Melissa Chaplin


I am a PhD researcher in the School of Education at the University of Durham, where my work focuses upon creative writing by people affected by displacement.   I am one of several doctoral students working within the Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State project.  Within my research, the issue of language has been central in negotiating issues of ethics and the power dynamic between researcher and participant.

I am originally from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and grew up there before completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Durham. Although this degree was in English Language and Literature, it involved studying literature in Old English and Old Norse.  The study of both of these languages deepened my understanding of my own heritage and local dialect in the North East, which draws a great deal from Scandinavian.

Following my undergraduate degree, I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, also at the University of Durham. I worked professionally as a teacher of Secondary English in several schools in the North East, including some specialist experience working with pupils for whom English is an additional language.  I have lectured on the PGCE Professional Issues lecture series about issues relating to children whose first language is not English.

I have always loved creative writing and have continued to write poetry alongside and as part of my PhD. The development of my own identity as a poet has been central to my fieldwork and understanding of my data.  Taking part in creative writing with my participants has been incredibly influential in my data collection, and writing poetry has been both a reflexive process and a means of ‘giving back’ in my writing up process.  The way that creative arts can change the dialogue surrounding migration in the UK is of particular interest to me.

As all of my participants speak languages other than English, my data collection has necessitated an attitude of openness and humility. Although I speak some French, I have worked with participants from incredibly diverse backgrounds who are fluent in many languages.  One of my research interests is the way that this impacts upon the dynamic between the researcher and participant, and how this can best be used to enhance the research process.

Alongside my final year of my PhD, I have been running a blog called ‘The PhD Write Up’, which gathers together experiences of Doctoral Students across the world. It can be found on Twitter and Instagram under @phdwriteup, on Facebook at and WordPress under Submissions on the topic of writing a thesis are welcome and can be sent to