Getting Started

The Network discussed how they got started 


Support to get started




“I came to that work because of my own experiences and it was actually a very intentional decision”

“I was trying to think what can I do to make the world a slightly kinder place, so that’s why I decided to do a PhD”

“my research stemmed from my own experiences […]I fell into research accidentally if I’m honest ”

“I was just submitting my dissertation for my master’s and she (tutor) mentioned going onto to do a PhD and it came at a point in my life when I thought I need to do something for me, so I quit my job and thought I’m going to go and do a PhD”

“I had read a million things in trying to understand my own trauma, and I wanted to do something that might help other survivors because it all seemed so much other people talking about survivors, not survivors talking about themselves”

“I’m not particularly bothered about getting the title or creating a new career for myself but really interested in making a difference for other survivors, somehow, anyhow”

Support To Get Started

Researching within a University meant finding a supervisor ahead of having your place at the University; this supervisor was integral in showing where to find funding and in submit funding bids, in shaping the project and in navigating the university admin systems to gain a place. 

“I had a really good supervisor who really supported me, and she helped me to get funding, so it was really thanks to her, she helped me to identify a gap […] I had no clue what I was doing at the time”

Finding a supervisor: some participants already knew the person who would become their supervisor and some located someone via word or mouth or seeking someone out by finding someone who was working in the field of interest who they wanted to work with. 

“finding a supervisor who took me under his wing and ushered me in” 

“I found her (supervisor) first, I liked her papers, I had no connections at all in the research world, […] I found her first, […] I was googling people at the University, I was  narrowing it to (local) Universities, and to be honest I just thought she had a kind face […] she wrote about things in a way that I agreed with”

“the course leader on the Master’s was going to be my supervisor” 

“my therapist knew a guy who was working at […] Uni and he put me in touch saying I was interested in doing a PhD. I went to meet him and we just talked, then he asked me to think about exactly what I would want to research, and to read Judith Herman’s book (Trauma and Recovery). I sent an email with a list of topics, he singled one out and asked me to write a few hundred words on the idea. I guess he was seeing if I could write, and if he thought he could supervise me  – something about our working relationship. I then had to fill out the Uni application forms, but he seemed to be making things happen in the department and I was interviewed by another woman and him in the department and I got the place. I as self-funded. Maybe that helped”

“this woman emailed me about [work related issue] and I […] replied to her and said “by the way I’d really like to do a PhD, would you have a look at this”, and then she was like “oo yeah, would you like to come and do it with us” . I had to go for an interview […] then she got back to me like a year later and said we’ve got funding from the (funding body) to do this project and you could do the PhD as part of the project, and I was like “Ooo, OK then”

Not all participants have conduced research from within a university, but some research has been conducted as an off shoot from activism, and community work;

“I’ve done a lot of action research, participative action research as kind of a community educator and youth worker particularly with young people, people who are marginalised and people of all ages through community action, but not really done any academic research until more recently”

“[…] and I set up an organisation to do research, a voluntary organisation, because we wanted to control what we were researching and we wanted to help ourselves and help other people, other survivors, and it became clear that in order to help we need to do research because otherwise no one would take us seriously”


Each participant had a different experience of getting funding, and this seemed to be a rather random process: perhaps this is an area this document can expand on as the network develops. Maybe we can work towards a data base of funding bodies or processes that other survivor-researchers have approached, or followed.

Several members are self-funded at Universities, and doing PhD part time to allow for paid work at the same time. 

Sometimes PhD’s are funded as part of a larger project, and recruited onto the project. Other members had applied for funding for their own project.

One funding body was mentioned today was :

LISS-DTP (London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership) is funded by the ESRC and funds PhDs in the social sciences at King’s College London, Queen Mary or Imperial London. You get a small stipend (about £16,500) and approximately £750 per year to go towards research costs, including paying participants and attending conferences. There are opportunities to apply for extensions to do an internship (e.g. in government) or visit an overseas university. Although LISS-DTP only covers these three universities, other Doctoral Training Partnerships exist that involve other universities. More information about LISS-DTP:

Navigating difficulties

The tension for survivors working as academic researchers was discussed and the university institutional bodies that oversee the progress of a project, which have power over what you do and how you do it:

“those tensions within academia, I’ve felt those, really , even within the group that I’m in that works around trauma, I’ve felt a lot of that tension and that’s, you know around language use, and ethical approval and you know making sure you’re doing this that and the other, I’m trying to be really restrained in everything I do and then suddenly being told you’re being too tight and constrained”

“I think it’s about that lack of control […] it seems to be someone at an academic level making those decisions because it s PhD”

This was discussed as perhaps being because of our Survivor Identities.

“maybe [it’s] because we’re attuned to things a little bit differently, a different way, our outlook isn’t the gaining of a PhD, it isn’t about, […] it’s about ultimately creating something, making something [..] I’m a lot more sensitive attuning to things that are said and done”

“it’s just little things that strike as personal because it is so personal to us, it’s not necessarily the processes it’s [about] us”

“I do feel that tension […] a real tension between being a survivor led researcher as part of an independent organisation and on our own terms and having to play the game of academia in order to be taken seriously, and why should we, and are we selling out if we play that game”

“you can get feedback and it’s useful and constructive but you can feel so invested, it feels so personal, that it’s quite hard to separate it, in a way. Something about, how do you hold that and do it safely, that kind of thing, how much of yourself do you have present in process, and why”

These tensions were the case for those participants working within a university but independent research did not bring the same issues:

“partly because I’ve claimed that [survivor] identity for quite a long time as a survivor-activist, so whether that has made a difference, it kind of never really enters my head not to […] in fact it’s a meritus things as somebody who’s part of a survivor organisation that I’m very up front about my identity as a survivor and that foreshadows everything that I do, so it’s never really an issue, but I know that it is when part of an academic institution”