The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Ruth Graham

Dean of Taught Programmes for HaSS Faculty; Senior Lecturer in Sociology


Following doctoral studies (1997-2002) and a then a period working in Newcastle University Medical School (Research Associate; Public Health tutor), I joined the Sociology subject area as Lecturer in Sociology in 2005.

My research interests are informed by an approach that draws on sociology, social policy and law, as applied to health, illness and disability. I have a particular interest in understanding both lay and professional experiences of health care provided in the context of distressing life events such as reproductive loss.

Roles and Responsibilities

(i) Current key roles: 

Dean of Taught Programmes, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS) 2017-
Senior Lecturer in Sociology (2011-)
HaSS Faculty Education Committee (Member since 2012; Chair from 2017)
University Education Committee (2017-)

(ii) Previous roles have included:

- in the Sociology Subject Area:
Degree Programme Director, BA Politics and Sociology (2005 - 2009)
Combined Studies Liaison (2005 - 2008)
Subject area Careers liaison (2009 - 2011)
School ethics panel member (2008 - 2010)
Lead Convenor, Health and Life Sciences Research Cluster (2010 - 2012)
Senior Tutor (2010 - 2012)

- for the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology
Director of Excellence in Learning, Teaching and Student Experience (2012-2014)                              
Chair, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology Teaching and Learning Committee (2012-2014)

- at Faculty / University level:
Associate Dean Teaching and Learning, HaSS Faculty (2015-2017)
Student Experience Sub-Committee member (2015-2017) 
Programme approval panel member (2009 - 2010; 2015 onwards)
Evasys Implementation Group member (2012-2014)
Faculty Promotions Panel (elected member) (2013-2015)
Senate (elected member) (2015-2018)

(iii) Roles outwith Newcastle University:
Co-Editor in Chief, Social Theory & Health (2019 onwards; Co-Editor 2008 - 2018)
External Examiner for UG sociology programmes at University of Durham (2017 - )
External Examiner for UG sociology programmes at University of York (2012-2016)

PG Dip Medical Law, 2011. Distinction.
Northumbria University 

Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, 2005. Distinction.
Newcastle University

Ph.D in Social Policy, Sociology and Law, 2002.
Newcastle University (ESRC Scholarship)

BA (Hons) in Social Policy, 1996. First.
Newcastle University




Research Interests
My research activities include work in socio-legal studies, medical sociology and qualitative research, and involve the study of topics such as reproductive loss and mental health. A key strand that runs through my research is a focus on aiming to understand how distressing life events are conceptualised, experienced and responded to.

My research involves using multiple methods, but my portfolio of work to date contains a strong focus on qualitative research approaches that cut across my non-fieldwork based and fieldwork based projects, such as:
- Generative Thematic analysis
- Discourse analysis
- Conceptualisation in sensitive areas of human experience

Current Work
My current work is made up of two key strands:
1. Sociology of mental health with a particular focus on understandings of self-harm
2. Social Science perspectives on experiences of reproductive health and reproductive loss. 

Specific projects and collaborations include:
a. I currently collaborate with Dr Steph Lawler (University of York) and Dr Pete Steggals (Newcastle University) on a programme of work exploring the relational aspects of self harm as social practice. As part of this work stream, Dr Pete Steggals secured a 2.5 year research fellowship at Newcastle University in 2017. 

b. The MERIDIAN study, which focuses on the use of MRI to image the fetal brain, has published the clinical findings in The Lancet, and findings from the qualitative sub study in Qualitative Health Research and Sociology of Health and Illness.  The peer reviewed NIHR monograph for the MERIDIAN study was published in 2019. 

c. The peer reviewed NIHR monograph for the EACH study, which focuses on the use of Array Comparative genomic Hybridisation in prenatal diagnosis, was published in 2017. 

Doctoral Supervision 

a. Current Supervisions:
Two postgraduate researchers joined me in October 2017 to undertake ESRC 1 3 doctoral scholarships, and a further ESRC 3 year doctoral scholarship student is due to begin studies in October 2020.  

Angela Plessas (Diagnosing women's problems: the impact of diagnostic categories and practitioners' decision-making processes on women's experiences of chronic illness' is supervised with Dr Geth Rees and Dr Mark Casey;

Ella Dyer (Improving care in pregnancy after reproductive loss in women with diabetes: an interdisciplinary exploration of patient experiences and health professional perspectives' is supervised with Dr Ruth Bell and Prof Judith Rankin. 

Oscar Daniel (Towards gender inclusive healthcare: improving transgender healthcare education amongst medical students). 

b. Recent Supervisions:
- Allison Farnworth (2016) 'A qualitative exploration of the role frontline health workers play in defining the quality of services provided to women experiencing an early miscarriage' (supervised with Prof Steve Robson).

- Danna-Mechelle Lewis (2012) 'The risk factor - an exploratory study into the assessment of risk within criminal justice practice' (supervised with Prof Elaine Campbell) 

- Liz Turner (2012) 'Reimagining criminology's public role: an inquiry into the relationship between criminological expertise and the democratic public sphere' (supervised with Prof Elaine Campbell) 

- Benet Reid (2014) 'The discourse of evidence-based healthcare (1992-2012). Power in Dialogue, embodiment and emotion' (supervised with Prof Peter Phillimore)

- Lisa Crowe (2014) 'Termination of pregnancy for non-lethal fetal anomaly: professional perspectives' (supervised with Prof Steve Robson and Prof Judith Rankin) 

Esteem Indicators

Co-Editor-in-Chief - Social Theory and Health

Peer reviewer for various journals and book proposal publishers, including:
Social Science and Medicine
Qualitative Health Research
Journal of Social Policy
Human Fertility
Open University Press
Palgrave Press

The paper 'Male rape and the careful construction of the male victim' [Social and Legal Studies, 15 (2): 187-208] was the most accessed article for the journal SLS in the year May 2006-April 2007, with 1,675 total accesses. It continues to be one of the journal's most highly cited articles.


2018. SHI Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness (£2.5k)
Symposium: The Social Life of Self-Harm: exploring and supporting sociological perspectives on nonsuicidal self-injury. 
(Collaborators: Steph Lawler, Pete Steggals). 

2017 NIHR HTA Programme, (c. £2 million)
EMPOWER: EMesis in Pregnancy: Ondanestro With mEtoclopRamide
(Co-applicant, PI S Robson, Newcastle Universrity)

2016 Wellcome Trust, £45k
Connecting Wounds: nonsuicidal self injury in the context of social relations
(named collaborator, PI Steph Lawler, York University)

2015 ESRC Impact Accelerator Award (£9.5k) with Dr Mabel Lie
Patient and professional understandings of fetal MRI: an engagement programme for practitioners

2013 NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Fellowship - Allison Farnworth
(Core member of fellow management team with Prof Steve Robson and Dr Katie Haighton)

2011 NIHR EME Programme, £1.5 million
(co-applicant, PI S Robson, Newcastle University) 

2010 Department of Health, £35k
(PI, with S Robson, J Rankin and N Embleton)

2010 Tiny Lives (UK charity), £110k
(co-applicant, PI J Rankin, Newcastle University)

2010 NIHR HTA Programme, £1.4 million
(co-applicant; PI P Griffiths, Sheffield University)

2010 Knowledge Transfer Partnership, £164k
(academic lead; co-investigator S Robson, Newcastle University)

2006 Knowledge Transfer Partnership, £120k,
(academic support; PI E Campbell, Newcastle University)

2005 Tiny Lives (UK charity), £52,949 £10,000 (in 2008)
(co-applicant, PI S Robson, Newcastle University)

2002 Wellcome Trust, £80K
(named collaborator, PI C May)

1997 ESRC Doctoral Scholarship


Teaching activities

My current leadership role as Dean of Taught Programmes for HaSS prevents me from making a substantial contribution to module teaching, but I really enjoy teaching and learning activities, and I continue to provide in-class teaching where possible. This includes regular guest lecture contributions to a number of programmes within Newcastle University, and also to local training programmes for medical practitioners beyond Newcastle University. 

I currently supervise 3 ESRC funded doctoral students, and have supervised 5 doctoral students to timely completion. 

I also continue to act as External Examiner for taught programmes (currently I undertake this role for Sociology UG programmes at Durham University).

Prior to taking up the role of Dean of Taught Programmes for HaSS, I regularly taught modules such as the Sociology of Health and illness (at stage two UG) and modules on Social Theory (at PGT level).