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How do heavy drinkers make enduring changes to their drinking behaviour after taking part in “Dry January”?

Department of Psychology

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Prof M Field No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Sheffield, in partnership with Alcohol Change UK, is pleased to offer this fully-funded PhD Studentship as part of the ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership.

‘Dry January’ and other campaigns in which people attempt to abstain from alcohol for a month are increasingly popular. Temporary abstinence from alcohol combined with remote support may help heavy drinkers to reduce their alcohol consumption in the longer-term. However, we know very little about the psychological (e.g. behaviour change techniques, improved self-
efficacy) and social (e.g. changes in social practices) mechanisms through which people change their drinking behaviour after a period of temporary abstinence. We also do not know if the online support that is provided during and after Dry January plays an important role.

This mixed-methods PhD project will directly address this important evidence gap. The candidate will conduct prospective observational studies that will recruit people who attempt a ‘Dry January’ or temporary abstinence at another time of year and ask them about the ways in which they attempt to change their behaviour and their social activities, the psychological changes that they experience, and their drinking behaviour several months later. They will also conduct semi-structured interviews with people who have attempted to temporarily abstain from alcohol, and ethnographic studies of postings on Dry January forums and other online forums.
The supervisors are Professors Matt Field (Psychology) and John Holmes (SCHARR). The project includes an annual internship at the London offices of Alcohol Change UK.

Eligibility: The candidate should have a strong academic background in psychology, public health or a relevant social science discipline, with a 1 st or strong 2:1 undergraduate degree. Applicants who already hold a recognised MA in Social Research will be considered for a +3 award.

How to apply: Enquiries and applications should be emailed to [Email Address Removed]. Your application should include the following documents:
1. Brief covering letter: Specify whether you wish to apply on a +3 or 1+3 basis, and if full-or part-time.
2. Curriculum Vitae (maximum 2 pages). Where appropriate, this should also include proof of English Language Competency (The minimum IELTS score is 6.5, with a minimum of 6 in each category).
3. References: Include the contact details of two academic referees.
4. Research Proposal (maximum 2 pages): The successful candidate will be able to introduce their own ideas to shape the specific aims and research methods. Use the following subheadings:
** Rationale, aims and objectives: Include a brief overview of previous research that builds on the project description above (see
** Research methods: These should demonstrate your understanding of appropriate methods to investigate your research questions.
** Impact of the research: Consider the potential outcomes of the project including scientific outputs and impact outside of academia.

Full awards (fees, maintenance stipend and annual research training support grant) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements (see The award is available on either a 1+3 or +3 basis. A 1+3 studentship provides funding for four years, completing the MA in Social Research in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A +3 studentship provides funding for three years of PhD; this is only available to candidates who already have an MA in Social Research or a comparable Masters in research methods development-guidelines-2015/).

Funding Notes

UK/EU applicants who have been resident in the UK for the last three years will
be eligible for a full award paying fees and maintenance at standard Research
Council rates. The RCUK stipend rates for 2019/20 ESRC studentships are fees
£4,327, stipend £15,009 per annum. A Research Training Support Grant
(RSTG) is also available.


Bartram, A., Eliott, J., Hanson-Easey, S. & Crabb, S. (2017). How have people who have stopped or reduced their alcohol consumption incorporated this into their social rituals? Psychology and Health 32, 728-744, doi:10.1080/08870446.2017.1300260. Beneito-Montagut, R. Ethnography goes online: Towards a user-centred methodology to research interpersonal communication on the internet (2011). Qualitative Research 11, 716-735, doi:10.1177/1468794111413368 (2011). De Visser, R. O., Robinson, E. & Bond, R. (2016). Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during "dry january" and subsequent alcohol use. Health Psychology 35, 281289, doi:10.1037/hea0000297. Hamilton, I. & Gilmore, I. (2016). Could campaigns like Dry January do more harm than good? BMJ (Online) 352, doi:10.1136/bmj.i143. Knittle, G., et al. (2020). The compendium of self-enactable techniques to change and selfmanage motivation and behaviour v.1.0. Nature Human Behaviour, doi: 10.1038/s41562-019-0798-9 Michie, S. et al. (2012). Identification of behaviour change techniques to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. Addiction 107, 1431-1440, doi:10.1111/j.13600443.2012.03845.x Yeomans, H. (2018). New Year, New You: a qualitative study of Dry January, self-formation and positive regulation. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, doi:10.1080/09687637.2018.1534944

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