Dr Tilley's research is both critical and creative, with a central interest in the relationships between cultural texts and social change. She researches across theatre, performance, literature, media and public communication as cultural texts. Her critical research looks at ethics and social justice, exploring how race, gender and inequality are represented, embedded and challenged in the stories communities and organisations tell. She also researches creative activism pedagogy. Her creative research takes these insights and applies them to playwriting, performance making, community-based storytelling and other applied creative activism. Elspeth has won awards for both her critical research and her playwriting.
In relation specifically to ethics, Dr Tilley has published twenty-two articles, chapters and conference presentations on ethics topics, has served as a member of a tertiary ethics committee, and has led creative activism work on consent.