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Professor Tim Rapley

Professor of Applied Health Care Research

Department: Social Work, Education & Community Wellbeing

Tim is a medical sociologist with an interest in social studies of medical work, research and practice. He is Co-Director of Research and Innovation, Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing

Tim undertakes detailed empirical studies that seek to understand the everyday, taken-for-granted, aspects of medical work.  A focus on what people actually do, as opposed to only what they think they do, or they tell you they do, can offer unique, practical and tailored solutions  His work focuses on three substantive areas: the implementation of care, the organisation of care and social studies of qualitative research.

Campus Address

Room B118 Coach Lane Campus West
Northumbria University
Newcastle upon Tyne

+44 (0)191 215 6338


PhD, MA, BA (Hons)

Current and Recent Projects

  • European Union Horizon 2020: ImpleMentAll: Towards evidence-based tailored implementation strategies for eHealth. 2017-2021. Co-investigator. Website:
  • HTA - LiTEFORM. Lite Therapy Effectiveness For ORal Mucositis Trial. A randomised controlled trial of the clinical and cost effectiveness of Low Level Laser in the management of Oral Mucositis in Head and Neck cancer irradiation 2017-2022 Co-investigator, (PI Dr Mike Nugent, Newcastle University)
  • HTA – OPEN Clarifying the management of men with recurrent urethral stricture disease: A randomised trial of open urethroplasty versus endoscopic urethrotomy. 2012-2018 Co-investigator, (PI Prof Rob Pickard, Newcastle University)
  • Genzyme pGALS plus development 2017-2020 Co-investigator, (PI Prof Helen Foster, Newcastle University)
  • JGW Patterson Foundation CAPTURE JIA: Achieving Uniform and Optimal Data Collection to Improve Patient Care for Children and Young People with JIA 2016-2017 Co-investigator, (PI Dr Flora McErlane, Newcastle University)
  • Arthritis Research UK Newcastle Biomedicine Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre (ARUK-NB-EATC) 2012-2017 Co-investigator, (PI Prof John Isaacs, Newcastle University)
  • NIHR Programme Grant TRANSITION - How can health services contribute most effectively to facilitating successful transition of young people with complex health needs from childhood to adulthood? 2012-2017 Co-investigator, (PI Prof Allan Colver, Newcastle University)
  • NIHR, Integrated Clinical Academic Fellowships – Senior Clinical Lecturer. Promoting health & functioning in children with physical limitations through participation in physical activities: ActiveCHILD 2016-2021 Co-investigator (PI Dr Ninna Kolehmainen, Newcastle University)
  • NIHR Career Development Fellowship Environmental manipulation after perinatal stroke 2014-2018 Co-investigator (PI Dr Anna Basu, Newcastle University)

Key Publications and Outputs

Rapley T. (2017) How to Study Conversations, Discourse and Documents.  (2nd Edition) Sage:  London.

Whybrow P, Pickard R, Hrisos S, Rapley T (2017) Equipoise Across the Patient Population: Optimising the Timing of Recruitment to a Randomized Controlled Trial, Trials 18, 140

Basu A, Pearse J, Baggaley J, Watson R, Rapley T. (2017) Participatory design in the development of an early therapy intervention for perinatal stroke. BMC Pediatrics, 17, 33.

Farre A, Wood V, Parr J, Reape D and McDonagh J E, Rapley T on behalf of the Transition Collaborative Group (2016) Health professionals’ definitions of developmentally appropriate healthcare for young people: conceptual dimensions and embedded controversies. Archives of Disease in Childhood 101:628-633

Rapley, T. (2016) Some Pragmatics of Data Analysis.  In D. Silverman (ed.) Qualitative Research: (4th Edition).  London: Sage.

Hart R, Foster H, McDonagh J, Thompson B, Kay L, Myers A and Rapley T (2015) Young people’s decisions about biologic therapies: Who influences them and how? Rheumatology (Oxford) 54 (7): 1294-1301

May CR, Finch T, Ballini L, MacFarlane A, Mair F, Murray E, Treweek S, Rapley T (2011) Evaluating complex interventions and health technologies using normalization process theory: development of a simplified approach and web-enabled toolkit. BMC Health Services Research 11(1):1.

Rapley, T. (2008) Distributed decision making:  The anatomy of decisions-in-action.    Sociology of Health and Illness. 30 (3) 429-444.


For a full list please click here

Professional Activity

  • External Examiner, MPH, Edinburgh 2016-
  • Editorial Board Member - Qualitative Research  2012-
  • Editorial Board Member - Implementation Science 2009-

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Tim is a Professor of Applied Health Care Research in the Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing. He is a medical sociologist with an interest in social studies of medical work, research and practice.  He undertakes detailed empirical studies that seek to understand the everyday, taken-for-granted, aspects of medical work.  A focus on what people actually do, as opposed to only what they think they do, or they tell you they do, can offer unique, practical and tailored solutions

His work focuses on three substantive areas:

The implementation of care: His work on the implementation of care covers a range of phases, from initiation, scoping and development of novel ideas, to process evaluations of feasibility studies, pilot and full trials. It takes place in a range of settings, including community, primary, secondary and tertiary health care as well as dental care.  Theoretically, this work is often driven by his interest in Normalization Process Theory (NPT).  See - for an introduction to Normalization Process Theory, that offers an interactive toolkit and structured instrument to help people think through implementation issues.

The organisation of care: His work on the organisation of care seeks to identify, describe and understand the experience of care in paediatric, adolescent and adult contexts.  This work engages with a broad range of stakeholders, from patients, carers and the general public to the diverse group of health professionals and managers. It seeks to use the findings of the studies to develop practical, tailored solutions to the problems that are identified as well as exploring how to embed organisational policy initiatives. See - for an example of an output from this work.  This a site for all clinicians whom may encounter children with serious musculoskeletal problems. It aims to raise awareness, knowledge and skills to facilitate early diagnosis and referral to specialist care.

Social studies of qualitative research: When not conducting research on medical work, research and practice, he’s interested in thinking, talking, and teaching about the practical, taken-for-granted, ways that qualitative research gets done.  He’s written about the (extra)ordinary work we undertake in relation to qualitative interviews and analysis.  He has also written a book, Analysing Conversations, Discourse and Documents (Sage).      

He has an honorary appointment at Newcastle University.

PGR Supervision

Tim is an experienced supervisor of PhD and MD students and postdoctoral fellows. He has supervised eight PhD/MD students to a timely successful completion in a broad range of topics in applied health research.

Current postgraduate supervision:

Jess Baggaley - Development and validation of a parent-completed screening checklist for early movement abnormalities indicating a high risk of development of cerebral palsy.  ESRC 1+3 Postgraduate Studentship

Nataly Birbeck  - Self Harmony: Advocating for Positive Mental Health through the Use of Technology.  EPSRC DTC Digital Civics

Susan Bissett - Diabetes and periodontitis: developing and piloting a novel oral health intervention to enable improved glycaemic control. NIHR Doctoral Fellow

Karen Holt - How clinician-parent interactions influence parents’ decisions about gastrostomy feeding for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Newcastle University Studentship

Jen McAnuff - Improving health in children with disabilities: an intervention-development study to support participation in leisure in 8-12 year-olds with communication and mobility limitations. NIHR Clinical Doctoral Fellow

Julia Maddison - Reproductive Decision Making in Female Mitochondrial Patients: A study to explore retrospective and current reproductive decision making. 

Lem Ngongalah - Knowledge, beliefs and perceptions on maternal obesity, child obesity and infant feeding amongst African immigrant women in the UK

Claire Sullivan - Explore the relationship or association between alcohol consumption and sexual risk taking in adults


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