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Emma Davidson

Emma Davidson
Dr Emma Davidson
Lecturer in Social Policy and Qualitative Research Methods
Centre for Research on Families and Relationships 23 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LN
0131 651 1940
Research Interests
Qualitative Research Methods, Policy Analysis, computer assisted qualitative data analysis, Nvivo, Childhood and Youth Studies, family and personal relationships, research ethics, ethnography, community studies

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Currently by appointment


I am a social policy researcher, with a background in qualitative research, policy analysis and teaching. A member of the Research Training Centre (RTC) within the School of Social and Political Sciences, I am a UK expert in ‘big qual’ data, leading innovations around secondary analysis and delivering training at the national level. As well as co-convening a PG qualitative data analysis course, I have revised, designed and delivered over a dozen workshops on secondary qualitative data analysis, qualitative longitudinal research, ‘big qual’ data, collaborative and participatory methods, and ethics in qualitative research.  For more information on this work, see our resource hub:  

My broad research interests include public libraries and other 'third spaces'; literacy in the early years; youth studies; families and personal relationships; community studies and civil society. Methodological interests are focused on qualitative research methods and qualitative policy analysis, specifically participatory research and collaborative ethnography, qualitative data analysis and secondary qualitative data and evaluation methods.

I am a co-director at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, and co-editor of the journal Scottish Affairs. Most recently, I have been leading research funded by a prestigious Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship on the everyday social world of the public library and the challenges they face under austerity. I have also been leading a programme of activities on Adverse Childhood Experiences policy approaches. See the blog here: 


Davidson, E., Nugent, B & Johnsen, S. (in press) 'The Rough Journey Home:  The contribution of qualitative longitudinal research to understandings of homelessness in austerity', Social Policy and Society. 

Edwards, R., Davidson, E., Weller, S., and Jamieson, L. (2020) 'Theory and the breadth-and-depth method of analysing large amounts of qualitative data: a research note', Quantity and Quality. 

Davidson, E., Critchley, A. and Wright, L. (2020) 'Introduction: Making Scotland an ACE Aware Nation', Scottish Affairs, 29(4). 

Davidson, E. and Wright, L. (2020) 'Realising children's rights in an ACE-aware nation, Scottish Affairs, 29(4). 

Davidson, E. (2020) 'Social justice or social control? An ethnographic study of detached youth work in Scotland', Scottish Affairs. (29)2.

Davidson, E. (2019) ‘The Voices of Scottish Librarians: Continuity and change’. Scottish Affairs. (28)4.

Davidson, E. & Carlin, E. (2019) Steeling young people: resilience and youth policy in Scotland. Social Policy and Society. 18(3). 

Davidson, E., Edwards, R. Jamieson, L. and Weller, S. (2018) 'Big data, qualitative style: a breadth-and-depth method for working with large amounts of secondary qualitative data', Quality & Quantity, 53(1).

Davidson, E. (2017) 'Saying It Like It Is? Power, Participation and Research Involving Young People'. Social Inclusion, 5(3), 228-239.

Davidson E. (2013) ‘Between Edges and Margins: Exploring ‘Ordinary’ Young People’s Experiences of the Everyday Antisocial’, Sociological Research Online, 18(1):222-232.

Pawson, H. & Davidson, E. (2008) ‘Radically divergent? Homelessness policy and practice in post-devolution Scotland’, European Journal of Housing Policy, Vol 1.

Pawson, H. & Davidson, E. (2006) ‘Fit for Purpose? Official Measures of Homelessness in the Era of the Activist State’, Radical Statistics, No 93.

Book chapters 

Davidson, E. and McMellon, C. (forthcoming 2021) ‘A balanced approach to ethics in ethnography’ in Grace Spencer (eds), Ethics and Integrity in Research with Children and Young People, Emerald Publishing.

Davidson, E. and Cooper, T. (in press) ‘The Bookbug Programme: Booksharing as a tool for mediating children’s reading in Scotland’ in Mediating Children’s Reading, Anne Marie Hagen (eds), University of Lehigh Press.

Davidson, E. (2020) 'A new page? The public library in austerity', Social Policy Review: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy. Rees, J., Pomati, M. & Heins, E. (eds.). Policy Press, Vol. 32. 

Edwards, R., Weller, S., Jamieson, L. & Davidson, E. (2019) ‘Search Strategies; Analytic Searching Across Multiple Datasets and within combined sources’, in Hughes, K. and Tarrant, A. (eds) Advances in Qualitative Secondary Analysis, Sage.

Weller, S., Davidson, E., Edwards, R. and Jamieson, L. (2019) 'Analysing large volumes of complex qualitative data: Reflections from international experts', NCRM Working Paper. National Centre for Research Methods,

Davidson, E. & Whittaker, L. (2017) ‘How are you?: Young care leavers’ narratives of support’, edited by Ruth Rogers and Shane Blackman, The Marginalisation of Young People in the UK, Palgrave Press.

Davidson, E. (2011) ‘Second best? Raising the status of telephone interviewing in families and relationships research’, Reflections on Researching Families and Relationships, London: Palgrave.  

Consultancy and research

Davidson, E., McMellon, C., Airey, L., Berry, H. and Morton, S. (2018) 'Evaluating the impact of Bookbug Bags and Sessions in Scotland', Scottish Book Trust.

McMellon, C & Davidson, E. (2016) 'Evaluation of Move-on’s Peer Mentoring Service', Move-on

Evans, A. & Davidson, E. (2015) 'Multiple Exclusion Homelessness in Glasgow’, Glasgow Homelessness Network and The Oak Foundation.

Davidson, E. and McMellon, C. (2014) ‘Midlothian Family Resilience Project Evaluation’, Midlothian Council.

Elsley, S., Tisdall, K. & Davidson, E. (2013) ‘Children's experiences of, and views on, issues relating to the implementation of the UNCRC’, Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Davidson, E. & Chen, E. (2012) ‘Alcohol, the street and young people: A toolkit for professionals working with and for young people on the street’, Edinburgh: Granton Youth Centre and The Junction Project.

Littlewood, M., Evans, E., Fitzpatrick, S., Davidson, E. & Sosenko, F. (2011) ‘Housing Options Study’, Glasgow: Glasgow Housing Association.

Davidson, E. (2010) Single Outcome Agreements for Scottish Local Government, 2009/10 - A  thematic Analysis, Children’s Voluntary Sector Policy Officers Network and Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland.

Bennet, C., Dockery, M., Ousta,  H. &  Davidson, E. (2009) Our Say: Young People's Awareness and Understanding of the Educational Maintenance Allowance in Scotland, Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland. 

The Impact of Housing Stock Transfers in Urban Britain, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2009) - with Hal Pawson, James Morgan, Robert Smith and Rebecca Edwards.

Evaluation of the establishment, operations and impact of 5 projects focused on families at risk of eviction for antisocial behaviour , Scottish Government (2009) - with Hal Pawson, Filip Sosenko, John Flint, Judy Nixon, Rionach Casey and Diana Sanderson.

Evaluation of the Implementation and Impact of Local Antisocial Behaviour Strategies at Neighbourhood Level in Selected Local Authorities, Scottish Executive (2007) - with John Flint, Hal Pawson and Judy Nixon

Use of Antisocial Behaviour Orders in Scotland, Scottish Executive, (2007) - with Hal Pawson and DTZ Pieda.

Tackling anti-social behaviour in Glasgow: An evaluation of policy and practice in the Glasgow Housing Association, Glasgow Housing Association (2007) - with John Flint and Rionach Casey.

Evaluation of Homelessness Prevention in Scotland, Scottish Executive (2007) - with Hal Pawson and Gina Netto.

Media and blogging

Jamieson, L., Davidson, E., Weller, S. and Edwards, R. (2020) COVID-19 and Big Qual,

“I’ve seen firsthand what we lose if we don’t invest in libraries”, Big Issue (blog and prinnt), 12 February 2020 

The Cards You’re Dealt: Adverse Childhood Experiences, Resilience and Youth Policy in Scotland’, The Social Policy Blog, 17 June 2019 – with Dr Eric Carlin

Computational text analysis using R in Big Qual data: lessons from a feasibility study looking at care and intimacy’, Big Qual Analysis Resource Hub, 21 March 2019 – with Justin Chun-ting Ho and Prof Lynn Jamieson

'Resilience - continuing the conversation’, CRFR Blog, Dec 2017 – with Dr Eric Carlin  

Evaluating the Bookbug programme in Scotland’, 14 December 2017, CRFR blog

Davidson, E. (2017) Evaluating the Bookbug programme in Scotland, Centre for Research on Families and Relationship Blog, Dec 2017.

Davidson, E. (2014) Children, young people and the everyday, Centre for Research on Families and Relationship Blog, July 2014.

Davidson, E. (2014) ‘Young people, poverty and the everyday’, Children in Scotland Magazine, Oct 2014.

Topics interested in supervising

I can act as a supervisor or in an informal mentoring role on projects concerning community life and everyday social interactions; civic society; youth transitions, class and inequality; youth work; public libraries; as well as students with interests in particular methodologies, including qualitative policy evaluation; qualitative data analysis; secondary qualitative data; and longitudinal qualitative methods.