My PhD in 60 seconds (video to follow soon!)

Hi, my name is Mark Carrigan and I’m a final year PhD student in Sociology at the University of Warwick. My research is an attempt to answer a question that’s fascinated me since I was at school: what makes people who they are? How do different sorts of structural, cultural and personal factors intersect in shaping how we change and grow as we make our way through the world?

The first strand of my research is empirical: I distributed surveys to 250 undergraduate students across a range of academic departments and, from these, I selected 18 to take part in the project. I conducted an in-depth interview with them every term for their first two years at university about all aspects of their lives – I’m trying to understand the issues they’re facing, how they construe these issues, how they attempt to resolve them and the impact these attempts have on their development as people.

The second strand of my research is theoretical, engaging with philosophical and scientific debates about what people are and how they work, with the aim of producing a framework for understanding people which incorporates both the psychological and the sociological. This framework is something I’m using to try and understand my empirical data but also develop through that data. In practice I’m trying to do what you could call empirically grounded philosophy.

The fundamental question I’m trying to address is such a big one that I’m not under any illusion that I’m going to answer it any conclusive way. But it’s setting up a research agenda which I intend to pursue after finishing my thesis. Also I’m hopeful that the theoretical framework I’m developing, as well as the novel research methods and methodology that flows from it, will be useful to other people who are researching these kinds of issues.

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