We are a team of researchers working at the Open University who have a range of different interests in writing. By writing we mean everything from a brief handwritten note or text message to long formal reports, from documents that are tightly scripted (or templated) to documents that are open.

We are concerned to understand the role and nature of writing in everyday practice as part of communication more generally and to understand how the use of different technologies- paper, pen, screen, phone- are used and are impacting, in particular, on professional practice. We have come together to work on the WiSP project, to pool our specific interests and expertise to generate a detailed analysis of writing in social work and to ensure that findings have an impact on education, training and policy.

Team Members

Prof. Theresa Lillis

Principal Investigator

Theresa has been researching writing in a range of contexts for some twenty years. She became involved in writing in social work practice after being consulted by one local authority about issues arising in social work writing. With Lucy Gray (Rai) she previously carried out several small scale studies on social work writing in academic and professional domains (Lillis & Rai 2011, Rai & Lillis 2013).

Dr. Maria Leedham


Maria has authored and chaired modules in Linguistics at under- and postgraduate level. Her recent research has focused on academic writing, in particular the use of visuals in writing by Chinese and British university students (e.g., Leedham, 2015). Maria is particularly keen to explore how using a corpus approach might throw light on the nature and challenges of writing in social work.

Dr. Alison Twiner

Research Associate

Alison has worked on many research projects at The Open University since 2006, exploring the educational use of technologies, importance of talk and other modes of communication in teaching and learning, and teaching and learning in terms of meaning-making trajectories. Her interests in WiSP are how people write for different audiences, and how people make and record meanings out of related events.

Dr. Lucy Gray

Chair of  advisory panel

Dr Lucy Gray is a senior lecturer in social work at The Open University. Prior to entering higher education in 1995 she worked as a qualified social worker. Lucy has been researching social work writing since 2001 (publishing as Lucy Rai) and is author of Effective Writing for Social Work: Making a Difference (2014). Lucy is chair of the Impact Advisory Panel.