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  Resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from the Mass Observation Archive

   School of Geography and Environmental Science

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  Dr N Clarke  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mass Observation Archive collected thousands of diaries and other writing from British residents. This project will combine methods from human geography and the digital humanities to analyse this large qualitative dataset and to advance understandings of individual and group resilience during pandemic-like societal disruptions.

The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most significant disruptions to human life across the globe for a century or more. During the pandemic, the Mass Observation Archive collected thousands of diaries and other biographical writing from British residents. This project will analyse Mass Observation’s COVID-19 Collections for evidence of how individuals, families, friendship groups, and communities responded to the shock of the pandemic; and the factors explaining why some individuals and groups responded – to bereavement, illness, social distancing, lockdown, shielding, fulough, home-schooling – with more or less brittleness or elasticity. Theoretical frameworks and methods of analysis will be drawn from human geography and the digital humanities, and may include: systems approaches to resilience; conjunctural approaches to crises; narrative analysis; sentiment estimation and tracking; entity recognition of institutions, places, and social relationships; and digital forensic analysis. Training will be provided in approaches and techniques as appropriate. The student will develop skills and experience in organising and analysing large qualitative datasets. The project will advance understandings of how individuals and groups respond to shocks like pandemics, and why some respond with more resilience. Findings and recommendations will contribute to preparedness for future pandemics and other crises (social, economic, environmental). In communicating these findings and recommendations, the student will benefit from placement on the Programme for Interdisciplinary Resilience Studies (PIRS). They will also benefit from membership of the Economy, Society, Governance (ESG) Research Group in the School of Geography and Environmental Science, and Southampton Digital Humanities (SDH) in the School of Humanities. 


You will need to have a 2:1 honours undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification. If your grade was lower than 2:1 you can still apply, but your application and narrative CV should demonstrate progression since your degree.

If you have completed a master’s degree, you should have achieved a merit or above including 60% for the dissertation. If you have not completed a master’s, you’ll need to show you can produce high quality writing and analysis.


If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to complete an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to demonstrate your competence in English. Your awarded certificate needs to be dated within the last 2 years, and you’ll need all of the following scores as a minimum:

Overall 6.5

Writing 6.0

Reading 6.0

Speaking 6.0

Listening 6.0


  • Programme for Interdisciplinary Resilience Studies application document
  • Narrative résumé
  • Standardised CV
  • Academic transcripts/certificates
  • If a student-led application: research proposal document
  • Any other relevant documents (e.g., language certificate, etc)

Geography (17) History & Archaeology (19) Sociology (32)

Funding Notes

Up to six students will comprise each cohort. We will offer:
4 x studentship to UK (or UK-domiciled) students - fully funded for 48 months at UKRI base rates for maintenance and tuition
1 x studentship to an international student - fully funded for 48 months at UKRI maintenance and University international tuition rates

1 x “Master’s + PhD” studentship to an eligible UK (or UK-domiciled) student - fully funded for 60 months at UKRI maintenance and University tuition rates for: 12 months research master’s degree and 48 months PhD

Plus £10k (£2.5k per year) RTSG for the PhD programme.

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Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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