Practice-Based Research Review

Michael Biggs and Daniela Büchler
Supervision in an alternative paradigm
In this paper we express our framing of supervision as preparation and training for
professional practice as a researcher, rather than the culmination of tertiary education.
Instead of discussing the supervisory activity, performance and best practice, we focus on
the uniqueness of practice as a researcher in the creative arts as being constituted by an
emerging and novel research paradigm. We develop the theoretical framework of Guba
and Lincoln, contrasting their use of the term ‘paradigm’ with that of Kuhn. We identify
research in the creative arts as being a so-called ‘alternative paradigm’ but having its own
unique characteristics. However, we claim that these characteristics are not discretionary
but related to generic characteristics of research. By developing Guba and Lincoln’s
model, we argue that the characteristics of research in the creative arts cannot simply be
translated or inferred from the characteristics of research in cognate disciplines, but must
be derived from the worldview and values of the arts community. This involves
identifying both generic and discipline-specific characteristics. We claim that the
discipline-specific characteristics reflect the values that are found in professional practice,
and the generic characteristics reflect the values that are found in academic research
across disciplines.
As a result of establishing criteria for the evaluation of activities as research in a novel
paradigm such as the creative arts, we present a critical framework for thesis production
that facilitates the inclusion of the researcher’s own creative work in the doctoral study. A
number of issues arising from the experience of the authors as supervisors and examiners
are discussed. Finally, a template for a seven-chapter thesis in the creative arts is
proposed, which addresses common problems such as weaknesses in the single-case
study approach and researcher bias in participant-observation studies.

Special Issue Website Series
Number 6 October 2009

Supervising the Creative Arts Research Higher Degree:
Towards Best Practice

Edited by Donna Lee Brien and Rosemary Williamson

Future-Proofing the Creative Arts in Higher Education
Scoping for Quality in Creative Arts Doctoral Programs

Project Final Report


5.8 Supervision

5.8.1 Allocation of Supervisors

The most common approach to the allocation of supervisors reported by the interviewees was for the postgraduate coordinator and the head of school or the associate dean of research to determine the supervision of doctoral candidates. To some extent, from the responses gained through interviews, it appears that the procedure used reflects the size of the doctoral cohort at the school.

Some schools allocate supervisors at a committee level, whereby the postgraduate coordinator consults with the research higher degrees committee, committee of graduate studies or equivalent. It was suggested that this approach facilitates the consideration of implications for the school such as the mentoring of less experienced supervisors, professional development, and more broadly the impact on the future directions of the school. The formal allocation procedure is usually preceded by informal contact between the potential candidate and supervisor/s and a formal interview in which a potential supervisor may participate. Several interviewees indicated a preference for a potential supervisor to be a member of the interview panel:

It’s important to have the proposed supervisor in the interview, so you actually get a commitment from that person – so that if we offer the applicant a place in the program, this proposed supervisor will actually take them on. And I think that’s a very effective method. I think it’s much better than accepting people into a program and then trying to find a supervisor who may or may not be suited. (PG Coordinator Future-Proofing the Creative Arts in Higher Education interview)

How to pass the sight test

Times Higher Education 15 July 2010

Keep it visual, asserts Peter Hill. It is imperative that candidates for studio-based arts PhDs present their research using the physicality of their chosen medium

// Since America finally entered the debate about studio-based PhDs in the visual arts, books, magazine articles and conference halls have been filled with discussion on the topic. Every conceivable point of view has been put forward: some urge a total rethink of the whole university system, in addition to the art school’s place within it; others urge an expansion of how we define research; and yet others, such as Robert Storr at Yale University, deny that artists do, or should do, research at all.

Full article at:

Practice Based Research: A Guide

Linda Candy
Creativity & Cognition Studios
University of Technology, Sydney
CCS Report: 2006-V1.0 November


This document characterises practice-related research for the general reader and research student.
There are two types of practice related research: practice-based and practice-led:
1. If a creative artefact is the basis of the contribution to knowledge, the research is
2. If the research leads primarily to new understandings about practice, it is practice-led.
Practice-based Research is an original investigation undertaken in order to gain new
knowledge partly by means of practice and the outcomes of that practice. In a doctoral thesis,
claims of originality and contribution to knowledge may be demonstrated through creative
outcomes in the form of designs, music, digital media, performances and exhibitions. Whilst
the significance and context of the claims are described in words, a full understanding can
only be obtained with direct reference to the outcomes.
Practice-led Research is concerned with the nature of practice and leads to new knowledge
that has operational significance for that practice. In a doctoral thesis, the results of practiceled
research may be fully described in text form without the inclusion of a creative work. The
primary focus of the research is to advance knowledge about practice, or to advance
knowledge within practice. Such research includes practice as an integral part of its method
and often falls within the general area of action research.
The primary focus of this document is on practice-based research but there is much that is
relevant to practice-led research also. It begins with a discussion of the basic concepts in the
context of a doctoral research programme followed by a brief historical overview of the field.
The generic structure of a practice-based doctoral thesis is then outlined with a short
description of the expected content of each chapter. Further sections include a discussion of
the nature of knowledge in the context of doctoral research, a set of frequently asked
questions, some definitions of key terms, a bibliography and web sources.

New Variant PhD: The changing nature of the doctorate in the UK

Chris Park*
Lancaster University, UK

Since the early twentieth century the PhD has been the research degree of choice in the UK, but
traditional ideas and practices relating to the degree are now being challenged. This paper sketches
out the main drivers of change and explores the main challenges confronting doctoral study
within the UK. It explains why there is a need for a wholesale revision of assumptions and
expectations about what the PhD is, and it charts the genesis and evolution of the PhD in
the UK. Key drivers for change include a new emphasis on skills and training, submission
rates and quality of supervision, changes in the examination of the thesis, and the introduction
of national benchmarking. The paper then explores changes in the PhD as product and as
process, and outlines how and why new forms of doctorate are emerging. It asks, rhetorically,
whether the changing nature of the doctorate reflects adaptation to changing circumstances in
order to survive.


Art and Design Practice-Based Research Degree Supervision Some empirical findings

John Hockey

University of Gloucestershire, UK

Little is known empirically about the supervision of practice-based research degree students in Art and Design. Drawing on qualitative interview data with 50 supervisors, this article portrays some of their routine practices, conceptualizing them as an ongoing craft, which, whilst theoretically informed, is foremost a practical activity learned by trial and error. The article concludes by stressing the essentially tacit nature of these craft practices, and advocates the development of an adequately resourced programme of mentorship, so as to facilitate the transmission of good practice between experienced and novice supervisors.

Key Words: art • degrees • design • doctorates • research • supervision

Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Vol. 2, No. 2, 173-185 (2003)
DOI: 10.1177/1474022203002002005


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: