School of Social and Political Science

Dr Emma Davidson

Job Title

Lecturer in Social Policy and Qualitative Research Methods

Emma Davidson

Room number

Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

Street (Address)

23 Buccleuch Place

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)



Roles and responsibility

I am a Lecturer in Social Policy and Qualitative Research and member of the Research Training Centre (RTC) within the School of Social and Political Sciences. I am a Co-Director at the Binks Hub, a new research hub for co-creating research for community benefit. I am course organiser for the PG course Data Collection, and for the UG course Social Inequalities through the Lifecourse. I am also a co-director at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, and co-editor of the journal Scottish Affairs.

Research interests

My research is concerned with the relationship between macro socio-economic structures and the subjective, micro-personal. I typically draw on qualitative methods that help understand people and their lives from their own vantage points and have a particular interest in young people's everyday lives, their transitions into adulthood and the social infrastructures that support community belonging, trust and tolerance. Areas of research include civil society and community; educational engagement; relationships and significant others and Adverse Childhood Experiences. Most recently, I have been leading research funded by the Leverhulme Trust on the everyday social world of the public library and the challenges faced under austerity. I curate and write two blogs and have published my work in high quality journals, including Social Policy & Society, Social Inclusion, Sociological Research Online and Quality and Quantity.

 I am especially interested in participatory and collaborative methods, and their potential for making meaningful policy impact. With Autumn Roesch-Marsh and Fiona Cuthill, I am co-director of the Binks Hub which is delivering a programe of new co-creative community research at Edinburgh. The Hub will also support a network of community members, academics and policy makers to share, develop and promote co-creative research for community benefit. 

I also have a special interest in ‘big qual’ data, and have led innovations in this field through National Centre for Research Methods programme: As well as co-convening PG core methods training, 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. 

Academic career 

I joined Social Policy and the Research Training Centre in September 2021. Prior to my doctoral research I worked in the private sector as a social researcher in housing studies, before moving to Heriot Watt University as a Research Fellow. I moved to the University of Edinburgh to undertake my ESRC CASE studentship with The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland which I completed in 2013. An ethnographic study, it used creative participatory methods to explore young people's experiences of antisocial behaviour in a social housing estate in Scotland. After a period of maternity leave, I worked as postdoctoral researcher, before gaining a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in Sociology. I have worked as a detached youth worker and as a housing consultant, both experiences which have helped to inform my current research. 


In press

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

Edwards, R., Weller, S., Davidson, E & Jamieson, L. (in press) 'Small stories of home moves: a gendered and generational breadth-and-depth investigation,, Sociological Research Online. 

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., Nugent, B & Johnsen, S. (2021) 'The Rough Journey Home: The contribution of qualitative longitudinal research to understandings of homelessness in austerity', Social Policy and Society.


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., 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).

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., 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.

Earlier work 

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

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.

Davidson, E. (2013) ‘Finding the ordinary in the antisocial: young people’s everyday experiences of antisocial behaviour’, Sociological Research Online, 18 (1) 5.

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

Consultancy and other 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.

Research interests

Research interests

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.

Current students

Joshua Anderson-Rose Youth in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi: Young people’s views of waiting in a liminal place and liminal life stage

Madison Bunker - We’re going through changes: Investigating how critical transitions in children’s lives affect children’s social and emotional development from the early years onwards (working title)

Emily Kenway -  Vulnerability and exploitation in contemporary Britain (working title)

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance

Currently by appointment