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Dr Susan Speer (BA (Hons), MSc (Econ), PhD., C.Psychol, FHEA) - research

Research interests

I am a qualitative psychologist conducting research at the intersection of health psychology, medical sociology and social psychology. My research applies qualitative methods of data collection (e.g., interviews, focus groups, naturally occurring recordings of real life interactions) and a range of analytic techniques (thematic analysis, discursive psychology, conversation analysis) to three overlapping areas:

(1) Clinical communication
In the health psychology/medical sociology strand of my work I examine how clinicians from a range of specialties (most recently psychiatry and urology) communicate with patients. In particular, I am interested in exploring clinical communication about delicate topics (sex and sexuality, weight, health behaviour change). The aim of this research is to identify patterns in communication practices that work well/less well, with a view to making recommendations that can inform clinical practice and the training and education of practitioners. I continue to work on data of psychiatric and surgical assessments from the ESRC programme grant on which I was PI: Transsexual identities: Constructions of gender in an NHS Gender Identity Clinic (part of the Identities and Social Action Research Programme). I am currently developing a related project (with Sarah Peters, School of Psychological Sciences) that explores the way urological surgeons and oncologists communicate with prostate cancer patients about the sexual side effects of treatment.

(2) Identity, gender and inequality
In the social psychology strand of my work, I explore how we ‘do’ and ‘display’ our identities and relationships in interaction. The majority of my work on this topic has focussed on the construction of gender and sexual identities across a range of institutional and ordinary settings. I explore what counts as an orientation to gender in an interaction, how transsexual patients pass as male/female in psychiatric, gatekeeping settings, and how inequality and prejudice (heterosexism, hate speech) are evidenced in communication. My first book, Gender Talk: Feminism, Discourse and Conversation Analysis was published by Routledge in 2005, and I recently completed the edited collection Conversation and Gender (2011) for Cambridge University Press (with Elizabeth Stokoe, Loughborough University). In my current work, I am exploring how we use self-praise and self-deprecations to manage our identities as certain sorts of people, and how social actions typically thought of as ambiguous and subject to multiple possible interpretations (like 'flirting'), might be pinned down and analysed empirically. Much of this work challenges assumptions that underlie mainstream social psychological approaches and concepts.

(3) Research methodology in action
Drawing on ideas from the sociology of scientific knowledge, constructionism and ethnomethodology, I am interested in the conduct of research as a topic in its own right. For example, I examine the relationship between the way research is supposed to work in theory - as set out in methods textbooks, and how research actually plays out in practice in real life settings. I have published on ‘ethics in action’, identifying how researchers gain informed consent from participants, the reactivity of participants to the presence of data recording devices, and what reflexive methodologies look like in practice. Finally, I have contributed to methodological debates about the relationship between natural and contrived data, realism and relativism and feminist methodology.

I supervise PhD, MD, and DClinPsy research on these, and related topics, and welcome enquiries.

Methodological knowledge

Focus groups
Qualitative questionnaires
Online/media data
Thematic analysis
Discourse analysis and discursive psychology
Conversation analysis of naturally occurring ordinary and institutional data
Analysis of gesture
Ethics of research using interactional data