Creative Research Methods

Creative research methods in the social sciences [FC]I have always been interested in creative research methods: not at the expense of traditional methods, but to augment them. I have used a variety of creative methods, when appropriate, such as storytelling and photo-elicitation for gathering data, fictionalisation and photo-essays for writing research, and drama for presenting findings. I have also combined methods where necessary, used technology in research, and worked within a participatory framework where possible.

A couple of years ago, for reasons I can’t now remember, I went looking for a book on creative research methods. I searched all the usual online booksellers but couldn’t find anything that fitted the bill. So I decided to write one.

In the process of writing this book, I read hundreds of journal articles, book chapters, sometimes whole books. I didn’t read everything there is to read – that wouldn’t be possible – but I learned a lot. And it slowly dawned on me that the field of creative research methods could be conceptualised as having four broad categories:

  1. Arts-based research – e.g. visual arts, performance arts, textile arts
  2. Research using technology – e.g. social media, apps, computer/video games
  3. Mixed methods research – traditionally qual+quant, but also quant+quant and qual+qual
  4. Transformative research frameworks – e.g. participatory research, feminist research, decolonising methodologies, activist research

Clearly I am not suggesting that these categories are mutually exclusive. In fact I did find some examples of research employing tools from all four categories. But they do provide a useful way of thinking about the subject for now (I say ‘for now’ as the field is developing fast, so may need a new conceptualisation in time).

I found many fabulous, inspiring, examples of research across all of these categories and from all over the world. There are over 100 boxed examples in my book, with others scattered throughout the text, and I still didn’t have room to include everything I would have liked to cover. I also realised that ‘creative methods’ doesn’t always mean ‘innovative methods’ (though it often does). It may mean being creative with traditional methods, such as by combining those methods in an unusual way or taking a new look at an existing method. For example, in recent years researchers using focus groups realised that they could get more out of the data by analysing the interactions between people in each group, as well as the content of the text yielded by the transcripts.

I’m delighted to say that even though the book isn’t out yet, it has received a good reception from academics around the world. It has been described, among other things, as an ‘inspiration’, a ‘treasure trove’, and ‘ground-breaking’. And most wonderful of all, especially as my first degree was in psychology, my creative research heroes Kenneth Gergen and Mary Gergen have very kindly written a foreword.

So publication day is 10 April in the UK, May 15 in the US. Here’s a very short book trailer I made for you.

If you would like a copy, you can buy direct from the publisher, Policy Press, at a 35% discount, by signing up to their monthly e-newsletter. This applies wherever you are in the world, and the discount is on all their books, not just mine. They publish some excellent work so I’d recommend checking this out.

If you want to know more about creative research methods, I hosted a twitterchat on 26 March, on the #ecrchat hashtag, and the storify is here.

The book will be formally launched at a one-day conference at the British Library Conference Centre on 8 May. The conference has four workshop streams and I’ll bet you can guess what they’re on… yep: arts-based research, research using technology, mixed methods research, and transformative research frameworks. There seems to be a real appetite for this topic, as we had an unprecedented number of abstracts – four for each presentation – so we have a terrific selection of workshops. Over half of the places are already booked. So if you’d like to come to the conference, please don’t leave it till the last minute, as it is likely to sell out. I hope to see you there!

One thought on “Creative Research Methods

  1. Pingback: The 3MT as a lens into concision, productivity and creativity in PhD research | the édu flâneuse

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