About us

Our history

The Literacy Research Centre was set up in May 2002, with significant funding from the then Department for Education and Science and the ESF as part of a national research and development centre. It built upon on work at Lancaster by David Barton, Mary Hamilton and Roz Ivanič going back to the mid 1980s and is well known for its contributions to a distinctive ‘social practice’ approach to literacy which has been articulated through highly-cited books and articles over the past 35 years.
Our approach

Rather than seeing literacy as primarily a set of cognitive skills, our research focuses on the uses and meanings of reading and writing in different contexts and cultures. We privilege the perspective of those who engage with literacy, the meanings they attach to this activity and the beliefs they hold about it, However, we do take account of the way literacy practices (uses and meanings of literacy) are shaped by the context they are part of and by wider social, cultural, political and economic factors that impact on people’s lives.

Our research themes

We have a changing portfolio of research projects and development activities. These encompass a range of themes, including: literacy & inclusion (literacies and prison life/education; homelessness, refugees and migration); literacy & the media; literacy & multilingualism, literacy, digital technologies & multimodality; literacy & education; everyday learning & literacy; literacy & the workplace; literacy and development; historical studies of literacy and method for researching literacy.

We welcome collaborators and doctoral students in these areas.


We have always had clear strategies for impact which permeate our activities, including publishing for a range of audiences and a long history of engagement with policy makers, practitioners and user communities. The Centre’s impact case study, ‘The impact of Literacy Research on informing policy-making and improving public services,  submitted to the REF2014, was selected as a national model.


We have a diverse and expanding membership base consisting of staff in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, the Department of Educational Research, affiliate members across the world, and a growing number of current and former doctoral students who both benefit from and contribute to the work of the Centre.

To find out more about our individual areas of research follow the Members link.


Our regular activities include the Literacy Research Discussion Group which meets on most Tuesday lunchtimes. We also talk with many other audiences, for example recently through Public Lectures and Campus in the City.

Our blog

Visit the Literacies Log and read about a range of the topics we are interested in. We welcome your comments.