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Uta Papen supervises 6 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Uta Papen

Senior Lecturer

Uta Papen

Lancaster University

County South



Tel: +44 1524 593245

Research overview

My main research interests are:

literacy and education (the politics and practices of teaching reading; critical literacy)

literacy and health (patient information and the construction of knowledge in health care contexts)

Writing and urban spaces (linguistic landscapes)

PhD supervision

The role of written texts in health care contexts (including studies of patients' information searching and learning strategies via for example websites)

Ethnographic studies of literacy practices in various settings (e.g. institutions, workplaces, communities, etc.)

Linguistic landscape research: the role of writing and visual in the cultural production of space

Literacy teaching and learning in schools

Academic literacies

Adult literacy education in the so-called developing countries

Current Teaching

MA teaching

LING 432 Language, literacies and digital communication

PhD teaching

LING 432tc Digital language and literacies (3 sessions)

FASS 506 Designing, undertaking and surviving doctoral research

FASS510 Qualitative Methods in the Sociel Sciences 

FASS 522 Ethics in Social Science and Humanities Research

FASS 617 How to get the most our of your supervision

FASS 633 Writing a literature review

FASS 618 The viva: tragedy or triumph

FASS 611d Ethnography and participant observation (distance module)

UG teaching

LING 319 Schools volunteering module

Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary, located at the boundaries between social anthropology, education and applied linguistics. A way to describe my work is to say that I am a linguistic anthropologist. Main areas of work are: literacy in education, literacy and health, and writing in urban public spaces. With regards to the first area, I examine in particular the role of phonics as the currently favoured approach to the teaching of reading and writing at primary school level. i examine, critically, policy and media discourses about phonics and how they compare to teaching and learning in practice, in schools. The second area, health and literacy, again allows me to draw on critical discourse analysis and combine it with ethnography. Here, I investigate how patient information documents construct and present knowledge about diseases and their treatment and how patients and the lay public engage with this knowledge. i am particularly interested in patients' own way of researching and understanding what is happening to them and how these searches can lead to conflicts with their health carers about what counts as knowledge and advice to follow in the context of specific health episodes.

I have a longstanding interest in the role of writing in everyday life, for example with regards to institutions and how they interact with the public and with individual citizens.  I start from the idea that our contemporary world is 'textually mediated', to borrow a phrase coined by Dorothy Smith. Thus, I see literacy as a central aspect of many contemporary social practices (including spatial practices) and it is the role of reading and writing in these practices that I investigate. I am particularly interested in exploring how writing and texts are implicated in power relations between individuals and groups as well as individuals, groups and institutions. To understand these power dynamics, i study for example how writing and texts (in the widest sense) shape urban spaces, looking at their role in gentrification and urban renewal.

I use primarily ethnographic methods which I complement with various other research approaches, including critical discourse analysis and multimodal analysis.



 External role

I am a member of the editorial board of Compare - a journal of comparative and international education. I am also on the editorial board of the journal Sociolinguistics Studies.


I am Director of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' Research Training Programme (RTP).

I am member of UREC, the University's research ethics committee.

Additional Information

New book

Literacy and education: policy, practice and public opinion. Published by Routledge in July 2015.

New article

Signs in cities: the discursive production and commodification of urban spaces. Sociolinguistic studies (see my publications for the full text)


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