21st century education
Framing a Research Question

Framing a Research Question

Here is a MOOC, still in its first week, which may be of interest to re/act and re/search regulars. https://www.coursera.org/course/researchmethods This MOOC is more academic in outlook than the Practice Based Research in the Arts MOOC recently hosted by NovoEd. However it is just as important. By framing the research question and placing it in context of existing research it provides the structure for the more tangental/lateral thought PBR course to sit on. For many institutions PBR is still relatively new and as such it receives relatively little acknowledgement and support. If we want to argue for the discipline we are part, of regardless of the media we use ,we need to be visible not just in practice but also in debate. As much of the content of this MOOC comes through peer conversations it is a perfect opportunity to not just hone research skills but to also debate PBR in a wider sphere. If you do check it out and you sign up don’t forget to tag all your posts ‘practice based research’ so that we can find each other. Hopefully see you in class.


  1. At Hugh’s invitation, I have been checking out this course. It looks basic, and as a result, I’ve found it useful already! I’m trying to think how I might research Ysidora Pico de Forster in a more systematic, less idiosyncratic way. I guess I’m trying to figure out how to present the research in a less “tangental/lateral” manner (Hugh’s phrase). Ysidora Pico de Forster served as the impetus for the “What’s on [My] Mind?” and #1850charla, performances that I presented in February/March 2014, which I commenced working on with the Blueberries during the 2013 PBRA NovoED course. As an artist, researching in tangential and lateral manners is comfortable, normal. The question I used for the PRRA might not be a good question to use for a more traditional research project: “How does [my] being born into a historically significant, multi-racial family which presents as white, or “passes” mean beyond my immediate sphere of existence?” So right now, I’m trying to create a question that is significant and relevant that lets me continue researching Ysidora for myself but also for others’ benefit.

    1. Hi Michael, I posted some thoughts after Christa’s post. Looking forward to seeing your question and understanding more of your work. Please link me in.

      Hugh McElveen
  2. Hi Christa, Hugh, Michael! This sounds really great. I fantasized joining you all for a minute there… but I’m helping Edie & Izzy out with MOOC Magazine… and so, haha, I’m now too busy documenting a past MOOC to actually take a new one! 😛

    The ideas & tools here sound helpful and I like the questions Christa is trying to frame. I hope you all will post whatever you like from the course here on .Re/search or over on .Re/act. It might be samples of your in-process work or your conclusions at the end, or whatever you like.

    Hugh, you wrote “if we want to argue for the discipline we are part of…” and I’m actually mixed on this. I DID like the work we did in PBR a lot! And your present MOOC also sounds valuable. But I also see PBR as the roadmap for turning Studio Art from an MFA program into a PhD program, and at least for myself, I’m less certain about that.

  3. PBR is definitely a solution to turn MFA into PhD and in other programs structures it is part of the solution supplemented by more traditional academic research methods. The variety of texts we as Practice Based Research Practitioners use to inform a position for our work is still prejudiced against in ‘mainstream’ academia. The phrase ‘Literature Review’ is a perfect example of this bias. Because of this, we need to adapt traditional methods for our own purpose so that PBR can occupy the same platform and status as other disciplines. You may think this is a paranoid inferiority complex but this is becoming increasingly important in the globalised higher education space. In this space faculties are being required to increasingly justify the return on investment and the Fine Arts (in whatever media) is still seen as a less intellectual pursuit. Branch campuses are frequently established with financial considerations and the faculties follow. Where I live, the Gulf Cooperation Countries are a perfect example of this. In established universities (developed nations) the humanities are under increasing funding pressure as they have less industrial avenues to attract research funding. I think its over egging it to say the very survival of the arts depends on applying traditional research methods but I think we do have to be part of the conversation. As Dr Strangeglove said “How I learned to love the bomb.”

    My assignment course post for this week discussed this academic prejudice against the fine arts and how it is out of step with developments other areas. (it’s a bit clipped the word count was a tight 200)

    Title: Summary & critical analysis of Booth’s alternative main point’s unwitting testimony: The implied prejudice of Literature Review vs Text/Multimedia Review.

    “Booth makes many valid points and gives literature reviews (LR) context. However, for this researcher the main point isn’t what’s explicitly stated, but what’s unwittingly implied.

    For Practice Based Researchers in the Arts (PBRiA) the word literature is as problematic as the word ‘review’* is for many of the video contributors. Literature implies the only texts worth considering are written. The week one’s introductory video stated, research output takes many forms and the use of different media is increasing. It makes sense, if the output varies this will in turn affect the input from texts for future LR. LR should therefore be text/multimedia review.

    As a PBRiA, my texts include photographs, film, websites, graphics, writings, audio, drawing, land art, painting, theatre and whatever else will stand up to scrutiny, providing me with the required information. With more media sources we can better triangulate the data/evidence and produce more reasoned arguments.

    Once we have the texts how do we interpret, triangulate and sythesise them? Discourse analysis is a useful tool in LR and text/multimedia review. A good starting point is Machin and Mayr. How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis: a Multimodal Approach. Ironically this progressive book was also published in 2012.”

    *Many of the guest presenters felt the word ‘review’ did not reflect a critical engagement with the text.

    Hugh McElveen

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