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The Centre for Applied Social Research (CeASR) is based in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and has a thriving postgraduate community. We are able to offer supervision to PhD, MPhil and MRes candidates from both the United Kingdom and overseas.

We are particularly interested in applications relating to our specialist areas:

  • Crime, Justice and Society
  • Employment, Work and Welfare
  • Global Inequalities
  • Sex, Gender Identity and Power
  • Speech, Language and Communication

Please visit our Research Degrees web page for details of how to apply.

Current PHD Candidates

Gemma Louise Aherne


"Sex Workers' Experiences of Prison: From Punishment to Exiting?"

My research will investigate the lived experiences of women who have been or are currently in prison, who also have experience of engaging in sex work. The study will seek to discover what specific issues, barriers and stigmas these women face. I shall also be exploring the relationship (if any) between sentencing and choosing to exit sex work. The research will engage with participants as co-researchers to produce an embodied sensory insight that is also empowering for those involved. I will be using creative research methods including reading aloud, photo ethnography, guided walks and mapping.

My research interests include the sex industry; whiteness and the female 'chav'; celebrity culture; disgust and excess; deviance; consumption; disability. I am interested in creative research methods.

For more information please visit my blog and follow me on twitter.

Rachel Louise Alpin


"Non-lethal Honour based violence: Culture, crimes of the 'collective' and the operational police response"


  • To analyse academic research around concepts of 'honour' 'national culture' and 'organisational culture'
  • To examine whether honour violence, as a perceived 'cultural' issue, influences operational police practice
  • To explore the extent to which 'cop' culture impacts on operational police practices at honour crime incidents
  • To examine the role of the matriarch in honour violence perpetration


The primary research design comprises of three strands to achieve triangulation: Content analysis from Greater Manchester Police systems, questionnaire surveys with operational Police and an 'expert' focus group.

Greater Manchester data will cover a 12-18 month period, processing approximately 100 cases of honour based violence to achieve statistical significance. Having exposed the content data to both quantitative examination and qualitative thematic analysis, themes exposed will generate questionnaire development. This highly specialised crime area requires purposive sampling of operational response and neighbourhood officers, with the qualifying criteria that officers must have attended an honour based violence incident. The questionnaire will utilise Likerts’ scale, aimed at achieving an in depth attitudinal study. Findings will be compared against the content analysis.

The focus group will be tape recorded and comprises of experts in the field (i.e. police, independent domestic abuse advisers, refuge staff, women’s safety services, social services, FMPO solicitors) discussing set questions generated as a consequence of other data findings. The focus group aims to be cathartic and problem solving. Victims will not be approached due to the sensitive nature of the subject and the ethical difficulties in obtaining access and consent.

Beverley Brozsely


"Apprenticeships, a 'lifesaver' or a 'cruel deception'?"

A young person, in the UK, is now 3.94 times more likely to be unemployed than someone over 25 years old. This is not just a recessionary, but also a long-term structural issue as the 'middling jobs', jobs in manufacturing and clerical office work, have diminished over the last 40 years, meaning workers in the UK are polarised more into graduate and elementary occupations. Young people with middling qualifications are, therefore, having to compete directly with older more experienced workers for low skilled work. My research is focused on the lower half of young people with middling qualifications — they will have level two but not level three qualifications — who would, fifty years ago, have progressed to secure middling jobs with decent wages but who are vulnerable, in a post-industrial society, squeezed by the reduction of middling jobs into unemployment or precarious lower skilled jobs. I want to follow 30 young people from leaving school over 18 months, speaking to them three times for one-on-one through this period to understand how government policy facilitates their attempts to find work, what quality of work they find and how the whole process impacts on their self-identity and relationship with society. I am looking to compare these work transitions with the highly structured work transitions of young people with a similar quartile of qualifications in Germany. The aim of the research is to influence government policy towards providing more structured transitions into work for this group of young people, potentially though high quality apprenticeships.

Nova Deighton-Smith


"Appearance-related experiences in pregnant women: An examination of the relationship among body image and psychological, physical health and lifestyle factors"

The aim of my PhD study is to build an understanding of the antecedents and processes that have an influence on body image and exercise behaviour in first-time, pregnant women. This will be achieved using a mixed-methodological approach. Firstly, with a qualitative media text analysis of the messages pregnant women appear to be receiving about appearance-related aspects of their pregnancy, the pregnant body and the role of exercise. Secondly, with qualitative interviews with first-time, pregnant women to understand how they think and feel about their bodies and appearance during pregnancy, and explore their thoughts on how they see the pregnant body represented in the media and the role of exercise during their pregnancy. Finally, by quantitatively identifying the relationships among body image and a wide range of psychological, physical health, and lifestyle factors. This has been achieved by drawing on the dimensions and processes of Cash’s (2002; 2011) cognitive-behavioural model of body image development and factors identified from the findings of the media text examination and interview study. Current findings suggest that firstly, the media overtly promote the notion that beauty equates with the thin-ideal not the pregnant body. Secondly, that appearance-related messages can induce pressure on pregnant women to control their pregnant and postpartum body and thirdly, that despite seeking advice from healthcare professionals and various other sources, the information pregnant women receive about exercise and nutrition is inconsistent and sometimes unrealistic.

James A Gilchriest


"Scanpath Optimization of Visual Search Tasks as a Quantitative Measurement of Cognitive Efficiency"

This research project investigates the feasibility of using reaction times, accuracy, and scanpath efficiency measurements from a computerized visual search task to calculate search optimization over multiple trials as a measure of cognitive efficiency.

Scanpath efficiency of a particular search is calculated using a Cartesian mathematical technique used in the field of industrial engineering termed the travelling salesmen problem (TSP). This project will compare cognitive efficiency measurements between two groups, healthy adult control participants and post recovery traumatic brain injured (TBI) experimental participants. The goal of this research effort is to contribute to cognitive rehabilitation research on TBI patients experiencing post recovery, lingering frontal lobe impairments, providing a tool for detecting and examining these impairments. Cognitive efficiency evaluations based on objective visual search optimization measurements may provide useful baseline data of cognitive functioning for both healthy and traumatic brain injured individuals. A visual search task that allows for quantitative measurement of cognitive efficiency of executive function may provide new knowledge of brain function for assessment and recovery outcomes in cognitive rehabilitation research.

Agnes Henson


"Embodied language"

I am interested in attempting to consider how we might begin to investigate language behaviours in humans from a Radical Embodied Cognitive Science Perspective (RECS) and probe linguistic information's place on the spectrum of resources in the service of human behaviour. My project aims to characterise language perception and competence without recourse to traditional models of representation and computation, using a theoretical approach which is gaining traction in many other areas in Psychology. Research questions I will be looking at include probing the mechanisms by which language influences behaviour and how the information available in speech signals facilitate second language acquisition.

Glen S Jankowski


"Men's body image: A critical, realist, perspective"

In an increasingly appearance conscious society, more and more men experience body dissatisfaction and have to contend with its myriad detrimental effects on wellbeing. My PhD on body image aims to critically assess the sociocultural role in body dissatisfaction as well as how researchers may alleviate body dissatisfaction. My first studies were content analyses of the form and homogeneity of the male appearance ideal and other 'appearance potent' content across the most popular UK men's magazines and websites. In these studies I also aimed to critically appraise the theory that gay men experience body dissatisfaction more often because of their appearance potent (sub)culture. In the second stage of my PhD I adapted and ran an intervention with men that focused on critiquing sociocultural appearance pressures. I am currently midway through a mixed methods evaluation of this intervention.

My research interests include: body image and it’s relation to masculinity, sexuality and the sociocultural environment. I'm also interested critical health psychology, research applications and methodology.

For more information visit my blog.

Andy Lloyd


"Philanthropic responses to youthful law breaking in the 19th century and its impact on 21st century youth justice policy"

This work aims to explore the links between how law breaking by young people was understood and responded to in the 19th century and then to establish links and discontinuities with 21st century policy and practice. It considers the legal, political and social responses to what is now known as youth crime. Youth crime was a significant political and social issue in the 19th century and what may be considered a “new breed” of social welfare campaigners began to argue that children who broke the law should be treated essentially differently from adults committing the same offence. This was considered by many to be revolutionary and to some simply morally reprehensible. However, it sparked a debate which is still, 150 years later, still unresolved in the minds of opinion formers, law makers and public opinion.

The central aim of this work is to compare the two sets of responses to youth crime and then seek to identify similarities and discontinuities. It will be argued that some central themes emerge from within the literature and policy speeches of both eras which create an unbroken thread of ideology over the past 150 years.

Jessica Lowndes


"Popular Internet Memes: Gender, Humour and Career Trajectory in Technology"

Broadly speaking, my research interests span discourse, feminism and work. Less broadly speaking I’m interested in humour and banter (specifically looking at popular Internet memes as a novel format of humour) and how this may impact on the experiences of women in technology. My first study consisted of a thematic analysis of a large sample of image macro style Internet memes. My next study will involve a series of focus group interviews with women who are aiming to work in, who are currently working in, or who have left careers in technology.

Moses Okech


"Microfinance and Women's Empowerment: A Study of Financial Literacy Among Member-owned Financial Institutions in Uganda"

My research considers the significance of microfinance approach within international development policy. It seeks to investigate the theory of change that underlies the operation of microfinance and financial literacy programmes in Uganda, and in particular, on the perceived roles that microfinance and financial literacy can play in relation to female empowerment, poverty reduction and pro-poor development. The research adopts a social constructivist approach to gain an in-depth understanding of empowerment from women’s own perspectives. It explores the politics (what are the implications and social/political effects of microfinance and financial literacy), policy (is the theory of change linking these interventions and assumed outcomes valid) and practice (what appears to work well and less well in the process of implementation?). In doing so, the study seeks to establish how the construction of lived experiences transforms into behaviour change; hence making a broader contribution to the literature and debates on inclusive development policies. For more information visit our blog.

Simon Peter Opolot


"Public Policy and International Development: Political and Social Underpinnings of Public Policies and Development Programmes in Uganda"

The PhD research project titled Political and Social Underpinnings of Public Policies and Development Programmes in Uganda aims to understand how political and social norms influence public policies and development programmes. Political and social underpinnings are "normative standards" that are brought to bear on public policies and development programmes. The term "normative standards", represents the shared values and/or institutions, which are constitutive of the political and social structure; and political and social cohesion (in Uganda). These values and/or institutions encourage and enforce social activity and outcomes that ought to occur, while discouraging or preventing social activity that ought not to occur. Public debate on poverty reduction policies and programmes in Uganda in recent years has shown that political and social underpinnings are of immense practical importance. For instance, poverty reduction interventions are expected to bring about social, economic and political empowerment. Regardless of what the government of the day might have to say about its policy and programmatic achievements, interventions that are not addressing these expectations will most likely attract negative critique. This suggests that some development policies and programmes can be normatively considered "valuable" because they address defined expectations, while others may be normatively considered "valueless" because they do not speak to those expectations. This standpoint further suggests that development policies and programmes that are normatively considered 'valuable' by stakeholders in a given political and sociological context will most likely succeed; while those that are normatively considered "valueless" may struggle or fail to achieve their goals and objectives. If so, then guaranteeing the success of development policies and programmes necessitates (i) Mapping and establishing the normative standards in a given political and sociological context; (ii) Designing development policies and programmes in full consideration of the normative standards in a given political and sociological context; and (iii) Nurturing the symbiotic relationship between normative standards and development policies and programmes in a given political and sociological context in order to assure the sustainability of development gains. The proposed PhD study project will adapt and use the World Bank's Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) research approach and methodology, which will be complimented by DFID’s (UK Department of International Development) drivers of change (DOC); SIDA’s (Swedish International Development Agency) power analysis; and the Dutch Strategic Governance and Corruption Analysis (SGACA) analytical approaches. PSIA utilises a mixture of institutional (political, social and economic) analysis tools and techniques in a systematic way at three levels of public policy development and implementation. At the macro-level (country and development context), DFID’s DOC and SIDA’s power analysis will be incorporated into PSIA. At the meso level (policy implementation), tools such as stakeholder analysis and institutional analysis will be used. And at the micro-level (impact of policy implementation/reform), tools such as household and individual surveys and gender analysis will be employed.

Unjyn Park


  • Dr Elliot Cohen

"Exploring the Relationship between Spiritual Crisis and Psychological Transformation among Tibetan Buddhists"

My study explores how lived experiences of spiritual crisis are expressed, and interpreted in Tibetan Buddhist culture. Spiritual crisis (also referred to as 'spiritual emergence') refers to an experience of psychological distress that appears to be a mental health issue but, if appropriately handled, has the potential to lead the individual to further spiritual development. Taking, as the theoretical framework, the debate on the nature of spiritual crisis in transpersonal psychology, whether it is psychosis and/or regression or a stage of spiritual development, I have adopted ethnographic observation and narrative inquiry in order to explore Tibetan participants’ experience and sense-making. Presently I am working towards generating a picture that will reflect the diversity of experience of, and theoretical positions on, spiritual crisis within Tibetan Buddhist culture. I focus on how Tibetan participants’ own cultural context and the Western interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism combine to affect the absence of spiritual crisis narratives in Tibetan Buddhist culture.

Danielle Selby


"The relationship between impulsivity and cue reactivity in the mediation of the nicotine addiction cycle"

Addiction research has focused on identifying factors which contribute to the initiation and maintenance of drug taking behaviour, and those which increase the likelihood of relapse during attempts to remain drug free. Two factors believed to play an important role in the addiction cycle are impulsivity and cue reactivity. Impulsivity is characterised by a difficulty in inhibiting actions or the tendency to opt for smaller immediate, over larger delayed rewards (choosing the immediate reward of a cigarette to curb craving over the delayed rewards associated with a drug-free lifestyle). Cue reactivity relates to responses to drug-related cues which have become associated with the act of drug-taking (e.g. cigarettes, ashtrays). Evidence suggests that these cues grab users attention, initiate craving and alter physiological responses (Carter and Tiffany, 1999; Field and Cox, 2008). Increased cue reactivity coupled with a loss of inhibitory control over drug taking behaviour therefore may contribute to the maintenance of addiction and jeopardise quit attempts. This thesis explores the relationship between impulsivity and cue reactivity through experimental studies, in smokers with different levels of nicotine dependency and in different levels of nicotine withdrawal. Impulsivity is assessed though both questionnaire measures and computerised behavioural tasks and cue reactivity through self-reported craving, psychophysiological responses (heart rate, sweat gland activity and blood pressure) and attentional bias to drug-related cues. It is hoped that furthering understanding of the interaction between these two important factors in addiction will generate additional information that may be useful in informing the development of more effective interventions for smoking cessation.

Priyan Senevirathna


"Empowering the Disempowered? A critical exploration into the role of International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) in development of the global South"

INGOs have been operating in the global South since the post second world war period. They have gone through stages of transformation and have become an integral part of the current development discourse. However the extent to which empowerment and participation of the poor within the global development debate has taken place still largely remains a question. Therefore it is important to explore the role of INGOs in the Global South empowering the disempowered. The study in particular examines the internal and external power relationships associated with INGO operations and how they reflect on an agenda for empowerment. It is based on a multiple case study research design based on two case studies taken from Sri Lanka.

Amanda D Wilson


"British Me's Engagement in Family Planning: A Discursive Analysis"

I am a third year qualitative PhD student in Psychology with research interests in post-structural forms of discourse analysis, gender, and health. My background is in quantitative methods and post PhD I would like to further develop my research interests using mixed methods to explore women's constructs of powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting. Currently my PhD seeks to construct British men's family planning practises using theory from both health psychology and social psychology. There are three research objectives I aim to achieve whilst exploring British men's family planning practises; (1) To further understand the way health practitioners influence British men in regards to their engagement in family planning, (2) to use this understanding to empirically investigate British men and their family planning service use, and to (3) seek to inform policies and practitioners' interactions in order to better connect British men with family planning related support. My thesis will consists of three studies, a media text analysis, an analysis of couples interviews, and an analysis of viewer comments from online news articles. The three studies are sequential with the design of each study emerging accordingly from the findings of the previous analysis. The method of discourse analysis used to analyse the three studies is a form of Foucauldian discourse analysis.

Prior to starting my PhD at Leeds Beckett University in 2011, I completed my AM (2011) in Social Service from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. My degree was interdisciplinary drawing from the areas of clinical psychology, economics, public policy, and non-profit management.


The Centre for Applied Social Research (CeASR) is based in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and has a thriving postgraduate community. We are able to offer supervision to PhD, MPhil and MRes candidates from both the United Kingdom and overseas.

We are particularly interested in applications relating to our specialist areas:

  • Crime, Justice and Society
  • Employment, Work and Welfare
  • Global Inequalities
  • Sex, Gender Identity and Power
  • Speech, Language and Communication