About us

On our pages 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.

We are closely linked with a variety of professional and academic organisations concerned with literacy. For example Karin Tusting was for six years 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, Mary Hamilton Julia Gillen and Uta Papen are longstanding members of the UK Literacy Association, contributing in various ways. Mary Hamilton is a keynote speaker at the launch event of the new Everyday Literacies SIG on May 26th 2021.  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 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 literacies; 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.


Our regular activities include the Literacy Research Discussion Group which has regular speakers. 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.


In 2019-20 (calendar years) we had a special theme regarding Brazil.

A theme for the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre in 2019-2020 (calendar years) was Brazil.

In 2019 Uta Papen visited Brazil including the Federal University of Minas Gerais UFMG.

Karin Tusting supervised a visiting PhD student from Brazil.

On 28th May 2019 LRDG hosted a Literacy Research Discussion Group seminar:
The changing language and literacy landscapes of Brazilian Universities: English in policy development and in practice
1-2pm, Bowland North Seminar Room 23

Maria Lucia Castanheira Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Izabel Magalhães University of Brasilia, Brazil
Marilyn Martin-Jones University of Birmingham, UK
Gilcinei T. Carvalho Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Andrea Machado de Almeida Mattos Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Ana Souza University of Brasilia, Brazil

Brief abstract: The ethnographic project that is discussed in this talk investigates the specific ways in which university policy-making with regard to “internationalisation at home” is unfolding in two universities in Brazil, and the specific ways in which the use and production of texts in English, online and offline, is mediating this process, in different areas of academic life: research, teaching/learning (in different disciplines), and administration.

Julia Gillen  collaborated with a Day in the Life team working in Brazil on the project Um Dia na Vida led by Claudia Stella and Ann Cameron. Julia contributed to a book they edited from the project.


Jamie D.I. Duncan’s book: “Researching Protest Literacies: Literacy as Protest in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, was published on December 28th, 2020. Jamie Duncan studied for his PhD at the Literacy Research Centre, supervised by Uta Papen.

In 2020 the Day in the Life book mentioned above and illustrated below,  published in Brazil, received funding for updating and translating into English. It will be out in early 2021 – further details will be made available soon.

book cover

Um Dia na Vida