Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Contact Details

  • Room: 11.08, Social Sciences Building
  • Tel: 0113 343 4432
  • Fax:0113 343 4415
  • Email:

Professor Sarah Irwin

Professor of Sociology

I am currently involved in research in the areas of parenting, family and education. I have been running a qualitative longitudinal research project into parenting and family life, which has involved survey research and successive waves of semi-structured interviews with parents since 2008. I am running a pilot project into student and pupil experiences and perspectives on a university ‘Students into Schools’ volunteering programme. I am also developing research in the area of subjective social inequalities. Other recent research roles have included running the Secondary Analysis Project of ESRC Timescapes, a qualitative longitudinal study (‘Changing lives and times: relationships and identities through the life course’ 2007-12), and developing secondary analytic methodological work, as well as research into inequalities and routes to higher education, and issues in gender and work-family conflict. I am Director of the Centre for Research on Families, the Life Course and Generations (FLaG).

Research Interests

  • ESRC Timescapes and the secondary analysis of qualitative data

I ran the Secondary Analysis Project of ESRC Timescapes. With colleagues I generated a range of resource and publications, along with a programme of qualitative longitudinal research methods training. Details of the work (including links to our publications, working papers, presentations and training) are on the website

There are other resources on the Timescapes website, including the Timescapes Archive and links to a range of research methods resources including a series of Brief Methods Guides.

  • Parenting and Family Life

I am running a research project in the area of parenting and family life. The project involved a survey and a series of qualitative (semi-structured) interviews with parents, in 2008-9. They were interviewed again in 2011. Publications from the project include work on inequalities and concerted cultivation, and parents’ expectations for, and modes of engagement with, their children’s futures (e.g. Irwin and Elley 2012/forthcoming; 2011). Further work is in progress.

A document was circulated to participants (at Parenting and Family Life ), after the second wave of interviews, at which point many parents had children moving into, or through, their early teens. In it are examples of how parents reflected on various themes including: parenting a teenager, supporting children as they grow older, views on increasing university fees, perceptions of change across generations, and support for parents.


My main teaching interests reflect my research interests. I currently convene a level 3 module called Education, Culture and Society, and a level 1 module called Identity, Difference and Inequalities. I am convening a new programme of staff student workshops through which we are further engaging our undergraduate students in the research culture of the School as a whole. I have extensive MA and PhD supervision experience.

PhD Supervision

I am interested in supervising PhD students in the following areas:

  • Family / parenting
  • Education
  • Generations / life course
  • Class, gender, social inequalities
  • Secondary analysis of qualitative data

Key Publications


  • Irwin, S. (2005) Reshaping Social Life, Routledge.
  • Irwin, S. (1995) Rights of passage. Social change and the transition from youth to adulthood, UCL Press.

Indicative Journal Articles

Working papers

  • With Dr. Mandy Winterton (the project research fellow), I wrote 4 working papers as part of the Secondary Analysis Project on ESRC Timescapes. These and other resources are available through the Secondary Analysis Project pages of the ESRC Timescapes website.

Chapters in Books

  • Irwin, S. (2008) 'Data analysis and interpretation: emergent issues in linking qualitative and quantitative evidence', In: Hesse-Biber, S.; Leavy, P. (eds.) Handbook of emergent methods in social research,Guildford Publications.

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