About us

If you follow the links above you will find out more about our projects, people and events. We publish a huge range of publications, including academic monographs, edited books, journal articles, chapters in edited books, policy briefs and much, much more. Some of these are available through the publications links above but most are visible through our members’ pages. We do welcome visitors including longer term academic visitors, via the visitors’ scheme in the Department of Linguistics and English Language.

Uta Papen and Julia Gillen jointly co-edit two book series: Literacies (Routledge, UK) and Routledge Research in Literacy (Routledge, NY). Both these are extremely productive. Look at the sites and contact us if you would like to propose a new title! Here are some recent and forthcoming books.

Sam Duncan book cover Levy Hall book cover Jamie Duncan book Bhatt book cover
O'Hagan book cover Osseo Assare Burnett Merchant book cover Henning book cover
Vea Rosnes book cover


We are closely linked with a variety of professional and academic organisations concerned with literacy. For example Karin Tusting is the longstanding convenor of the Linguistic Ethnography Forum, a SIG of the British Association of Applied Linguistics, which runs the biannual international conference Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication. David Barton, Julia Gillen and Uta Papen are longstanding members of the UK Literacy Association, contributing in various ways. Julia Gillen is Chair of the Awards Committee of the Writing and Literacies SIG of the American Educational Research Association and co-edits the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

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

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

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 & education; everyday learning & literacies. academic lieracies; multimodality; literacy & the media; literacy & multilingualism, digital technologies; literacy & the workplace; literacy and development; historical studies of literacy; literacy & inclusion (literacies and prison life/education; homelessness, refugees and migration) and methods for researching literacy – especially through a range of qualitative approaches, often ethnographic.

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. More recently, Julia Gillen’s work with DigiLitEY (The digital literacies and multimodal practices of young children) an EU COST Action 2015-2019 included an influential report and policy brief, consulted by the UK Cabinet Office and other governments and organisations overseas.


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.


In the past our regular activities included the Literacy Research Discussion Group which met on 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.