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Art Based Research

What is Arts Based Research?

What is Art-Based Research?
Within the field where art and research collide, researchers have not yet come to a consensus on what, exactly, Art-Based Research entails*. Generally, Art-Based Research (ABR) is the use of artistic activity within the research process. Where many opinions splinter is the whens and hows that art is used.

For the most part, ABR is a type of qualitative research. It is the integration of art-making as another way of obtaining additional information (that maybe would have otherwise been inaccessible) to explore, understand and represent human action and experience. All this is accomplished while seemingly free from the barriers most scholarly and academic work tend to include, and thus has the potential to reach a broader, more diverse audience.

Some loose examples of ABR are as follows:

  • the use of art-journaling from participants in a study about clinical depression, where the product (the art journal) is used to facilitate and enlighten conversations and themes around the mental illness
  • researching studies on post-traumatic stress disorders, then creating and performing a play on PTSD, pulled from personal experience, with the audience reaction and feedback used as focus groups to generate new data
  • researching the idea of identity by incorporating the use of photography on mixed-race participants as they reflected on their lives and using the photographs to create narratives and discusssion


* NOTE: When in doubt, and your concerns are specific to an assignment or class, defer to the definitions to which your professor subscribes.

Leavy, P. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from
Savin-Baden, M., & Wimpenny, K. (2014). A practical guide to arts-related research. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Art Based Research