Researching Disability

Module fact file

Masters Level
10 credits
Contact Hours:
Over two days

Contact details

Module lead
Graeme Douglas
Harriet Clark

Module description

This short course reflects the strong research and professional identities linked with disability which often characterise the social identities of workers in the field, leading them to seek out disability-orientated perspectives (Lewis and Crisp 2004). This has been reflected in texts which have taken a disability-specific orientation to research (e.g. Armstrong and Moore 2004; Barnes and Mercer 1997; Moore et al 1998). In due course the proposed course could lend itself to an updated and more comprehensive version of such texts reflecting also, for example, internet developments in this field.

The course will both unpick the methodological implications of some of the debates around the nature and interpretation of 'disability' and also scrutinise some of the practical issues of 'method' when researching disability. In outline, the following foci are envisaged (anticipating approximately one day on each with an emphasis on seminar rather than formal lecture format):

1. Context and issues

  • Conceptualisation of disability and impact on resesearch epistemology;
  • Diverse approaches to research in the area of disability, incouding participatory and emancipatory approaches;
  • The nascent 'disability history' agenda;
  • The politicisation of SEN/disability and policy oriented research;
  • Evaluation research in disability or special needs

2. Ethics and methods

  • Ethical issues e.g.gaining informed consent with participants having limited communication skills;
  • Differentiating access and response modes for participants with cognitive or sensory impairments (including arts and web based methods);
  • Child voice in the context of children with disabilities or special needs;
  • Dissemination: access and format issues; involving people with disabilities in dissemination

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Understand contrasting conceptualizations of disability
  • Relate these to appropriate consequent research methods and methodologies
  • Recognise the particular ethical issues in research concerning disability or special needs
  • Differentiate data collection methods in appropriate ways for disabled participants
  • Appreciate the roles and potential of disabled reference groups


A 2,500 word assignment.

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.