Skip to main content
Katherine Quinn

Dr Katherine Quinn


School of Social Sciences

Glamorgan Building, Room 1.02, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA


I was appointed as a lecturer in social science in February 2022 having previously joined Cardiff in late 2020 as a post-doctoral research fellow in the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD).

Using ethnographic methods, my research and writing concerns knowledge classifications and space. I am particularly interested in how classifications in 'places of learning' (like libraries and university spaces/campuses) are enacted and negotiated through everyday practices, built pedagogies, and institutional discourses, and in what these practices reveal about the state and status of higher education.

My PhD research (awarded in 2020) examined a public-academic integrated library in central England, called The Hive, and explored how ideas of ‘academic’ and ‘public’ knowledge, goods, and space are developed, (re)classified, and negotiated through live practice.

I am currently involved in two research projects which build on and extend these themes. The first is an ethnographic study of the new Social Science Research Park (Sbarc | |SPARK) at Cardiff University. Along with Dr Jamie Lewis and Dr Rachel Hurdley, we address the question, 'What is a Social Science Research Park?' using mobile interviews, observations and rhythmanalysis. We are interested in the material and conceptual implications of SPARK for the future(s) of social science, and for the 'idea of the university' in public life.

My second current research project concerns spaces of 'social learning' on university campuses. This year-long is funded by the University Design Forum, led by Dr Hiral Patel at the Wales School of Architecture, and also involves industry expert Fiona Duggen. We follow a 'patchwork ethnography' approach to provide industry-relevant insight into what kinds of undirected campus spaces are needed by students (libraries, cafes, corridor spaces, common rooms, etc), and what they contribute to student experience and outcomes (broadly concieved). The project combines insight from previously undertaken multi-site campus ethnographies (mine at The Hive, Hiral's at University of Reading) with creative and collaboratively produced data from Cardiff University, drawing on the Student Champions scheme.

My other key and related interest is in qualitative methodology. I enjoy writing, teaching and researching creative ethnographic methods including the use of drawing and creative writing.






  • Quinn, K. 2021. Zoom time. Entanglements: Experiments in Multimodal Ethnography 4(2), pp. 19-20.






Book sections



For 2023/24 I co-convene and teach on the year two methods module ‘Social Research Methods’, and co-convene the masters module ‘Research Applications’. I also contribute to ‘Sociological Inquiries’ (y1), 'Ethnography and Everyday Life' (y2), 'Sociology on the move' (y3), 'Decolonising Social Science' (y2), and 'Social Science Research Methods' (Masters).


Academic background: My PhD was in Sociology, completed at the University of Warwick (2020, funded by the ESRC). Prior to that, I did an MA in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield, funded by the AHRC. My undergraduate degree was in history from University College London.

Academic appointments: I have previously held the positions of postdoctural research fellow at WISERD, Cardiff, and academic tutor at the University of Nottingham.

In between and sometimes alongside academic education and appointments I have worked as a librarian in research, school, HE, and FE settings.


Research themes


  • creative methods
  • ethnography
  • Library studies