Thoughts on Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods: A Practical Guide

Helen Kara’s Creative research methods in the social scientists pretty much brings the sort of things that we artists have been doing – writing plays, making collages, poetry, making animations, and so forth into research. As I like writing plays and making animations this book was great for me. It said that my art was useful and could be a better way to present my research than an academic essay. A finding that also fitted perfectly with what would become the subject of my research question do we need the academic essay in an art degree, a view also shared by Hamja Ashan who discussed the use of zines as a better format than academic writing in an article published by Shades of Noir link.


Okay so this blog is a bit retrospective, I read the book and did the research and didn’t have time to ponder and write about it earlier. I had actual research to get on and do, and not much time to spare… So, recognising that this blog is a bit postpartum, I still want to record something for posterity to remind me fondly of the whole, sometimes ponderous, research experience. Auto-ethnographically, perhaps it won’t stand up as useful field notes or as a contemporaneous diary, but I still have something to say. This blog is just an overview. I will cover more specific aspects of my learning in future blogs.   

Creative Research Methods in the social sciences – and in art too, as it happens.

Setting out on my research quest to discover something interesting about teaching art, I downloaded a copy of Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: a practical guide. Every evening I’d read another chapter and think about how I and other artists had been doing some of what she was talking about, but how those social scientists made their work seem so much more, well, scientific, considered and worthwhile. Good marketing perhaps? Or was there something more to it? Yes, I thought, there were lessons to learn and I would learn them. Of course, I failed dismally at writing my research plan out methodically, like the aforementioned social scientists. A lot of it I just kept in my head, and discussed in conversations, and changed and adapted as I went along, but what I really took away from it was the certainty that my art practice had always already been research, ethical research, presented and disseminated in an accessible way. What I really learned, both from being assigned this research task and from reading this book, was to focus in on a much more specific research question with a specific aim of calling (or not – depending on the outcome) for specific changes and improvement. Whereas my art had previously researched and voiced what already is (even if somewhat invisible), now my research uses art to call for a change, even just a little one. Thanks Helen!

One Reply to “Thoughts on Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods: A Practical Guide”

  1. Janette you are very welcome. Thank you for your kind words. It is heartwarming to know that my book has had such a positive impact on your work.
    Given your area of interest, I wonder whether you have come across the book ‘Teaching Artfully’ by Meghan Parker? It is recently published and I think you might find it helpful and probably also enjoyable.
    I wish you the best of luck with your research and arts practice.

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