• Psychology-Research-Team-Photo-6

    Writing is particularly important for progress in education and employment, but it is a complex skill that can only be mastered after years of practice and explicit training.

    Writing researchers investigate the many aspects of how we compose writing and this also includes handwriting and typewriting, which requires the integration of linguistic and motor abilities.

    The Writing Research Group conducts internationally recognised research on typical and atypical writing development through the lifespan, with a focus on spelling and handwriting. Our lines of research include investigations of the nature of writing difficulties associated with developmental disabilities such as dyslexia and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). We conduct research in schools in Oxfordshire and on site in our Writing Lab. We have also developed assessment tools to identify difficulties with handwriting speed and legibility.


    Our Writing Lab has a range of equipment to record and measure handwriting and keyboarding behaviour. Participants are asked to write with a special pen on paper laid on top of a Wacom Intuos graphics tablet. This allows us to register the xy coordinates of the written response over 100 times a second. We use specialist software (both Ductus and Eye & Pen) for stimulus presentation and to produce measures of handwriting duration and velocity as well as pen pressure. The software allows for the re-play of handwriting production in real time so that aspects of letter formation can be examined. We also have two computers with keyboards and the specialist software InputLog, which records every stroke made on the keyboard while writing. This allows us to measure the speed of production of different words and also the revisions made while writing. The Lab also has an EyeLink 1000 eye-tracker, which can be used with a chin or forehead rest to support the head or it can be used remotely, without any head support. We use the software Experimental Builder to prepare and conduct eye-tracking experiments.

    Most recent publications:


    • Afonso, O., Suárez-Coalla, P., & Cuetos, F. (2019). Writing impairments in Spanish children with developmental dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities.
    • Afonso, O., & Álvarez, C. J. (2019). Constituent frequency effects in the written production of Spanish compound words. Memory & Cognition, 47, 1284. 
    • Afonso, O., Suárez-Coalla, P., Cuetos, F., Ibáñez, A., Sedeño, L., & García, A. (2019). The embodied penman: Effector-specific motor-language integration during handwriting. Cognitive Science, 43(7), e12767.
    • Afonso, O., & Álvarez, C. J. (2019). Measuring writing durations in handwriting research: What do they tell us about the spelling process? In C. Perret & T. Olive (Eds.), Spelling and Writing Words: Theoretical and Methodological Advances (pp. 151-162). Boston: Brill. ISBN: 9789004394988     
    • Afonso, O., Barnett, A. L., & Connelly, V. (2019). Struggling with writing: An examination of writing difficulties in SLI, Developmental Dyslexia and DCD. In C. Perret & T. Olive (Eds.), Spelling and Writing Words: Theoretical and Methodological Advances (pp. 112-127). Boston: Brill.ISBN: 9789004394988
    • Afonso, O., Álvarez, C. J., Martínez, C., & Cuetos, F. (2019). Writing difficulties in Alzheimer’s disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment. Reading and Writing. Online First. doi: 10.1007/s11145-017-9813-6 
    • Barnett, A. L, Connelly, V., Miller, B. (2019), The Interaction of Reading, Spelling and Handwriting Difficulties with Writing Development, Journal of Learning Disabilities.
    • Connelly, V.O'Rourke, L., & Sumner, E. (2019) How being a poor speller can seriously limit your talent as a writer. Learning Difficulties Australia, 51(1), 17-21
    • Dockrell, J. E., Connelly, V., & Arfe, B., (2019). Struggling writers in elementary school: Capturing drivers of performance. Learning and Instruction. ISSN: 0959-4752
    • Stuart, N. J.Connelly, V., & Dockrell, J. E. (2019). Written verb use and diversity in children with Developmental Language Disorder: Stepping stones to academic writing. Reading and Writing.
    • Sumner, E., & Connelly, V. (2019). Writing and Revision Strategies of Students with and without Dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities
    • Prunty, M., & Barnett, A. L. (2019). Accuracy and consistency of letter formation in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: an exploratory study. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 


    • Limpo, T., Alves, R. A., & Connelly, V., (2018). Testing the Effectiveness of Handwriting Interventions. Reading and Writing, 31, pp.1249-1253. ISSN: 0922-4777 eISSN: 0922-4777
    • Nielsen, K., Henderson, W., Barnett, A. L., Abbott, R. D., & Berninger, V. W. (2018). Insights about the Role of Movement in Literacy Learning Based on Movement ABC-2 Checklist Parent Ratings for Students with and without Persisting Specific Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities -Multidisciplinary Journal, 23(1). ISSN: 1046-6819 eISSN: 1046-6819
    • O’Rourke, L., Connelly, V., & Barnett, A. L. (2018). Understanding Writing Difficulties through a Model of the Cognitive Processes Involved in Writing. In Writing development in struggling writers (pp. 11–28). Koninkijke, Brill. Doi:10.11.63/9789004346369_003
    • Afonso, O., Suárez-Coalla, P., González-Martín, N., & Cuetos, F. (2018). The impact of word frequency on peripheral processes during handwriting: A matter of age. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(3), 695–703. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2016.1275713
    • Miller, B., McCardle, P., & Connelly, V., Ed., (2018). Writing development in struggling learners: Understanding the needs of writers across the lifecourse. Brill, 2018. ISBN: 9789004345812.