Arts Based Research

Picasso and Me


How would you describe your thesis at a dinner party? More than likely I would excuse myself to get another drink than attempt to sell my thesis proposal to polite companions at dinner. But it begs the questions can I make my research interests accessible to others. Is it relevant? Will it value add?

I fear my dalliance with Arts Based Research as a methodology may further alienate my dinner party guests. Arts based what? Is that real? Academic?

J. Gary Knowles and Andrea Cole (2008) in the Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research says:

“[A]rts-based research can be defined as the systematic use of the artistic process, the actual making of artistic expressions in all of the different forms of the arts, as a primary way of understanding and examining experience by both researchers and the people that they involve in their studies” (p. 29).

Arts-based research represents “an unfolding and expanding orientation to qualitative social science that draws inspiration, concepts, processes, and representation from the arts, broadly defined” (Knowles & Cole, 2008, p. xi).

ABR,as it is known, offers the possibility of employing a  methodology that is radical and challenging. Whether it is through theatrical writing or performance, painting, photography, music or collage the arts can convey new ideas  and new possibilities. And I like that. I am excited about the option of being creative about how I approach and present my research.

So the challenge for me personally is to understand how creative writing can play a relevant and powerful part in representing my research. It seems Pablo Picasso and I would make great dinner companions.

Picasso said: “I never made a painting as a work of art, it’s all research.”


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