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Research Methods

Art-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.

How can I identify Art-Based Research?
Perhaps most important to note is that ABR can be found under many names. Below is a working list of the different terms used to describe the use of art and art-making in the research process.

Partial lexicology of terms for arts-based research
A/r/tography Arts-based educational research (ABER)
Alternative forms of represatation Arts-based health research (ABHR)
Aesthetically based research Arts-Based Research Practices
Aesthetic research practice Arts-Informed Inquiry
Arts as inquiry Arts-Informed Research
Art practice as research Critical Arts-Based Inquiry
Arts-based enquiry Living Inquiry
Art-Based Inquiry Performative Inquiry
Art-Based Research Practice-Based Research
Artistic Inquiry Research-Based Art (RBA)
Arts-based research (ABR) Research-Based Practice
Arts based social research (ABSR) Scholartistry
Arts-based qualitative inquiry Transformative Inquiry through Art
Arts in qualitative research

The best way to identify ABR is to head directly to a study's "methodology" section. This section will describe the process in which the study was conducted and data was gathered. Should the language include the use or making of art, it is very likely ABR.

Leavy, P. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

How can I find Art-Based Research?
Looking for readings on ABR within a specific topic or field? Try searching for more resources using keywords like "art based research"or "art based inquiry" AND the topic of your choice. Refer to the list of terms in the How can I identify Art-Based Research section for more options.

Click here or the above image to view sample search results.