Empowerment and Social Justice Research Area

colourful hands reaching upwards

The Empowerment and Social Justice research area within the ARU Centre for Societies and Groups (ARU-CSG) is a group of qualitatively-focused scholars working toward social change, social justice, empowerment, and overturning the marginalisation of disenfranchised groups.

About us

We undertake collaborative and applied research that makes a real difference to people’s lives through understandings of the self and social processes, with impacts on public policy, health and social care, justice and group relations.

We take an action-oriented approach to our work with a range of non-academic partners, such as health and social care services, third sector organisations, service-user groups, and industry. We offer courses on applied qualitative research methods to both academics and non-academic audiences wishing to conduct research in their own organisations. We also work with a wide range of organisations, communities, and individuals, consulting on research practices and methods.

Current topics of research include improving mental health and learning disability services, evaluations of social media and digital technologies, extremism, prejudice and conflict, coping with chronic health conditions, body image and men’s health and masculinities.

Please contact our hub lead, Prof Mick Finlay, for more information.

We offer a Psychology PhD and a range of innovative research project opportunities for postgraduate researchers.

Want to study qualitative research? Find out about our continuing professional development (CPD) course.

Jenny Cattier

Contact: [email protected]
Supervisory team: Dr Tim Jarvis, Dr Craig Owen, Associate Professor Laura Dietz
Thesis title: An Exploration into the Efficacy of Short Speculative Fiction as a Therapeutic Agent for Female Depression..
Research summary: Jenny's research includes an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) study exploring the experience of women who have found reading short speculative fiction helpful in managing their depressive symptoms.

Katrine Donois
Contact: [email protected]
Supervisory team: Dr Lewis Goodings, Dr Mick Finlay, Dr Nic Gibson
Thesis title: Science, Society, and the Media: Bridging the Communication Divide.
Research summary: Katrine's research concerns the multiple ways in which 'science' is communicated or understood and examines the processes that impact the effective communication of science.

Karen Mutsatsa
Contact: [email protected]
Supervisory team: Dr Mick Finlay, Dr Emma Kaminskiy, Dr Lewis Goodings
Thesis title: The pursuit of happiness with a physical/sensory impairment: an exploration of the 'Good Life' concept.
Research summary: Investigating the attitudes, resources, and behaviours which facilitate or hinder "living-well" with a physical/sensory Impairment. Karen adopts phenomenological and social constructionist approaches to investigate what It means to be happy and disabled in the UK.

Evelin Kis
Contact: [email protected]
Supervisory team: Prof Viren Swami, Dr Emma Kaminskiy, Dr Barbara Vohmann
Thesis title: Adapting wise belonging interventions for race minority students in STEM to transform their experiences, relationships, and achievements.
Research summary: This project looks at adapting wise belonging interventions developed in the US to improve the attainment and retention levels of race minority students in the UK higher educational context.

Read more about find out more about the phd researchers in the empowerment and social justice research group.

Aneita Pringle
Contact: [email protected]
Thesis title: The importance of being humane: a case study of a positive practice ward and a mixed methods exploration of the development and acceptability of the personal narrative model.


Research increasingly suggests that the transition to fatherhood can trigger mental health problems in the perinatal period (i.e., the period spanning pregnancy, childbirth, and the first postnatal year). The financial costs of paternal perinatal mental ill-health on the UK economy are substantial, but so too is the burden on fathers themselves, their partners, and their children. It is therefore important to consider perinatal mental health in terms of the family unit, including fathers.

In the Groups and Social Processes research area, we are leading ambitious projects that consider the lived experiences of fathers in terms of their mental health, in collaboration with partners in mental health services and scholars internationally. Led by Prof Viren Swami and PhD candidate Caroline Estrella, this research seeks to understand the experience of psychological distress in fathers and how best to help fathers experiencing distress to get the help they need.

Read more about read more about the perinatal and mental health in fathers project .

In order to improve services for people, we need to understand how people use and access support services, and what happens in interactions between workers and those they support.

In the Groups and Social Processes research area, we study how people communicate with each other in care services for people with intellectual disabilities, how psychiatrists discuss medication with people who have mental health issues, how people use mental health apps, and how ward staff make formulations. Led by Dr Emma Kaminskiy, Dr Lewis Goodings and Dr Mick Finlay, we try and understand what happens when people access psychological and social support.

Read more about read more about the service experiences of people with mental health problems and intellectual disabilities project.

Qualitative Research Methods training for all professionals

New to qualitative research? Why not apply for our CPD course?

Taught by a team of experts in qualitative methods, this introductory two-day course will take participants through the stages of a qualitative research project. Topics include:

  • What is a qualitative research question?
  • How to collect data appropriate to your project (including interviews, focus groups, observations, document, media and social media sources)
  • How to analyse data (we will focus in detail on thematic analysis and content analysis, but will introduce a range of other analytic techniques such as discourse analysis, narrative analysis, framework analysis, conversation analysis, realist evaluation, ethnography, participatory action research)
  • How to report results of qualitative research.
  • Who can attend: No entry requirements, all professionals.

    Where you'll study: Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University campus.

    Course fees: £440 for a 2-day CPD Course (ex. VAT) and an optional consultancy add-on for £186 (inc. VAT) (fees for 2022/3).

    Please contact Dr Mick Finlay or visit our course page for more information.