastern bloc states and former SU countries require similar anthropological explorations to enable a better understanding of memory-work after fundamental regime-change.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr. Anselma Gallinat.
Policy, ethics and life sciencesPolicy, ethics and life sciences
The Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences (PEALS) research centre offers supervision on a range of sociological, ethical and political aspects of challenging topics in the life sciences. Subjects on which we can offer supervision include:
- end of life issues
- the sale of body parts for treatment or research families' experiences of genetic screening
- authentic ageing
- the ethics of embryonic stem cell research
- historical developments of policymaking in assisted conception
- international comparisons on research into rare diseases
- the Helsinki Declaration
- issues in the regulation of clinical research
- disability and the body
This is just an indication of our wide areas of interest and we are very happy to discuss these or other ideas with students and to help develop applications for postgraduate funding.
Contact Professor Jackie Leach Scully, Director of PEALS / Professor of Sociology for further information.
Local residents and asylum seekers in British citiesLocal residents and asylum seekers in British cities
Between Hospitality and Hostility: Local Residents and Asylum Seekers in British Cities
This project addresses the recent refugee crisis in Europe by looking at the social and symbolic relationships between local residents and arriving asylum seekers in the UK. It will pay particular attention at urban and neighbourhood-level processes of reception and interaction. The goal is to capture multiple viewpoints and experiences in how residents approach asylum seekers and how, in turn, asylum seekers relate to the new places where they have arrived.
The project will use qualitative methods — mainly participant observation and semi-structured interviews — to offer a much-needed analysis of everyday encounters between citizens and non-citizens. The project will examine at least two cities, one in the North-East (Newcastle could be a very good choice) and one in the South-East (London is a possible choice) to dissect how different local class and racial formations affect the relationships between local residents and asylum seekers.
The project has the potential to generate important findings for public and policy debates about the management, especially the distribution, of asylum seekers in the UK.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr. Silvia Pasquetti.
Detention of asylum seekers in the UKDetention of asylum seekers in the UK
The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the UK: Media, Public Sentiments, and Judicial Decisions
This project tackles the difficult question of the relationship between media coverage, public sentiments, and judicial decisions in the case of detained asylum seekers. The percentage of detained asylum seekers in the UK is particularly high in comparison with the US and other European countries.
This project examines this trend towards detention in connection to demonizing public campaigns in the press. It draws not only on media analysis and analysis of judicial decisions but crucially on interviews with refugee lawyers. It uses the experiences and reflections of refugee lawyers to examine how media and public discourses enter the courtrooms.
The project contributes to the growing attention to the interplay between media-generated moral and political panics and the practices of state institutions, especially legal and law enforcement institutions. An explicit comparative dimension with another European country or the US is a possible but not necessary addition to this project.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr. Silvia Pasquetti.
Motivations, choices and aspirations of international studentsMotivations, choices and aspirations of international students
International student mobility, and especially “degree mobility” is an under-researched component of international migration, yet increasingly important as a result of internationalisation of higher education and the global competition for talent.
While international students largely contribute to the expansion of higher education relatively little is known about who they are and why they study outside of their home countries. This is in stark contrast with the short-term or “credit mobility” where much research has been undertaken on Erasmus students.
The aim of this project is to fill the gap in the literature by exploring the role of social, financial and academic background on students’ decision-making processes as well as the potential for mobile international careers in their future.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr Adel Pasztor.
East-European migrants in the UKEast-European migrants in the UK
East-European Migrants in the UK: Integration and Community Cohesion
The large inflow of East-Europeans after the EU enlargement in 2004 saw migration-related issues dominating the media, politics and the public debate. While there is a growing body of research on A8 migrants who settled in the UK after the EU accession, the bulk of this research focuses on the migration patterns and experiences of Poles.
The aim of this research will be to examine the experiences of smaller - yet unstudied - East-European groups (such as Slovaks, Hungarians, Czechs) in order to identify whether they integrate into the larger ethnic communities, or build communities of their own, and its effects on social cohesion.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr Adel Pasztor.
Exploring the ‘educator’s effect’ in forensic scienceExploring the ‘educator’s effect’ in forensic science
There has been a vast increase in the number of degree and continuing professional development programmes over the last ten years around the forensic sciences, something Cole and Dioso-Villa title the ‘Educator’s Effect’ (Cole and Dioso-Villa 2009). Whether intended to provide students with the skills to serve as lab-based forensic scientists or to increase awareness among healthcare practitioners of the potential for their work to have criminal justice implications, no social scientific study has yet explored the ways that forensic science is constructed in these programmes.
Training has been a key focus of sociologists interested in science, and in particular the ways trainees are socialised into the practices and rules of scientific communities. While there is presently a limited literature on forensic medical training (Rees 2012), the large-scale development of new forensic programmes provides an opportune moment to expand and develop this literature, in particular exploring further the ways forensic science is constructed during training, the emphasis that is placed on evidence collection in areas that are not commonly concerned with criminal justice and the extent to which forensic practices are diffused and differentiated across disciplinary and geographical domains.
The study will involve participant observation of training as well as interviews with trainers and trainees.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr Gethin Rees.
Creative democracy in the artsCreative democracy in the arts
This project would explore the extent to which arts organizations (across multiple art worlds) use democratic practices and norms as part of their everyday decision making. This “creative democracy” (Vail and Hollands, 2012) can be extended to all aspects of a group’s creative practices:
- how they choose their creative projects
- how they discuss, scrutinize and critique their creative outputs
- how they facilitate the creative contributions of all members of the organization
This creative democracy will significantly influence a group’s participatory ethos, its status hierarchies, its social networks and gift relations, its recruitment and its success and longevity.
The project would undertake a comparative investigation of multiple arts groups across multiple art forms and perhaps across multiple countries.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr John Vail.
Crowdfunding in the artsCrowdfunding in the arts
In a world of budget cuts and reduced state funding of the arts, crowdfunding initiatives such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others now take on renewed importance for artistic production, exhibition and livelihoods across multiple art worlds. But we lack at present a rigorous exploration of the many sociological implications of these schemes:
- How do the crowdfunding groups choose the projects that are put forward for consideration and what criteria is used to make this decision?
- What types of projects attract the most popular support and why?
- To what extent do the projects attempt a new form of interactive conversation between artists and audiences?
- To what extent do prior social ties and social networks matter to a successful project application and what are the risks of monetizing these connections as a result of the process?
- Is crowdfunding a more democratic, participatory form of arts funding?
Using a comparative focus across multiple projects across various art worlds, this project would attempt to evaluate the sociological significance of this new world.
To express an interest in this research area contact Dr John Vail.
Doctoral research community
The doctoral research community is vibrant and diverse with students engaged in a wide range of sociological, anthropological and criminological research.
The richness and range of Sociology’s doctoral scholarship is the result of not only the scope and imagination of staff expertise, but also the reflection of the international mix and socio-cultural diversity of PhD students, alongside EU and UK students, are all represented at Newcastle making it an exciting and dynamic place to study.
Doctoral students regularly lead and deliver special events and workshops, as well as seminar series, reading groups and conferences. They also engage with a number of research centres across the faculty.
Sociology plays a major role in the cross-faculty Gender Research Group. Cross-school research synergies are also being promoted through research institutes including the Newcastle Institute for Sustainability and the Newcastle Institute of Creative Practice.
We have numerous international links in our research activities and a number of our postgraduates carry out fieldwork in a range of international locations, including for example Taiwan, Korea, Germany and India.
Current doctoral students are conducting research into issues such as:
- sexuality and gender
- youth transitions
- domestic violence
- childcare, inter-country adoption and lone parenthood
- social assistance
- health care for older people
- digital society
See a list of our current research students and their projects.
The selection of expert supervisors is very important in undertaking a PhD. The rich and varied research strengths of Sociology at Newcastle means that applicants have an excellent range of expertise and supervisors to draw on in developing doctoral research.
Doctoral students usually have two supervisors to ensure that students have sufficient substantive supervision, as well as the appropriate methodological expertise for a specific doctoral project.
It is important that PhD applicants read the staff webpages and relevant research clusters and groups, it can also be very helpful to read potential supervisors’ work before applying. It is also useful to make direct contact with potential supervisors to discuss a doctoral research topic and proposal. Applicants submit proposals online through the Postgraduate Admissions Office for review and consideration. If applicants identify, contact and develop a proposal with an academic, please include their name on the application form.
Prof Elaine CampbellProf Elaine Campbell
- Interdisciplinary approaches to cultural and critical criminology
- Cultural perspectives on criminological topics, including questions of emotionality and aesthetics
- Socio-spatial understandings of criminality and policing
- Discourse, visual and media analysis; sensory and performative methodologies
- The cultural politics of crime and punishment, law and governance, surveillance and risk
- Work which develops a post-critique of modernist criminological theorizing and research.
Contact Prof Elaine Campbell
Dr Mark E CaseyDr Mark E Casey
- Lifestyle migration in Spain
- Sexuality and Gender
Conatct Dr Mark E Casey
Dr Dariusz GafijczukDr Dariusz Gafijczuk
- historical sociology, social theory and cultural theory
- the idea of Europe
- the notion of community
- the arts and creative practices
- emotions (deficit of empathy)
- Central Europe
- the notion of refuge
Contact Dr Dariusz Gafijczuk
Prof Robert HollandsProf Robert Hollands
- Urban Sociology – including cultural/ creative cities, alternative urban cultures, nightlife, urban ethnography, cultural tourism; smart cities
- Youth Studies – including youth cultures, youth and politics; educational/ labour market transitions
- Sociology of Art and Culture – including cultural/ creative work, egalitarian arts, cultural politics
I am particularly keen to supervise PhDs in the following areas:
- Alternative urban cultures (including alternative arts movements and festivals; artists and urban transformation, etc);
- smart city critiques;
- contemporary youth cultures and transitions
Prof Jackie Leach ScullyProf Jackie Leach Scully
- Ethics and bioethics, especially moral reasoning and the formation of moral understandings
- how personal and social identities shape and reflect moral understandings and responses
- the ethics and socio-ethics of assisted reproductive and genetic technologies
- identification technologies, especially in the context of natural and human disasters
- disability and embodiment
- feminist approaches to ethics and bioethics
- empirical methodologies in ethics
- public engagement in bioethical evaluation and policy making.
Contact: Prof Jackie Leach Scully
Dr. Ruth McAreaveyDr. Ruth McAreavey
- ethnicity and identities
- rural development
- community participation and governance
Contact Dr. Ruth McAreavey
Prof Janice McLaughlinProf Janice McLaughlin
- disability, particularly in childhood, examining a range factors that can influence the lives of disabled children and young people
- family life
- medical treatment and diagnosis
- institutions such as education and welfare, embodiment and identity
Contact Prof Janice McLaughlin
Dr Silvia PasquettiDr Silvia Pasquetti
- refugees and displacement
- the securitization of society and the experiences of ‘suspect’ populations
- people’s relationship with the law and the production of a sense of justice.
I would be happy to discuss potential PhD topics in the areas of political sociology, migration and forced displacement, humanitarianism, security and policing, refugees, urban marginality, surveillance, security and militarism, and the sociology of emotions.
Contact Dr Silvia Pasquetti
Dr Gethin ReesDr Gethin Rees
- Sociology of the Forensic Sciences
- Science and Technology Studies
- Sociology of Scientific Knowledge
- Medical Sociology, especially the Sociology of Diagnosis
- Gender-Based Violence, especially investigations into the criminal justice response to rape and sexual assault
Contact Dr Gethin Rees
Dr Tracy ShildrickDr Tracy Shildrick
- Youth transitions (and youth studies more broadly)
- Social exclusion
- Social class
Contact: Dr Tracy Shildrick
A research proposal is an important part of a doctoral application.
The proposal needs to written in a clear way and it should include the following:
- Title: this should reflect the proposed topic. At the application stage, this might well be a working title.
- Overview of the research: this should provide the aim and objectives of the proposed research; research questions; and how the research aligns with the research areas in Sociology at Newcastle.
- Case for support: this section should discuss the relevance and significance of the research. This section should include important literature in the area of study and the identification of any existing gaps in knowledge that the research will address. This section will show an applicant’s knowledge of the subject area and make a case for the need for this research.
- Research design and methodology: this section should outline the overall research design, methodology, methods and type of analysis required to address the research questions.
- References: these support the argument you make in the proposal and will indicate your level of knowledge and the approach you are aiming to take. This will help the reviewers to assess your application and help to assign appropriate supervisors.
Your proposal should outline your project and be around 1,500 words (including references and bibliography).
The following books may help you to prepare your research proposal.
- Bell, J. (1999): Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-time Researchers in Education & Social Science, (Oxford University Press, Oxford).
- Baxter, L, Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (2001): How to Research, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).
- Cryer, P. (2000): The Research Student's Guide to Success, (Open University, Milton Keynes).
- Delamont, S., Atkinson, P. and Parry, O. (1997): Supervising the PhD, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).
- Philips, E. and Pugh, D. (2005): How to get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).