What is Arts Research?


What is Arts Research? cover

Despite its long and richly textured history, arts research is still relatively new to many academic departments and disciplines. This research brief draws on full-text responses from 444 faculty, staff, and academic leadership to answer the question, What do you understand arts research to be?” A synthesis of those responses provided seven facets (or categories) of arts and design-driven research to span new ways of knowing, acting, experiencing, and inspiring the mission of the research university. These categories can facilitate clearer communication and understanding.

For many practitioners, arts research is neither a formalized nor a codified process; it can take many paths. And because it can mean different things to different people, defining arts research’ is a spectacular opportunity to create shared awareness, understanding and practice. The work here does not seek to describe an authoritative definition for arts research that can encompass all creative and scholarly pursuits. Nor does this research brief seek to advance a scholarly review of the subject. Instead, this work seeks to add to our understanding of how faculty, administrators, and students think about arts research within the institutional context of research universities.


  • Modes & Motivations
  • Paths and Branches
  • What is Arts Research?
  • Practice-Led
  • Creating and Disseminating New Culture
  • Human-Centered
  • Engagement
  • Humanistic Scholarship and Social Scientific Research About the Arts
  • The Arts and Design in the Context of Academic Research Culture
  • Design Research
  • Topic Insights and Comparisons
  • Methods and Interpretation Notes
  • A SAMPLE OF Books and articles about Arts Research
  • Follow-Up Questions for Study, Understanding, and Application
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