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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Emma Davidson

Emma Davidson
Dr Emma Davidson
Leverhulme Early Career Senior Research Fellow
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

  • Monday 9-11 during termtime, or by appointment

Research activities

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.

Public libraries, civil society and austerity

My current study, 'A new page? Libraries, austerity and the shifting boundaries of civil society', is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Working with libraries, and the neighbourhoods in which they are based, the project is exploring the everyday social worlds of public libraries and the challenges they face under austerity. 

Libraries, Austerity and the Shifting Boundaries of Civil Society

The study is focusing on groups excluded, less able or disenfranchised from local processes of participation: young people, young parents and those experiencing homelessness.  The aim is to provoke a broader enquiry into civil society in the UK, and gain insight into the practices of local civic engagement under austerity.

Please visit and join the project website:

Qualitative data analysis and 'big qual' data  

I was involved in the recently completed ‘Working across qualitative longitudinal studies: a feasibility study looking at care and intimacy’. This study was part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods programme of methodological research. It considered how feasible it is to conduct secondary analysis across existing data from several qualitative longitudinal studies. For more information on our work, see our resource hub:  

Young people, inequalities and participation 

My doctoral research, undertaken collaboratively with the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS), was an ethnographic study of young people living in a ‘disadvantaged’ neighbourhood in a Scottish city. The research illuminated the complex social processes through which antisocial behaviour policies are constructed in young people’s everyday lives. Outputs from the research can be viewed here: 

Early years, literacy and attachment

Other recent projects include a two-year evaluation of Bookbug, the Scottish Government's book gifting programme, delivered in partnership with the Scottish Book Trust. The research report and executive summary is now available for download 

Complex and multiple needs

I have worked extensively research on homelessness, multiple and complex needs and housing options througout my career, mostly recently completing a longitudinal evaluation of a homeless crisis centre. I have also worked extensively with Indigo House ( in this field of research (see this report as example). 

I have also been leading a programme of activities on Adverse Childhood Experiences policy approaches. To date, activities have included six informal seminars at CRFR; a workshop; the development of a resource ‘padlet’; and a popular blog series in which invited guest writers ‘continue the conversation’. We plan to continue this work through academic publishing (an edited collection is planned for publication in 2020) and an ongoing programme of knowledge exchange activities, with a particular focus on supporting practitioners to share their practice experiences.  See the blog here: 


  • 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. 
  • Davidson, E. (2020) 'Social justice or social control? An ethnographic study of detached youth work in Scotland', Scottish Affairs. (29)2.
  • 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.
  • Davidson, E. (2019) ‘The Voices of Scottish Librarians: Continuity and change’. Scottish Affairs. (28)4.
  • 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. & Carlin, E. (2019) Steeling young people: resilience and youth policy in Scotland. Social Policy and Society. 18(3). 
  • 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., 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. & 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.  
  • 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.

Consultancy and research

Media and blogging

Selected presentations and seminars

  1. (symposium co-organiser) ‘A space for all?: The social space of the public library in austerity’19th April 2019, Spaces of the welfare state under austerity symposium with Ellen Stewart; Eleanor Jupp and Stephen Crossley, Social Policy Association Conference 2019, Durham University.
  2. ‘Public libraries, austerity and homelessness’, 25th April 2019, British Sociological Association - Challenging Social Hierarchies and Inequalities, Glasgow Caledonian University.
  3. ‘Institutionalised identities: The experiences of young care leavers in Scotland’, 26 – 27 August 2015, 5th International Conference on Sociology and Social Work New Directions in Critical Sociology and Social Work: Identity, Narratives and Praxis, University of Chester.
  4. ‘How are you? Young People's Narratives on Support in Their Everyday Lives’, 15-17 April 2015 ‘Societies in Transition: Progressive or Regression?: British Sociological Association International Conference, Glasgow Caledonian University.
  5. ‘My life? Re-conceptualising critical moments in the life of a care leaver’ (with Dr Lisa Whittaker), 30 March – 1 April 2015, Contemporary Youth, Contemporary Risks: Journal of Youth Studies Conference, Copenhagen University.
  6. (symposium co-organiser) ‘Disorder and the emancipatory possibilities of everyday life’, 1-3 July 2014, Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth 5th International Conference: Researching Children’s Everyday Lives: Socio-Cultural Contexts.
  7. ‘Young People and their Future Selves’ (with Dr Lisa Whittaker), 12-13 June 2014, Where Now for Social Justice? The Marginalisation of Young People in the UK, Canterbury University.
  8. ‘The Antisocial Everyday: Putting the Ordinary into Understanding of Antisocial Behaviour’, 8-10 April 2013, Youth Studies Conference 2013: New Agendas on Young and Young Adulthood, University of Glasgow. 
  9. ‘Young people and their interactions with the everyday antisocial’, 23 July 2012, European Sociological Association Summer School, Lisbon.
  10. (symposium co-organiser) ‘Researching sensitive topics’, 9-11 July 2012, Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth 4th Annual ConferenceCelebrating Childhood Diversity, University of Sheffield.

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.

If you are interested in being supervised by Emma Davidson, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology; MSc (R) Sociology