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Bridging the Gap: An Exploration of Transitions in Play through the Lifecourse

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Punch
    Dr L McCabe
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling is seeking applicants for a full-time PhD studentship to begin in the 2018/2019 academic year. This studentship is funded by English Bridge Education and Development, UK and Irish Bridge Unions and the University of Stirling. The studentship provides full fees (at UK/EU rates), along with a living allowance and a training grant (at ESRC rates, see Applications from overseas candidates will be considered, however, they will be required to pay the difference in fees between the Home/EU and Overseas rates. The studentship is open to applicants with an excellent undergraduate or Master’s level qualification in a social science or related discipline.

The Sociology of Bridge is a new area of research and this studentship offers an exciting opportunity to contribute to the development of an innovative academic field. Bridge is one of the world’s most widely played, stimulating and challenging card games that requires skill, concentration and practice (Pottage, 2006). Understanding what drives individuals to take up bridge and what keeps people playing across the lifecourse is at the heart of this collaborative research proposal. This studentship is part of a wider examination of bridge from a sociological and neurological perspective (Graham and Punch, 2016; McDonnell et al., 2017).

Bridge provides a contemporary example to understand the role of leisure and mind sports in developing social capital through community participation at different stages in the lifecourse. It includes both ‘bonding capital’ bringing people with shared identities together, and ‘bridging capital’ creating links between people from different backgrounds (Putnam, 2001). Like chess, the networks of relations developed through bridge offer: “history, rules, practices, emotions, status, power, organization and boundaries… a community that is meaningful… that provides a social order” (Fine, 2015: 2). This project considers the shared practices and social relations which emerge in the process of learning and playing bridge and how these change over the lifecourse. The research further relates to the sociological field of intergenerationality (Vanderbeck and Worth, 2015) by exploring the role a hobby can play in friendships and personal communities (Chambers, 2012) as well as how it can create a sense of belonging and collective identity both within and ‘bridging’ across generations (Huppatz et al., 2015).

The studentship contributes to the sociology of childhood and youth in relation to moral panics associated with new forms of technology and social media which have changed the ways that children socialise and communicate with others, leading to the curtailment of outdoor play and threats to generational relationships (Wyness, 2012). Furthermore, there is a long history of games being used in schools to support learning (Cheng et al., 2009; Kebritchi et al., 2010; Squire and Jenkins, 2003).

Funding Notes

The successful applicant will have:
• A degree level qualification in a social science or related discipline, either an excellent undergraduate degree or Master’s degree
• A track record of excellent performance in previous academic studies
• An interest in qualitative sociological research
• An interest in the research areas and methodologies involved in the project
• Skills in time management and completion of work.


Ashworth, R., Punch, S. and Small, C. (2016) A Review of Possible Interventions into Healthy Ageing and Cognitive Stimulation: Exploring the Links between Bridge and Dementia, Aylesbury: English Bridge Education & Development (EBED),
Bureš V, Čech P, Mikulecká J, Ponce D, Kuca K. (2016) ‘The effect of cognitive training on the subjective perception of well-being in older adults,’ PeerJ, 4:e2785.
Chambers, D. (2012) A Sociology of Family Life: Change and Diversity in Intimate Relations, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Cheng, H. N., Wu, W. M., Liao, C. C. and Chan, T. (2009) ‘Equal opportunity tactic: Redesigning and applying competition games in classrooms’, Computers & Education, 53(3): 866-876.
Fine, G. (2015) Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture, London: The University of Chicago Press.
Graham, E. and Punch, S (2016) ‘Gender Inequalities and the Sociology of Bridge’, paper presented at Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Conference, University of Edinburgh, 13 June 2016.
Huppatz, K, Hawkins, M and Matthews, A (2015) Identity and Belonging, London: Palgrave.
Kebritchi, M., Hirumi, A. and Bai, H. (2010) ‘The effects of modern mathematics computer games on mathematics achievement and class motivation,’ Computers & Education, 55(2): 427-443.
Mortenson, W, Sixsmith, A and Kaufman, D (2017) Non-Digital Game Playing by Older Adults, Canadian Journal of Aging, 36(3): 342-350.
McDonnell, D., Punch, S. and Small, C. (2017) Individual Wellbeing and Bridge: An Empirical Analysis, Aylesbury: English Bridge Education & Development (EBED),
Pottage, J. (2006) The Bridge Player’s Bible: Illustrated Strategies for Staying Ahead of the Game, New York: Barron’s.
Punch, S. (2002) ‘Research with Children: The Same or Different from Research with Adults?’ Childhood, 9 (3): 321-341.
Putnam, R. D. (2001) Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon and Schuster.
Squire, K. and Jenkins, H. (2003) ‘Harnessing the power of games in education’, Insight, 3(1): 5-33.
Vanderbeck, R. and Worth, N. (eds) (2015) Intergenerational Space, London: Routledge.
Wyness, M. (2012) Childhood and Society, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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