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Tips on starting Your Research Project

Starting your Research Project

Key Research Texts

How to Start

Where to Start- Forming a Research Question

Phase 1- Your Practice and Interests

1) Reflect on your current creative project. Write down your motivations and aims for creating the project. Write down any significant discoveries you have made along the way. 

2) Ask yourself, have there been any issues arising from the project that I could research? These issues may be based around the concept, themes or technical aspects of your work or a combination of these. 

3) If you are struggling to identify any issues, talk with peers who know your work and ask them for feedback. Explain to them your motivations, aims and discoveries. Ask them if your work effectively achieves what you set out to do. Write down any issues related to your work that come from this discussion. 

4) Based on the issues you and your peers have identified, select one or two issues that are the most interesting and important for you. These issues will form the basis of your research question. 

Phase 2- Give yourself some structure

Using the 1 or 2 issues you have identified, you can narrow the focus of your research question. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Time period (Is my work related to a specific period?)
  • Person (Is my work related to a specific artist, designer, theorist, performer or director?)
  • Social or political issue (Does my work address a social issue such as war, disease, love, race or sexuality?)
  • Contemporary issue (Does my work explore an issue in contemporary art or design?)
  • What kind of role does my creative project have in the broader context of contemporary art?

2) Make a list of responses to these questions. Select which responses are most interesting and relevant to your creative project.

You will now have a narrower idea for your research question

Phase 3- Writing your research question

1) Play around with your research question. Write it down as a question or statement in a number of different ways. Try to get to at least ten different statements, but no pressure! Not all of them will be good. You might:

  • Change around the phrasing of the issue
  • Change your original words for synonyms
  • Say the question out loud
  • Explain it to one of your peers and write down your explanation.

2) Highlight the questions that seem clearest to you. 

3) Forget about your question or topic for 24 hours. Instead, reflect on your creative project, watch some documentation or perform part of the project.

4) Return to your list of questions with fresh eyes. Make a list of the best three questions/topic sentences. If you have already identified that one question is the best one for you, stick with that one. 

Phase 4- Finalising your research question

1) For each question, spend 10 minutes searching Discovery / Catalogue

2) Assess the results of your searches as you go and use these results to help you choose one of your three questions. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a lot of information available on this topic?
  • Has my question already been answered?
  • Who is writing about the topic of my question?
  • Which of my searches is finding results that are the most interesting and relevant to my creative project?

3) By answering the questions above, you will be able to select a suitable question.  If not, reassess your question and repeat Phase 2 onwards. Alternatively, you may wish to discuss your question with your lecturer or supervisor.

REMEMBER: Your question will change over time. When you are making work and researching, your ideas will change and your question can too!

Using the Catalogue to find information on Art & Design Research Methods

The Library collections offer many resources on research methods. Doing a simple keyword search in the Library Catalogue will give you a list of many. You can use the keywords below as a starting point:

  • Practice-led research
  • Practice-based research
  • Research-led practice
  • Artistic research