The integrity and authenticity of arts-Informed research 

Year: 2013

Author: Ewing, Robyn, Baguley, Margaret

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While the Arts are as old as humanity itself, Arts-informed research methodologies are relatively recent and, like any innovative methodologies they remain controversial in the academy. Arts-informed inquiry is art pursued for inquiry’s sake and not for art’s own sake. This paper addresses whether such approaches constitute ‘real’ research and why they should not be characterised as 'soft'. Whether research is ‘soft’ or not does not depend on the methodology chosen. The level of rigour and appropriateness with which the methodology is employed are critical. We argue that while this kind of inquiry is not appropriate for all research questions in education they have the potential to create new epiphanies for researchers/readers/viewers/listeners (Diamond & Mullen, 1999; Ewing & Smith, 2004) and to explore the liminal and ambiguous or contradictory spaces (Conroy, 2004) not always accessible in more traditional approaches. The multifaceted nature of arts-informed inquiry can reveal a depth of understanding and communication arguably not possible through the use of one semiotic system alone.
As McNiff (1998, p.27) reminds us:
The images and processes of artistic creation are always at least one step ahead of the reflecting mind. If we continue to follow the standard behavioural science methods of establishing what we plan to do before we do it, we undermine the power of our discipline to offer something distinctly new and useful to research.
The qualitative paradigm of arts-informed research explicitly challenges “logical positivism and technical rationality as the only acceptable guides to explaining human behaviour and understanding” (Cole & Knowles, 2008, p. 59). Arts-informed research methodologies provide tools to probe already established understandings to gain more insights or to examine issues and dilemmas from different perspectives. There are several defining elements of arts-informed research including: a commitment to a particular art form; methodological integrity; the creative inquiry process; the presence of the researcher; reflexivity; and relationship with the audience (Cole & Knowles, 2008).
This paper will examine the integrity and authenticity of arts-informed research through an exploration of recent exemplars, both nationally and internationally, to present the transformative potential and educative possibilities of arts-based research, not just for the researcher but also for those who are an integral part of the research.