Research on Research

I decided to take a diversion in my reading to research on research, before continuing my research – I mentioned the spark for this in my previous entry. I am looking for a coherent strategy for approaching the BoW and contextual studies components, good practices for academic research in the visual arts, and how this blog might support that. A process not explicitly covered in the course materials. Here, I summarise my thoughts having read through three books – different styles of book on a subject that could influence my way of thinking for this course.

Visualising Research (Gray and Malins) is mainly concerned with post-graduate research, but its focus on research in art and design, and the relationship between visual practice and academic writing makes it a valuable source of process information (even if post-grad content has a different emphasis). How to write your undergraduate dissertation (Greetham) is covers the basics comprehensively and offers checklists (not a personal favourite) to help the student cover the basis. However, it does not deal with art and design and the issue of combining a body of work and art practice with a dissertation. Doing a literature review: releasing the social science research imagination (Hart) targets the literature review and is again aimed at postgraduate students, but offers useful ideas on approaching and reading research.

  • Contextual review – ‘literature review’ is a traditional term when research was based on paper (Gray and Malins, p14), but is a misnomer / misleading when it involves information in a wide range of media (including not textual). I will now use the term ‘contextual review’.
  • Practice-based research – it’s important to me that there is a direct connection between my BoW and the ‘contextual studies aspect’. One should make sense of the other, or else I’m not making the most of the study opportunity. To bring the two aspects together – the practice and the conceptual – and have a dialogue about them Gray and Malins (p59) suggest that a reflective journal is the space. I suppose what the OCA call a ‘learning log’ (not a distinguishing term). I will create a section of this blog as a ‘reflective journal’ that will be distinct from ‘contextual review’ section noted below.
  • Classifying and analysing research – I’ve logged sources in ‘Zotero’ but haven’t explored approaches to making connections and analysis in the tool. Also, I have not yet included non-textual content in Zotero – confirming that I’ve not yet integrated the visual with the textual! I chose Zotero as it will generate a ‘research folder’ that can be shared for assessment. However, this has diverted me from my preferred mindmap analysis. I’ll find a way of re-incorporating them.
  • Organisation of content – I’ve organised Zotero around course content and assignments, which was already creaking during the literature review. I will rearrange the literature/contextual review into topic-based sections and sub-sections to allow systematic connections between different media. This will also make the mapping of connections more explicit.
  • Relationship between literature review and dissertation – the review provides a survey of the literature (and context) that underpins the dissertation – it is evidence of research. My research will extend beyond the initial literature review (A2), so it makes sense that this may need to be updated prior to final assessment / submission, otherwise it won’t substantiate the dissertation. I will use a separate blog section ‘contextual review’ to capture update notes, as work progresses.
  • Research proposal – this is usually a requirement prior to proceeding with a dissertation or other type of research. While OCA course does not specifically require this, but the outline essay (A3) can be used for a similar purpose – a plan of what will be covered along with objectives.
  • Reading to review – I’ve fallen into the habit of too detailed reading, distracted by areas that are interesting but not necessarily relevant. I’ll read ‘analytically’ – effectively using the ‘speed reading’ techniques learned from Tony Buzan in the past.


Gray, C. and Malins, J. (2004) Visualizing research: a guide to the research process in art and design. Aldershot, Hants, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
Greetham, B. (2009) How to write your undergraduate dissertation. Basingstoke [England] ; New York: Palgrave Macmillam.
Hart, C. (1998) Doing a literature review: releasing the social science research imagination. London: Sage Publications.