What’s in a concept? A Leximancer text mining analysis of physical literacy across the international literature

Brendon Hyndman, Shane Pill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)
365 Downloads (Pure)


Physical literacy is developing as a contested concept with definitional blurring across international contexts, confusing both practitioners and researchers. This paper serves the dual purpose of reporting on an interrogation of concepts associated with physical literacy in academic writing and exploring the use of a text mining data analysis tool. The Leximancer text mining software was applied to 49 research papers relating to physical literacy from 2001–2016, sourced from academic repositories and scholarly search engines. The findings from the text mining analysis revealed that the concept of physical literacy is used in a variety of contexts, specifically in connection with ‘education’, ‘activity’, ‘fitness’, ‘health’, ‘concept’, ‘competence’, ‘understanding’, ‘roles’, ‘curriculum’ and ‘assessment’. The concept with the most relevance connected to physical literacy is ‘education’, the very term that is commonly being replaced by ‘literacy’. A number of concepts were identified from the text mining analysis that were not explicitly mentioned within the definitions of physical literacy, including educational components such as ‘curriculum’, ‘teaching’ and ‘assessment’. It was also revealed that many of the strongest relational concepts from the text mining of the physical literacy literature were of a physical domain, with less relevance and connection to concepts of cognitive, social and emotional domains. The study fills an important gap in the literature by showing that while a multiplicity of conceptions of physical literacy exists, the concept gives dominance to the physical domain and the marginalisation of cognitive and affective domains in various constructions of physical literacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-313
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
Issue number3
Early online date06 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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