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Rachel Ayrton


Research Assistant

E-mail Address


+ 44 (0)7751 696928


  • MSc Sociology and Social Research (Distinction), University of Southampton
  • MA Theological and Religious Studies, University of Cambridge
  • Professional Certificate in Management, Open University

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • Member, British Sociological Association
  • Member, Social Research Association

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Rachel is a Senior Research Assistant working with Dr Jo-Anne Dillabough on the project "Youth, migration and humanitarian protection services in the global north and south: education, conflict and protracted displacement." This pilot study investigates the experiences, perceptions and negotiations of economically disadvantaged male and female youth (14-21) in relation to social and educational exclusion, against a backdrop of rising xenophobia and global forced displacement.

Concurrently, she is completing her PhD at the University of Southampton, jointly funded by the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre and the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods.  Her three paper thesis is oriented around Bourdieu’s argument for methodological pluralism in Sociology:

  • Time for a revival?  A historical review and current prospects of the social survey in Great Britain and the United States.
  • Sketching Trust Stories: A practical examination of how a multimodal method can inform the conceptualisation and operationalisation of a process approach to trust.
  • The micro-dynamics of power and performance in focus groups: An example from discussions on national identity with the South Sudanese diaspora in the UK.

Prior to her research career, she worked for six years in the UK regeneration sector, with roles in community development and project management within urban neighbourhood renewal programmes in Southampton (NDC) and London (Enfield Council).  She has also undertaken consultancy work in community development, and managed the Census Coverage Survey in Southampton (2011).

Academic Area/Links

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Research Topics

Substantive/theoretical research interests

  • Trust theory
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • Post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction
  • Forced migration
  • Sociology of violence
  • Poverty, wellbeing and inequalities
  • Group identities
  • Community development and urban regeneration
  • Grassroots community action and innovation
  • Sub-Saharan African region

Methodological interests

  • Mixed methods research
  • Biographical approaches
  • Creative and participatory research methods
  • Visual methods
  • Historical methods
  • Micro-level survey design and implementation in developing countries
  • Ethical considerations in research with conflict-affected communities

Current Research Project(s)

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Principal and Recent Publications

Ayrton, R., Lado, C. M. & Luka, E. E. (in press). What causes patients to trust medical professionals?  Insights from mothers in Juba. South Sudan Medical Journal.

Ayrton, R. (forthcoming). Briefing Paper: Pathways of young migrants in the UK. Series paper, Youth, migration and humanitarian protection services in the global North and South, University of Cambridge.

Ayrton, R. (2017). Time for a Revival? A Historical Review of the Social Survey in Great Britain and the United States. National Centre for Research Methods Methodological Review Paper, University of Southampton:

Ayrton, R. (2014). Competing loyalties: Dilemmas arising from violent outbreak in a planned research site, South Sudan. Field Research Method Lab at LSE (04 September 2014) Blog entry:

Ayrton, R. (2013). Trust, conflict and development: the need for micro-level explanation. Global South Forum Bulletin 1(2), University of Southampton.

Ayrton, R. (2012). The bead method: a biographical approach to researching mothers and trust in post-war South Sudan. NCRM MethodsNews, Winter 2012: