Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

David supervises research students using narrative, auto/ethnographic or arts-based methodologies to explore a wide range of topics such as: mental health in sport and physical activity; trauma and recovery; silenced voices; LGBTQ+ experience in sport; sport and exercise identities

Willing to speak to media


Research activity per year

Personal profile


David’s interdisciplinary research uses storied forms of communication to understand and represent human experience. Through a range of narrative, auto/ethnographic and arts-based methods, his work explores how mental health and identity are developed, threatened or recovered in sport and physical activity contexts. A core aim is to create research which is accessible and engaging for public audiences and students through the use and development of filmmaking, songwriting, storytelling and performative methodologies. 

David’s work is disseminated internationally through keynotes, conference presentations, live performances and invited seminars and is published as peer-reviewed journal articles, books and book chapters. His multimedia research collaborations are publicly accessible online via YouTube.

David is an editorial board member for Journal of AutoethnographyInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology and Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health. He is a founder member of the International Association of Qualitative Inquiry and co-director of the Sofia Centre for Creative Research. He is a member of the organising committees of the International Conference of Autoethnography and the Public Engagement and Performance Conference. 

Current research activities

David is currently focussing on two areas:  

First, collaborations on studies and evaluations in the area of physical activity, sport and mental health. This work explores the ways in which physical activity and sport can help some people who are experiencing mental health difficulties and also the ways that involvement in sport – particularly elite or professional sport – can jeopardise mental health.

Second, collaborations which develop and extend the utilisation of arts-based approaches to social research. These include filmmaking, live performance, storytelling, music, song and digital technologies. This work is driven by a democratic commitment to find ways to increase the accessibility and public engagement of social research. 

David’s research has been supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK Sport, Sport England, Addiction Recovery Agency, Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation, Bristol City Council, The Royal British Legion and National Institute for Health Research.

Current teaching activities and interests

David has supervised a number of PhD and MRes students using narrative, auto/ethnographic and arts-based methods across diverse topics such as mental health in sport and physical education; community physical activity and health; doping in sport; mental health and identity among military personnel and veterans; community sport for homeless young people; and coaching in elite sport environments. He is an experienced PhD and EdD examiner serving institutions such as University of Brighton, Plymouth University, University of Exeter, Liverpool John Moore’s University, St Mary’s University, University of Hertfordshire, University of Huddersfield, Leeds Beckett University, University of West London, Roehampton University, Metanoia Institute and Fielding Graduate University, California. 

Currently, David teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in physical activity, sport and mental health and qualitative research methods. He also leads workshops for doctoral students and researchers in topics such as narrative interviewing, narrative analysis, writing qualitative research, arts-based research, autoethnography, fieldwork and reflexivity. 

Other areas of expertise available for knowledge exchange

Mental health through physical activity; mental health in elite and professional sport; LGBTQ+ experience in sport and physical activity; trauma and recovery; auto/ethnography; songwriting as research; filmmaking as research; arts-based research; narrative research

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

External positions

Honorary Professor, University of Edinburgh

1 Jun 2020 → …

Visiting Research Professor, Queen's University Belfast

1 Sept 201931 Aug 2020


Dive into the research topics where David Carless is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or