Can practice as research, practice-based research and practice-led research be considered methodologies?
A research methodology is the conscious selection of a particular approach or process to the collection of data. Depending on who you read and what you study there are a plethora of different research types and various methodologies. The selection of the most appropriate methodology seems to be a stepped approach, based on what it is you are trying to discover or uncover, but generally follows this form:
- Paradigm ———- 2. Ontology and Epistemology ———- 3. Methodology
For instance a chemist might follow a Positivist Paradigm gathering quantitative data through experiment and testing, have a Realist Ontology, where they believe that reality is governed by laws, and analyse the data collected using an Objective Scientific method. An historian might work within a Constructivist Paradigm where there might be multiple interpretations of fact, be a Critical Realist with the understanding that reality is dependant on interpretation, and the methodology used to analyse the quantitative and qualitative data uncovered is within a Subjective Dialectic Framework, where if something is this it cannot be that. ‘Practice as research’ is the term used to identify research that has an essential practical creative element. This can be largely attributed to two forms. ‘Practice-based’ research and ‘Practice-led’ research. Practice-based research is a methodology where the research undertaken is all, or mostly all, practical in nature. Practice-led research is a methodology where arts practice leads theoretical enquiry which in turn is developed as practice. According to Buchler and Biggs, creative research is different to other forms of academic research, but it is difficult to categorise or identify exactly what these differences are. In their paper ‘Eight criteria for practice-based research in the creative and cultural industries’❊ they investigate the idea that the creative sector is in need of a framework with which to categorise creative research. “The article concludes that there are four generic and four discipline-specific criteria for academic research in the field.”❊❊ They suggest that there are eight categories for creative research, four more than academic research. The first four resonate with traditional academic research and are set out as 1. Questions and Answers, 2. Knowledge, 3. Methods and 4. Audience. The additional four are 5. Role of Text and Image, 6. Relationship of form and Content, 7. Function and Rhetoric and 8. Function of experience. Their conclusion leads to the determination that creative research can be, and should be, considered a distinct and valid method for research.
Are there methodologies that seem particularly appropriate to creative research?
I think that there are methodologies that lend themselves more naturally to
creative research. However, it is the paradigm and the ontology and epistemology chosen that define the type research undertaken, the methodology is how the research is gathered. Depending on the creative project, any methodology could be employed. An assumption would be that as visual practitioners we tell stories, and our audience interpret these stories within the framework of their experience. Therefore we work in the realm of the subjective and qualitative. A paradigm that might lend itself to creative research is Phenomenology, or understanding through the human experience of an event or situation. Ontologies might be Critical Realism (reality is dependant on interpretation) or Relativism (reality is socially constructed and individual interpretation is needed for a critical understanding of reality). In which case a subjective Epistemology would be appropriate. Once the direction and categorisation of research is set, the methodology, the actual method of data collection, could be any; quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative data uses numerical data, and methods include surveys, experiments, longitudinal studies and cross-sectional studies. Although more often associated with scientific study, can be appropriately used within creative research. Qualitative data relies on interpretation and impression and methods include case studies, action research, observation, participatory enquiry, application of ideological perspectives and grounded theory. There a paradigms of research that seem particularly appropriate to creative research because of the individual interpretative nature of disciplines. The actual method of data collection, the methodology, is dependant on the creative project being undertaken.
❊ Biggs, M; Buchler, D., (2009) Eight criteria for practice-based research in the creative and cultural industries. Available at https://uhra.herts.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/2299/4412/904788.pdf [Accessed 27.11.2018]