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English Language and Literature research seeks to intervene in the multiple challenges we face today: environmental, medical, legal, political and cultural. Collaboration and partnership working are essential to our strategy for translating the power of our research into meaningful change within and beyond the academy. This commitment is underpinned by Northumbria’s strategic partnerships with a range of cultural and creative organisations in the region, such as Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums. This approach has been key to our impact strategy and the co-designing of projects with partners exemplifies how we put this strategy into practice.  

The impact of the Unit’s research has been felt both in the civic and cultural life of the North East, through our innovative work with many of the region’s cultural institutions, and internationally, notably through our innovative research in digital technologies for international language learning. Through our research we have also impacted positively on educational practices and the aspirations of young people both locally and internationally. As part of REF 2021, we are submitting four case studies. These illustrate the strength of our commitment to taking our research beyond the academy and demonstrate the power of our research to create and sustain beneficial impact towards a brighter tomorrow. More details of these will be available later in the year. Find out more about the different aspects of our impact below.  

To read all impact case studies in full, please click here.

Research for Social Good  

The potential impact of our work is built into every research project and has led to positive social good, including among vulnerable communities. Examples of this include: 

Dr Nicci MacLeod’s research in forensic linguistics has been used to advise police forces on conversational interactions between officers and victims during police interviews. Dr Macleod has published a book illustrating how police forces can use forensic linguistics techniques to infiltrate online networks of child sex offenders. 

Dr Laura Fish’s project ‘The Other Side of Me’ uses narrative and dance to help young people negotiate and express their experiences of the youth justice system. 

Dr Adam Hansen’s ‘Shakespeare on the Road’ project involved a series of reading groups across the North East to discuss a variety of Shakespeare’s plays. This has given rise to a new collaboration with the People’s Kitchen, a homelessness charity where a reading group and training have been initiated.  


Many of our projects aim to rethink how school-aged children interact with English and how they can engage with topics in different ways. Researchers have worked directly with pupils and teachers on projects covering a range of issues and themes.  

Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus has investigated how the First World War is taught in schools and how it can be challenged to incorporate new perspectives and approaches. 

Dr Claudine van Hensbergen’s Cultural Doctoral Award Project entitled ‘Learning through the Art Gallery: Art, Literature and Disciplinarity’ brings literature to life by taking GCSE pupils out of their classrooms and into the Laing Art Gallery. The project aims to increase engagement with art collections to enrich understanding of literature and to encourage students to pursue English at A level. As part of this, Dr van Hensbergen led the design of new workshops at the Laing. Over 100 school pupils and teachers participated in a successful pilot which has enabled the extension of the project to the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.  

Dr Fiona Shaw’s young adult fiction book entitled Outwalkers explores themes such as migration, borders, state surveillance and ethnic nationalism. The book was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal for children and young adult fiction in 2019. Shaw has led a variety of workshops with schools to engage pupils with the issues that her book explores. 

Public Engagement  

The Unit is committed to engaging the wider public with its research through online and print media, public talks, events and more formal public engagement projects. The Unit has regularly run events as part of the Being Human Festival of Humanities and has coordinated a programme of events as part of a regional hub. In 2019, Dr Helen Williams was awarded a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award to support a programme of activities around eighteenth-century print culture. 

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