Stephen J Macdonald

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Associate Professor of Social Science

I am an Associate Professor of Social Science at the University of Sunderland. I joined the University in 2005 as a member of the social work team but more recently I am part of the criminology team. I am currently the research lead for the School of Social Sciences and head of the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS). I teach undergraduates and postgraduates in sociology, criminology and social care. I have published broadly in the areas of disability and social exclusion, including issues concerning diagnosis, educational disengagement, digital inclusion, crime, victimisation, loneliness/isolation and homelessness.

My work is underpinned by the social model of disability. I am the associate editor for Insights on Learning Disabilities an international journal (ILD) and I'm a member of the editorial board of the Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research (SJDR).

I predominately apply a mixed method approach to research and have just recently completed four research projects; exploring socio-economics and dyslexia, disability, loneliness and isolation in Sunderland; disability hate crime; and mental health and long term residential confinement.

Teaching and supervision

Module Leader 
  • Research and Evidence for Practice Development – Mixed Methods
  • Research (M Level) Medicine as Culture: Disability, Institutionalisation and Confinement (Level 6) 

PhD research student supervision, Faculty of Education and Society
    • 2018 – present, Director of Studies (PhD.): Author: Kate Tudor, Investment Schemes: Criminal Motivations and Cultural Contexts.
    • 2017 – present, Director of Studies (PhD.): Author: Ziko Shepherd, Investigating the Biographical Narratives of Students from Zimbabwe Studying In UK Universities from a Critical Race Theoretical Perspective.
    • 2016 – present, Director of Studies (PhD.): Author: Shazia Imran, Applying the Social Model of Disability to Assist Inclusive Education for children with ASD.
    • 2016 – present, Second Supervisor (PhD.): Author: Anneliesa Butler, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: A qualitative study into the lived experiences of single mothers with CFS/ME.
    • 2018 – present, Third supervisor (PhD.): Author: David Allen, Examining the Resilience of Teachers within the Emerging Neo-Liberal Educational Spaces in Secondary Education.

Research interests for potential research students

To summarise my current published research, I have set out to theorise the concept of disability within a social context. Paramount to my research is to give disability minority groups a voice within academia and professional practice. Therefore, I am interested in the experiences of disabled adults concerning inequalities within education, medical diagnoses, NHS confinement, unemployment, crime, and adult services.

My published research has employed both qualitative and quantitative research methods to analyse disabled people’s experiences of structural barriers.


Examples of recent research projects:

Dyslexia and Policing Study: This project explored the impact of dyslexia, undiagnosed dyslexia and literacy difficulties on serving police officers and civilian employees. The study employed a social model approach and discovered a lack of reasonable adjustment was common place within the police service. (Dr Steve Macdonald & Dr Faye Cosgrove)

Dyslexia and Homelessness Study: This project investigated the relationship between dyslexia, homelessness, and drug use and dependency based on data from the Multiple Exclusion Homelessness across the United Kingdom Survey. Of particular interest was a comparison of the various experiences involving drug and dependency of homeless people with dyslexia vs. homeless people without dyslexia (Dr Steve Macdonald, Dr Lesley Deacon and Jacqueline Merchant).

Hate Crime Project: The research explored the similarities and differences in experiences of those reporting hate to a third-party reporting system in North East England across the protected strands: 'race' and faith, sexuality and transgender identity, disability. (Dr Steve Macdonald, Prof Catherine Donovan and Dr John Clayton - Northumbria University).

All Together Sunderland - Social Isolation and Loneliness: This was a community research project examining people’s experiences of isolation and loneliness. The aim of this study was to discover whether social factors (i.e. disability, age, gender, race and social class) were associated with increased experiences of loneliness and isolation. The research subsequently determined whether isolation and loneliness impacted on health inequalities (Dr Steve Macdonald and Dr Lesley Deacon).

Dyslexia and Adult Support: This study explored the intersectional relationship between dyslexia and socio-economic status. The findings analysed adult perceptions of education and employment which have been shaped by 23 years of social policies promoting anti-discriminatory practice. The study aimed to improve support for adults with dyslexia (Dr Steve Macdonald and Dr Lesley Deacon).

Exploring Past and Present Histories of Psychiatric Service Users: The research analysed the subjectivities of people with severe mental health problems, their family members and mental health practitioners. In this study, once individuals were conceptualised as pathologically ‘ill’ they were then medicated and often institutionalised as a form of ‘treatment’. The findings present a theoretical analysis of participants’ subjectivities to examine historic and contemporary psychiatric practices. (Dr Steve Macdonald, Dr Anne Charnock and Jane Scutt).


Number of items: 50.


Macdonald, Stephen J, Charnock, Anne and scott, Jane (2018) Marketing ‘madness’: conceptualising service user/survivor biographies in a period of deinstitutionalisation (1975–2014). Disability & Society, 33 (6). pp. 849-865. ISSN 0968-7599

Macdonald, Stephen J, Donovan, Catherine and Clayton, John (2017) The disability bias: understanding the context of hate in comparison with other minority populations. Disability & Society. ISSN 0968-7599

Macdonald, Stephen J, Deacon, Lesley and Merchant, Jacqueline (2016) ‘Too Far Gone’: Dyslexia, Homelessness and Pathways into Drug Use and Drug Dependency. Insights on Learning Disabilities, 13 (2). pp. 117-134. ISSN 1949-1212

Clayton, John, Donovan, Catherine and Macdonald, Stephen J (2016) A Critical Portrait of Hate Crime/Incident Reporting in North East England: The Value of Statistical Data and the Politics of Recording in an Age of Austerity. Geoforum, 75. pp. 64-74. ISSN 0016-7185

Macdonald, Stephen J, Clayton, John and Donovan, Catherine (2016) Exploring third party reporting across categories of hate in Tyne and Wear. NORTH EAST RACE EQUALITY FORUM RESEARCH Briefing No.9.

Macdonald, Stephen J and Deacon, Lesley (2015) No Sanctuary: Missed Opportunities in Health and Social Services for Homeless People with Dyslexia. Social Work and Social Sciences Review., 17 (3). ISSN 1746-6105

Macdonald, Stephen J (2015) ‘Community Fear and Harassment’: Learning Difficulties and Hate Crime Incidents in the North-east of England. Disability and Society, 30 (3). pp. 353-367. ISSN 0968-7599

Macdonald, Stephen J (2015) Tom Campbell. Dyslexia: The Government of Reading (Requested Book Review). Disability and Society. ISSN 0968-7599 (In Press)

Macdonald, Stephen J and Taylor-Gooby, D (2013) "Patient Zero": A critical Investigation into the concept of Public and Patient Involvement in the NHS. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 17 (1). pp. 5-21. ISSN 0953-5225

Clayton, John and Macdonald, Stephen J (2013) The Limits of Technology: Social Class, Occupation and Digital Inclusion in the City of Sunderland, England. Information, Communication & Society, 16 (6). pp. 945-966. ISSN 1369-118X

Macdonald, Stephen J and Clayton, John (2012) Back to the Future, Disability and the Digital Divide. Disability and Society, 28 (5). pp. 702-718. ISSN 0968-7599

Macdonald, Stephen J (2012) Biographical pathways into criminality: understanding the relationship between dyslexia and educational disengagement. Disability & Society, 27 (3). pp. 427-440. ISSN 0968-7599

Macdonald, Stephen J (2012) ‘‘Journey’s End’’: Statistical Pathways into Offending for Adults with Specific Learning Difficulties. JOURNAL OF LEARNING DISABILITIES AND OFFENDING BEHAVIOUR, 3 (2). pp. 85-97. ISSN 2042-0927

Macdonald, Stephen J and Cappleman-Morgan, J (2012) Sociology in Practice: Dyslexia action needed. British Sociological Association Network, 112 (3). pp. 34-50. ISSN 1742-1616

Macdonald, Stephen J (2010) Towards a social reality of dyslexia. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38 (4). pp. 271-279. ISSN 1468-3156

Macdonald, Stephen J and Taylor-Gooby, David (2010) The Role of Patient Involvement in Practice Based Commissioning within the UK's National Health Service. WebmedCentral: Economics Of Medicine, 1 (10). ISSN 2046-1690

Macdonald, Stephen J (2009) Windows of Reflection: Conceptualizing Dyslexia Using the Social Model of Disability. Dyslexia, 15 (4). pp. 347-362. ISSN 1099-0909

Book Section

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Behaviourism and the Science of Control. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London, pp. 25-35. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Cognitive Psychology: A brave new world. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London, pp. 36-47. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Five Models of Disability. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London, pp. 174-186. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Humanistic Psychology: A stairway to Athena. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London, pp. 48-57. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Psychotherapy, Social Work and the Conflicted Self. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. Mastering Social Work Practice, 1 . SAGE Publications, London, pp. 13-24. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J and Clayton, John (2016) Disability and the Digital Divide. In: DISABILITY AND TECHNOLOGY. Routledge, Oxon. ISBN 9781138932180

Macdonald, Stephen J (2015) ‘The Invisibles’: Conceptualising the Intersectional Relationships between Dyslexia, Social Exclusion and Homelessness. In: Disability Research Today: International Perspectives. Routledge, pp. 112-132. ISBN 9780415748438

Macdonald, Stephen J (2014) The York Retreat. In: A Companion to Criminal Justice, Mental Health and Risk. The Policy Press, Bristol. ISBN 9781447310334

Macdonald, Stephen J, Clayton, John, Smith, Peter and Wilcock, Angela (2014) The Impact of Digital Inclusion Initiatives in a Civic Context. In: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology. IGI Global, pp. 6863-6873. ISBN 9781466658882

Macdonald, Stephen J and Kearney, Jeremy (2013) The Right to be Labelled: From Risk to Rights for Pupils with Dyslexia in 'Special Needs' Education. In: Constructing Risky Identities in Policy and Practice. Palgrave, pp. 55-72. ISBN 978-1-137-27607-0


Clayton, John, Macdonald, Stephen J and Wilcock, Angela (2010) Digital Challenge Evaluation. Project Report. Sunderland: Department of Community and Local Government, Sunderland.

Macdonald, Stephen J, Clayton, John and Wilcock, Angela (2010) City of Sunderland Digital Inclusion Evaluation Final Report. Project Report. University of Sunderland and CLG, Sunderland.

Macdonald, Stephen J (2010) Evaluation of Patient Involvement on Primary Care Trusts in East Durham. Project Report. Sunderland Department of Health.

McLaughlin, J and Macdonald, Stephen J (2005) Mental Health Issues in Higher Education. Project Report. Newcastle University.

Conference or Workshop Item

Macdonald, Stephen J (2014) 'Key Note Speaker'. In: SEN Umbrella Community Discussion Day, 11 Oct 2014, The Wellington, Birmingham, UK. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2014) 'Back to the future, disability, and the digital divide'. In: 22nd World Congress on Learning Disabilities, 24-25 Apr 2014, Southampton Solent University. (Unpublished)

Donovan, Catherine, Macdonald, Stephen J and Clayton, John (2014) Reporting and Responding to Hate Crime in the North East of England. In: Understanding Hate Crime: Research, Policy and Practice, 8-9 May 2014, University of Sussex. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2012) Medicalization and Criminalisation of Learning Disibilities. In: British Society of Criminology Annual Conference: Criminology at the Borders, 4-6 Jul 2012, Portsmouth University. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2012) 'Key note Speaker'. In: Dyslexia and Dyspraxia Skill-Share Conference, 22 Sep 2012, The SnowDome, Tamorth, Staffordshire. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2011) Pathways into Criminality: Dyslexia, Education and the social Model. In: The First International European Congress on (Specific) Learning Disabilities, 9-10 Sep 2011, The University of Applied Sciences for Special Needs Education, Zurich, Switzerland. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2011) Dyslexia and the Social Model of Disability. In: The British Dyslexia Association’s 8th International Conference, 2-4 Jun 2011, Harrogate International Conference Centre. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2011) Towards a Social Reality of Dyslexia. In: Presentation, 2011, University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2010) 'Conceptualising Dyslexia Using Models of Practice'. In: CESJ, 2010, University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2010) The Right to be Labelled: Questioning risk management in special needs education. In: CESJ, 2010, University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2010) The Role of Patient Involvement in Practice Based Commissioning within the National Health Service. In: CESJ, 2010, University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2007) Understanding Dyslexia using Social Theory. In: Dyslexia: an International Understanding, 2007, Durham University. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2006) Does Dyslexia Exist: Educational Power and the Denial of Disability. In: Disability Studies Conference, 18-20 Sep 2006, Lancaster University. (Unpublished)

Macdonald, Stephen J (2005) A Biographical Perspective of Dyslexia within a 'Disabling' Educational System. In: Premia, Making Research Educationally Accessible, The British Academy, London.

Macdonald, Stephen J (2004) 'Hidden Biographies: Understanding Dyslexia with a 'Disabling' Educational System'. In: Disability Studies Conference, 26-28 Jul 2004, Lancaster University. (Unpublished)


Deacon, L and Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2010) Dyslexia and Crime: A Social Model Approach. VDM Verlag. ISBN 978-3639177527

Macdonald, Stephen J (2009) Towards a Sociology of Dyslexia: Exploring Links Between Dyslexia, Disability and Social Class. VDM Verlag. ISBN 978-3639131130


Macdonald, Stephen J (2015) Dyslexia Support for Post-graduate Students. Epigeum. (In Press)

This list was generated on Tue Nov 13 00:13:39 2018 GMT.

Areas of expertise

  • Disability studies
  • Dyslexia studies
  • Medical sociology
  • Criminology
  • Social care and disability

Further information

I am a member of the British Society of Criminology and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Last updated 26 September 2018