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Uta Papen supervises 3 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Professor Uta Papen

Professor of Literacy Studies

Uta Papen

County South



Tel: +44 1524 593245

Research overview

My main research interests are:

literacy and education (the politics and practices of teaching reading and writing, specifically the debates around the use of phonics; health literacy and mental health literacy; critical literacy and the use of picture books to engage children in critical thinking and analysis;   literacy development in countries of the Global South; 

collaborative action research; co-creation

Linguistic landscapes and their role in language and literacy teaching

PhD supervision

Literacy policy, specifically phonics, and how it is implemented in schools The role of written texts in health care contexts (including studies of patients' information searching and learning strategies) 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

My Role


 Professor of Literacy Studies, Co-Director of the Literacy Research Centre

County South, C71


Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary, located at the boundaries between social anthropology, education and applied linguistics. Main areas of work are: literacy in education, developing literacy education (in particular English literacy) in countries of the Global South, health literacy and mental health literacy and critical literacy.

Since I started working in Lancaster in 2002, my 'research home' has been the Literacy Research Centre. As an active member and Co-Director of the Centre, my research is guided by an understanding of literacy not primarily as a skill, but as a social and cultural practice.  This understanding has implication for how literacy is taught and this covers one area of my work. An example is my involvement in an initiative to develop new approaches to teaching English literacy to deaf children and young adults. 

Thinking about literacy as a practice also has implications for how we understand the role of reading and writing in different areas of everyday life. In the past, I have researched 'health literacy' as a practice that shapes how health care is dispensed and how patients themselves make sense of their illness, engage with health care providers and seek information. Looking at health literacy from this perspective necessarily foregrounds issues of policy and power, relating to health inqualities and social justice. 

In my current work, with a group of colleagues I'm looking at student mental health, specifically at creative practices that students engage in to support and maintain good mental health. Following on from a pilot project and consultation with students, we are now developing a larger research project on this topic. This project is co-created with students.

Related to my work on literacy in educational contexts, I have a longstanding interest in examining policy, specifically current policies to teach reading and writing to children in primary schools and how specific understandings of literacy and of 'evidence' about literacy teaching shape governmental policies. 

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



External role

I am co-editor, with Julia Gillen, of the Routledge series 'Literacies' and 'Routledge Research in Literacy'.


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