Author Archives: Catrin Edwards- Greaves

How my relationship with my disabled identity influences my research methods.

Anneka Owens
To mark the end of Disability History Month, I have written this blog on my relationship with my disabled identity and my research methods. It maps the road to acceptance and how that has brought my research methods closer to the person being researched.

A bit about me
I am a third year 1+3 ESRC funded PhD student at Cardiff studying equality and access to justice in Wales. I was diagnosed with a limiting health condition the day before starting the SSRM. Interestingly, as my relationship with my new disabled identity changed, so did my research methods. This was subconscious at first but became more conscious as my identity strengthened. This blog takes you on the journey that I’ve faced from denial and detachment to pride and full incorporation.

The Social Science Research Methods Dissertation
During the SSRM, I hadn’t fully embraced my identity as a disabled person and instead focused upon somehow returning to the ‘norm’. My desire to keep pace with the standards set for people with no limiting health conditions was because I was still ableist in my views. My health condition was the problem that had to be overcome and I just had to somehow achieve the same standards and timescales as everyone else no matter what – my illness would not deter me from my goals. This was an attempt to detach my illness from my sense of self.

Distancing of illness from the person was also subconsciously reflected in my chosen research methods for my SSRM dissertation. I chose to study equality and access to justice in Wales by undertaking a secondary analyse on a leading legal needs survey from an equality perspective. This is arguably one of the most detached method for analysing equality.

My research found that representation of vulnerable groups was too small for accurate analysis and even pooling surveys did not substantially improve the situation. What did become known was that disabled people in Wales face legal disadvantages at a disproportionate rate compared to their English counterparts. Despite these findings for disabled people in Wales, I still didn’t identify as belonging to this group.
The findings from my Masters dissertation helped shape my PhD research design. The initial research proposal detailed a mixed methods approach – more secondary quantitative analysis followed up with a small number of interviews to provide case studies on the experiences of disabled people in Wales.

At this point, my disabled status was still separate from my identity but I was more accepting of my condition and the limitations I was experiencing. However, Covid changed my research method and my relationship with my disabled status…

The unexpected impact of Covid
The challenges that came with Covid were extreme and hastened my acceptance of my disability but it also exemplified more than ever that my health was not the only disabling factor. People’s attitudes towards reasonable accommodations magnified any limitations that I had and truly left me feeling isolated from society and disabled in an insurmountable manner. My experience during Covid was an exemplar of the social model of disability. I have an impairment as a result of my health condition but I am disabled by societal structures. This realisation, and frustration with the system, embedded my identity as a disabled person and became a source of strength and pride. I no longer wanted to detach myself from the community I was researching as it is my community and disabled people deserve a voice and control over their lives, including research conducted in their name.

The strong belief that my community (disabled people) deserve a voice meant that when I had to alter my research proposal to compensate for lost time due to Covid, the disuse of quantitative methods was a natural choice. At the time I felt that the method was too detached from disabled people and treated disability as homogenous. Nor did the homogenous approach reflect lived experience and the social model of disability.
As my research progressed it became clear that there was no need to be conducting the interviews with disabled people in Wales. However, my identity as a disabled person and the conviction that disabled people need to be included in decisions that affect them, resulted in interviews remaining and instead of case studies on a few people, interpretative phenomenological analysis would be undertaken to provide a deep dive into the experiences of disabled people in Wales and the disabling barriers they face by society. I also want their feedback on the framework that I am designing to analyse equality in Wales so that I could include the people who the framework is designed to help. Co-production could not be achieved, but I could achieve a deep level of engagement with my participants.

ESRC DTP Wales Welsh Government Internship

Just when I had begun to reject the utility of quantitative methods for analysing disability, an internship was posted that was a replica of my SSRM dissertation but this time involving secondary analysis using the National Survey for Wales. Part of the internship’s remit was to produce recommendations for the improvement of how equality data is captured and presented for the newly established Equality, Race, and Disability Evidence Units (the Units). I was fortunate enough to secure the internship and I have just one week left in the 6 month placement.

I honestly thought that the National Survey data would not provide any new avenues for exploration of disabled people in Wales. Like nearly all household surveys, disability is treated as a binary output so provides limited scope for change or innovation, or so I thought!

The National Survey recorded respondents’ illnesses, allowing up to six to be detailed. The National Survey groups these illnesses based on the chapters of international diseases. Forty-one variables are created from these illnesses that relate to various parts of the body. This approach does not reflect how I identify as a disabled person nor does it reflect the social model of disability.

Luckily, the National Survey team and the Disability Disparity Evidence Unit let me experiment with a novel approach that matched my beliefs and reflected the lessons learnt from lived experience. The illnesses listed by respondents could be recoded into impairment categories. People who had physical, mental health, cognitive including neurodiverse, and sensory and communication impairments could be analysed in the National Survey data offering brand new insight on existing data. This approach better reflects the social model of disability and evidence how much society disables people with different types of impairment. The findings were illuminating and have been passed on to the Disability Rights Taskforce.

Where I currently stand
Over the course of my PhD journey, my identity has influenced my methods multiple times and the internship is another example of this. No method need be dismissed for researching disability as long as it is not constructed through a complete detachment of the subject matter especially if the researcher does not have lived experience because this knowledge matters when constructing questions and categories. Co-production is a key part of including lived experience, even within the most detached of methods. Achieving this level is difficult but it is an aim I work towards as it closely aligns my methodological choices with my strong identity as a disabled person and the commitment to full inclusion that stems from this identity.

Currently I proudly identify as a disabled person and use this as a source of inspiration, but as I’ve explored, my identity constantly evolves and this may result in a further evolution of my research methods.

Poetry in Practice- Catrin Edwards-Greaves

Uses for poetry in research: communicating research findings and aiding reflexivity.

Hello, I’m the new editor of the Methods blog, and in this post I give some insight into the types of methods that I like to use in my own research work.

I may have dropped out of an English degree years ago, but in this blog, I provide some insight into how I’ve kept up my passion for creative writing despite my little detour into social sciences…

I’m an ESRC DTP funded PhD student who has completed the MSc in Social Science Research Methods ( quite a task under lockdown!). My MSc dissertation research explored women’s experiences of community participation during the pandemic, and how they might shed light on policy surrounding the new curriculum for Wales: being an ‘ethical, informed citizen of Wales and the World’ (Welsh Government 2020).

 I used focus groups facilitated through mind-mapping and zine-making, as well as interviews to uncover participants’ meaning making around curriculum policy and their experiences of community participation. I found that the idea of being ‘ethical’ was particularly significant for participants, and they drew on a range of resources such as social identity and global citizenship in making meaning of their experiences in community settings, contradicting the economic focus and sense of national citizenship presented by Welsh Government curriculum policy.

Most of my participants, recruited through organisations involved in volunteering, were unfamiliar with academic research. I wanted to convey my findings in an accessible and exciting way. On way in which I did this was through using visual ways of gathering and presenting data, as it is an accessible format: Visual data should be ‘multivocal’ and therefore able to speak to a range of audiences (Banks 2011:94). I worked with an illustrator to create a zine to distribute to participants, reporting research findings. This meant that the zine was constructed by multiple voices: myself, the illustrator, and participants. Zines can be used to ‘curate ideas and thoughts’, leading to deeper reflection (Vong 2016:63), which was very useful for me in paying attention to my own position within the research process and commenting on my reflexivity in my methods chapter. Within the zine format, I used poetry to serve different purposes over the course of my research, including reflecting on the research process, getting to know my data, and presenting findings to participants.

 Here’s an extract showing how my poetry was incorporated into the zine distributed to participants.

Zine distributed to research participants. The zine was made by myself, Catrin Greaves, and illustrator Gemma Williams, with contributions from research participants.

The zine included two poems which I wrote in response to my research. The first poem, ‘Connections’, conveys my research findings, such as identities that participants drew on (‘feminist, activist’) as well as the significance that they ascribed to connecting with others, reflected in my choice of title, ‘Connections’. To construct this poem, I used data from my interview and focus group transcripts, as a way of including participants’ voices. This was also very useful for me in getting to know my data more deeply. I wrote the second poem, ‘Reflections from a Zoom screen’, as a tool to aid my own reflexivity and learning from this research experience, by incorporating my own words from the data as a way to reflect on how I had conducted the research.

Two poems: ‘Connections’, and ‘Reflections from a Zoom screen’. Data from my research is highlighted in bold.


Community, connection,




It’s a heart thing.

Informing, working,

learning, caring,

It’s a seesaw

On which we balance


Always thinking,


 to create change.

A compass to guide us

Into the new and unknown.

Headlines blaring,

Adapting, changing,

Risk taking

Knitting a net

Of conversation,



For family, neighbours,


Through fast wires and flickering screens

Part of a whole.


Climate Activist

Neighbour, daughter, carer

Acting a role

In our communities, country,


A globe

feverish with crises

But we are wanting

To create change.

It fueled my passion,

I will persist

I realised the power

Of transcending boundaries

Of geography

Through the patchwork squares of a screen-

Words are threads,

Weaving the warm glow

of windows to

 Wales and the world.

It’s great to see you all,

And I feel so happy today.


put your own oxygen mask on first.

Be creative, take care of yourself.

Take time.

Travel back through tides


 learn from those who came

 before us,


The quiet streets of your hometown

With the wider seas of change


On how you belong

How you are part of something bigger.

(Catrin Greaves and research participants, July to August 2021)

Communicating Findings

This poem provides a summary of research findings, including the prominent themes of emotion (‘a heart thing’) and connection, and participants’ references to ‘ethical’ decision making and community participation across areas of social life, including family and community. The use of verbs (‘thinking’, ‘adapting’, ‘changing’) reflects participants’ emphasis on action and active citizenship, including in formal volunteering contexts or in terms of lifestyle (for example, Kayleigh*’s ‘ethical’ shopping for chocolate). I have also included references to identities which were significant for participants: ‘feminist, activist’, which was interesting, as policy focused more strongly on ‘national’ identity. Incorporating metaphors including that of a ‘seesaw’ and a ‘compass’ reflects participants’ awareness of the complexities of ‘ethical’ citizenship including difficulties of decision making. Using the first person, I hoped to elevate participants’ voices within my research, which was significant for my feminist approach, focusing on women, who have arguably been ignored in terms of citizenship research (Lister 2007:53). Ending the poem with the line ‘part of something bigger’, taken from Rachel*’s zine, I hoped to communicate how participants connected their experiences to wider global issues, for example, Angharad* connected her social media volunteering with a gender equality charity to wider issues of gender inequality and violence against women, which had featured prominently in the news around the time of her participation. I next examine how writing poetry helped me in my reflexivity as a researcher.


Reflections from a Zoom screen

I have been looking at this idea from the curriculum of being an ethical and informed citizen of Wales and the world.

During the pandemic, I got more involved in my community.

 I packed lunches,

 waited in queues for someone else’s medicines,

 added their groceries to my shopping list….

Why did I do this?

I wondered what this purpose could mean

 in our new world of

Lockdown, empty streets,

Thursday clapping for carers,

 Drum beats.

A time of change.

And what has happened to those

Who beat a weekly path?

to charity shops,

 group meetings?

And what is already known about this?

And what does the government say?

But they are still busy

they’ve just found a new way…

So, what I was going to ask you to do was for 5 minutes, make a mind map about what you think about this idea of being an ethical or informed citizen of Wales and the world.  it’s just your initial reactions…. 

Do you think of the headlines blaring from a laptop screen?

Or that press conference from a screen obscuring

the untidy living room

Of a Welsh Senedd member?

Do you think of the warm lights?

of your own home?

Or of clashing cries from

The distant past…

Do you think of a world that’s yet unknown?

Like the reports flashing from the government website?

And what does it mean to be a citizen?

And what kind of participation

Is important to you?

There is no right or wrong way of doing it.  it’s up to you how you organise the words on the page…  if something is particularly important to you, you might want to write more about it…

And I will write down my thoughts

 I want you to have a choice,

 a voice,

But I know it can be hard

to know what to do,

Across the distance of a screen.

When you make a zine, you can include what you want. 

 You can write, or draw, or…

I’m not very good at drawing,

but I want to try something new.

Are you ok, you cut out a bit there…? 

(No response). 

This process has been


I’m expanding

My ways of



I’ve found new ways of

Thinking, reflecting,


 The time has gone quickly. 

And there’s so much more to say,

It can’t fit into the squares of a Zoom call


 If you want, you can send me photos of what you made,

 And I really appreciate your time.  

This process has helped me

in recognising


It’s been


And I’ve learnt about

History and homes, and creativity and care,

And connecting

the harmonising chords

Between community, country, continent

Between Wales and the World.

(Catrin Greaves, November 2021)

In this poem, I reflected on the research process. I acknowledged difficulties of researching online, using extracts from what I had said to participants during data collection (‘you cut out a bit there’). I considered my learning from this process (‘new ways of thinking’), and how my own experiences steered the directions of the research (‘I packed lunches… why did I do this?’).

 Using a range of tools (such as poetry) to aid reflexivity may be particularly significant to feminist and collaborative research, through taking into account ethical considerations such as attention to power dynamics within the research process (Linabary et al 2021: 720). I hoped to demonstrate to participants how I felt about the research as a form of transparency as an ethical obligation of working with young participants who may not be familiar with research processes. Mutual emotions and experiences may be a way of creating connections between researchers and participants (McDowell 1992:405), which was important to me in making participating in the research a fun and rewarding experience for participants. I also hoped that sharing my experience of the research with participants through poetry was a form of transparency, which could also increase engagement with research (Moravcsik 2019). This was important to me because of my research topic of exploring everyday experiences in relation to policy.

I am now in the first year of my PhD. I hope to continue to use poetry or other creative writing to communicate research findings and aid my reflection. I hope to build on this and further embed creative writing into my PhD research. I have started to do this by writing a poem for every chapter of my thesis, as a way of focusing on my structure and communicating the key messages of each chapter. As editor of this blog, I am looking forward to learning about a wide range of methods used across the DTP. Diolch!

If you are interested in contributing to the Methods Blog, please email me:

Reference list

Banks, M 2011. Using Visual Data in Qualitative Research. [no date]. Available at: [Accessed: 31 January 2022].

Cahnmann, M. 2003. The Craft, Practice, and Possibility of Poetry in Educational Research. Educational researcher 32(3), pp. 29–36. Available at:

Lister, R. 2007. Inclusive Citizenship: Realizing the Potential. Citizenship Studies 11(1), pp. 49–61. Available at:

McDowell, L. 1992. Doing Gender: Feminism, Feminists and Research Methods in Human Geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 17(4), p. 399. doi: 10.2307/622707.

Moravcsik, A. 2019. Transparency in Qualitative Research. Available at:

Vong, S. 2016. Reporting or Reconstructing? The Zine as a Medium for Reflecting on Research Experiences. Communications in Information Literacy 10(1), p. 3. Available at: [Accessed: 31 January 2022].

Welsh Government 2020. Curriculum for Wales: overview | GOV.WALES. Available at: