Current projects

Many of our current research projects relate directly to the most fundamental questions in contemporary life. Explore here how our researchers, working individually or on collaborative projects, are throwing critical light on these pressing contemporary concerns.

Peace Gardens, Sheffield

How can individuals flourish?

Smartphone app could reveal how urban spaces affect our health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing are affected by many aspects of our economic, social, cultural and physical environment. Understanding the ways that our urban spaces affect us can offer critical insight into how changes to those spaces might improve our wellbeing.

Social scientists in Sheffield are leading on work that harnesses smartphone technology in order to monitor the effects of urban spaces on individuals, and what they discover could have a significant impact on urban planning and public health policy.

The ostrich problem: when and why people fail to monitor their goal progress

In order to address many challenges in contemporary life we need to change our behaviour, but as we all know that is hard to do.

Thomas Webb, in our Psychology Department, researches the difficulties of achieving behavioural change, and is currently working in particular on one way in which good intentions fail: our failure to monitor how our everyday behaviour is matching up against our intentions. He currently has funding from the European Research Council to study one aspect of this, what he calls 'the ostrich problem'.

Hidden Perspectives graphic

Hidden Perspectives: the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS)

Hidden Perspectives is a large-scale public engagement project that opens up interpretations of biblical narratives to underrepresented groups.

A cultural history of the hairdresser

Sean Williams is writing a global, comparative cultural history of the hairdresser, examining the rise, fall and return of this socially significant, yet often trivialised character in a comparative, global context.

The project has thus far involved collaborations with the Universities of Basel and Bern in Switzerland, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Oslo in Norway, as well as York in Yorkshire.


Back Where You Came From exhibition: footballers

How do societies cohere?

Scilly Voices

Emma Moore’s project explores the particular forms of English spoken on the Isles of Scilly, tracing their connections to other forms of English and to the different groups who live there – incomers and those whose families have longstanding connections with the Islands. The study throws light on the relationship between language and identity, a key issue in understanding what holds communities together.

Children’s literature in Argentina

Lauren Rea is analysing how the text and images of short and serialised stories in Billiken magazine, the world’s longest running children’s weekly, shapes the development of children’s literature in Argentina. Her work combines literary criticism with theory and methods from Childhood Studies to capture the changing cultural understanding of the Argentine child over one hundred years.

Lauren will also be working with Billiken’s publishers, Editorial Atlántida, on a series of public engagement activities and publications to commemorate the Billiken centenary in 2019.

Language, identity and citizenship

Kristine Horner works on issues concerning language, identity, citizenship and multilingualism. One of her projects is focused on language, identity and citizenship in Luxembourg and explores the motivations and rationale behind the 2008 law on Luxembourgish nationality – including the decision to implement formalised language testing in Luxembourgish.

Refugees – an authority on the world's best selling book

Dr Casey Strine shares his research on the book of Genesis, which he discussed at the Migration Matters festival in June as part of Refugee Week 2016.

Aylan Kurdi: How a single image transformed the debate on immigration

Our Visual Social Media Lab carried out a detailed investigation into how pictures of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi galvanised the global conscience. The research reveals how social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and searching on Google, can suddenly change the very language of the debate on immigration. A year on from Aylan Kurdi's death, the Visual Social Media Lab followed this up with independent research for charity Oxfam: Alan Kurdi a year on: How an image transformed the debate on immigration


Social media on ipad

How do we interact with the environment, other species and technology?

New bone identification method will help the study of past human societies

An important element of the sustainability of our societies is the place of animal husbandry in our economy. We gain important perspectives on current issues of sustainability by taking a very long term perspective, and to understand our relationship with animals over the long-run gives an important perspective on current debates.

Archaeologists at Sheffield have made a major technical breakthrough, that will allow us to say much more about this crucial issue. 

Sustainability and environmental behaviour

How we respond to problems of sustainability depends in part on our readiness to embrace new technologies and to change our patterns of consumption. Chris Jones in our psychology department researches how our attitudes allow or inhibit our support for new technologies or changes in consumption.

His work explores attitudes to new technologies, and how we can study those attitudes. He also studies the factors shaping our attitude and behaviour in relation to consumption, and in that context the relationship between business and the public.

Technology and its effects on social relationships

Nicole Baumgarten is working on a number of projects which address innovation in business economics, responsible research and innovation in healthcare technology and harmful social media communication. Her work centres on humans’ use of (communication) technology and its effects on social relationships.

Aylan Kurdi: How a single image transformed the debate on immigration

Our Visual Social Media Lab carried out a detailed investigation into how pictures of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi galvanised the global conscience. The research reveals how social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and searching on Google, can suddenly change the very language of the debate on immigration. A year on from Aylan Kurdi's death, the Visual Social Media Lab followed this up with independent research for charity Oxfam: Alan Kurdi a year on: How an image transformed the debate on immigration

University experts share their expertise with global leaders at the World Economic Forum

Academics from the University of Sheffield shared their expertise with the global elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos (January 2016). The event covered not only the cataclysmic changes happening in our world today – like artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things – but also their impact on business, government and people.


Dr Gottlieb's research: 'Guilty women' showcard, illustration

How does our past, and how we think about it, shape our present and our future?

Reshaping our understanding of British history

Dr Julie Gottlieb's research shows that women played a much more influential role in terms of national and global politics than historians to date have realised.

Her work sheds light on the multi-faceted relationship between women and politics - from peace activism to appeasement to right-wing extremism - in the aftermath of suffrage.

Opening doors with Storying Sheffield

Our work with how individuals in Sheffield have understood their pasts, and how they might understand them differently, has helped to transform their futures.

Storying Sheffield is a unique course that sees students working together with service users from Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC).