Student research

Our research students are supported by our dedicated Faculty research team and by the University's Research and Innovation Development Office (RIDO). They are always on-hand if you need help with grant applications or knowledge transfer initiatives.

For an idea of the range of subjects covered by our research degrees, take a look at some of our current students' theses titles.

Some highlights from our recent research student projects:

Steve Ridley (right) at an unveiling of a blue plaque commemorating Constance Naden in Birmingham, with (left to right) David Clarke (Chairman of the Birmingham Civic Society), Vivienne Wilkes (Lady Mayoress of Birmingham), Michael Wilkes (Lord Mayor of Birmingham)

Steve - PhD English Literature

Title: 'Evolutionary Ethics: the development of scientific, philosophical and religious perspectives in the poetry and prose of Constance Naden from 1877 to 1894'

Steve is tracing evolutionary narratives in the poetry and prose of the late nineteenth century writer and philosopher Constance Naden, who published two volumes of poetry and approximately fifty philosophical essays and articles before dying at the age of just thirty-one.

Adopting a historicist approach to the evolutionary narratives of Naden, Steve is analysing all of her letters, articles, essays and poetry juxtaposed with a key selection of contemporary prose and poetry from the 1870s and 1880s that engage with Darwinism directly or indirectly. His focus is on religion and science through the writers who engaged in the post-Darwinian controversies of this period.

The project will provide a re-reading of Naden in her cultural context, and argue that the simple narrative about her life and work left by her contemporaries is not necessarily accurate. Naden went from religion to agnosticism and possibly even atheism, and Steve will argue that her beliefs remained fluid to the end of her life and that this fluidity was not atypical. His thesis will explore this journey by locating Naden within the religious and scientific debates of her adult life.

Image: Steve Ridley (right) at an unveiling of a Blue Plaque for Naden, with (l-r) David Clarke (Chairman of the Birmingham Civic Society), Vivienne Wilkes (Lady Mayoress of Birmingham), Michael Wilkes (Lord Mayor of Birmingham)

Linda - PhD Dramatherapy

Communiwell collage, L Winn

Title: 'The Theatre of War, the Drama of Life: A Mixed Methods Study'

Many veterans affected by trauma report relief of symptoms when engaged in art based activities and arts therapies. Linda's research evaluates the effectiveness of dramatherapy interventions in the assessment and treatment of veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The main questions her project will address are:

  • Does dramatherapy assist veterans to recover from the effects of psychological trauma?
  • Will dramatherapy improve their ability to adjust to civilian life?
  • What are the veterans’ perceptions of useful and hindering aspects of dramatherapy?

Linda is using a mixed methods case study design, with arts-based qualitative measures and universal measures recognised within the field of trauma and psychological assessment.

She is keeping the sample small - three participants who have suffered psychological trauma related to combat - to examine the rich data in-depth. Each participant had five individual 90-minute sessions, then met as a group for the final three sessions, with Linda facilitating all the session in the role of dramatherapist / researcher. Her fieldwork included Six Piece Story Making and the Communiwell. She also used Turner’s Model of Crisis to underpin the personal journeying theme, and based her text and bodywork on Homer’s Odyssey.

Having manually analysed and graphed her quantitative data, Linda's preliminary findings indicated that all participants showed some improvement, recording an increase in confidence, creativity and ability to manage conflict. She is now is evaluating her qualitative data, which consists of 65 hours of recordings, using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), before reviewing her preliminary findings with the participants. There will also be an independent analysis.

Image: Communiwell collage