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Susan Speer, BA (Hons), MSc, PhD., C.Psychol, PGCert TLHE, AFBPsS, FHEA


  • Room 1.1
    Division of Psychology and Mental Health
    School of Health Sciences
    Coupland Building 1
    The University of Manchester
    Oxford Road
    Manchester M13 9PL

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Personal profile


Editorial Board Member, Qualitative Research in Psychology

Editorial Board Member, Journal of Language and Sexuality

Editorial Board Member, Gender and Language (2012-2017)


After a BA (Hons) in Sociology and Social Policy (Durham), an MSc in Sociology (LSE) and a PhD in Psychology in the Social Sciences Department at Loughborough University, I spent a short time as a research assistant analysing the talk of prisoners in a sex offender treatment programme (Plymouth) before taking up my first Lectureship in Sociology and Communication in the Department of Human Sciences (now School of Social Sciences) at Brunel University in 2000. In 2004 I moved to the University of Manchester School of Psychological Sciences where I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Psychology in the Division of Psychology and Mental Health. I spent the 2005-2006 academic year as a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Sociology at The University of California at Los Angeles (funded by an ESRC-SSRC Collaborative Visiting Fellowship) where I received extensive training in Conversation Analysis. From Dec 2010-Feb 2011 I returned to UCLA as a Visiting Scholar in the Center for Language Interaction and Culture (CLIC).

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 oncology) 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 am co-investigator on a British Society for the study of vulval disease (BSSVD), Research Award: ‘Early Detection of vulval CAncer Through vulval self-Examination (EDuCATE): A mixed methods study (PI, Vanitha Sivalingam). 

(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 (ESRC programme grant, PI, 2004-8), and how inequality and prejudice (heterosexism, hate speech) are evidenced in communication. I published my first book, Gender Talk: Feminism, Discourse and Conversation Analysis in 2005 (Routledge), and the edited collection Conversation and Gender in 2011, with Elizabeth Stokoe, Loughborough University (Cambridge University Press). In recent work, I explore the construction of ‘good’ parental identities, 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  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.


Qualitative Research Methods in Applied Contexts [Year 3 elective]
Qualitative Research Methods [MRes]

Doctoral students

Francesca Lomas (2020-) Communication Analysis in psychosexual matters surrounding treatment and post-treatment in endometrial cancer [PhD]

Caitlin Jenkins (2019-) Whose diagnosis is it anyway? Features of clinician communication that influence patient responses to mental health diagnoses: Implications for training and practice (ESRC funded, 1+3). [PhD]

Julie Wilkes (2015-) Parental identity in kinship care families [PhD]

Stephanie Mace (2015-) Lesbian women’s experiences of clinical communication about breast cancer [PhD]

Kurt Wilson (2014-) Conversation Analysis: Talk about medicines [MD]

Samantha Tucker (2012-15) Uniting the body and mind in prostate cancer: A qualitative exploration of the psychosexual impact of prostate cancer treatment and related clinical communication needs [ClinPsyD]

Rebecca McPhillips (2009-14) Delicate topics in psychiatrist-patient communication in the Gender Identity Clinic [PhD- ESRC funded].

Simon Goodman (2003-7) The discursive construction of asylum seeking [PhD- ESRC funded]

Bryony Hoskins (1997-2001*) Tales of the intimate: Exploring young people’s accounts of sexual practice [PhD- ESRC funded, Brunel University. *I co-supervised Bryony during her final year].

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

British Psychological Society (Chartered Psychologist)
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

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


(1994) BA (Hons) Sociology and Social Policy, First Class Honours, University of Durham
(1996) MSc Sociology, with Distinction (ESRC funded), London School of Economics and Political Science
(2000) PhD Psychology (ESRC funded) Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University
(2002) PGCert Learning and Teaching in Higher Eduation, Brunel University

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cancer


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