From art for arts sake to art as means of knowing: a rationale for advancing arts-based methods in research, practice and pedagogy

Sally Eaves*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper advances a philosophically informed rationale for the broader, reflexive and practical application of arts-based methods to benefit research, practice and pedagogy. It addresses the complexity and diversity of learning and knowing, foregrounding a cohabitative position and recognition of a plurality of research approaches, tailored and responsive to context. Appreciation of art and aesthetic experience is situated in the everyday, underpinned by multi-layered exemplars of pragmatic visual-arts narrative inquiry undertaken in the third, creative and communications sectors. Discussion considers semi-guided use of arts-based methods as a conduit for topic engagement, reflection and intersubjective agreement; alongside observation and interpretation of organically employed approaches used by participants within daily norms. Techniques span handcrafted (drawing), digital (photography), hybrid (cartooning), performance dimensions (improvised installations) and music (metaphor and structure). The process of creation, the artefact/outcome produced and experiences of consummation are all significant, with specific reflexivity impacts. Exploring methodology and epistemology, both the "doing" and its interpretation are explicated to inform method selection, replication, utility, evaluation and development of cross-media skills literacy. Approaches are found engaging, accessible and empowering, with nuanced capabilities to alter relationships with phenomena, experiences and people. By building a discursive space that reduces barriers; emancipation, interaction, polyphony, letting-go and the progressive unfolding of thoughts are supported, benefiting ways of knowing, narrative (re)construction, sensory perception and capacities to act. This can also present underexplored researcher risks in respect to emotion work, self-disclosure, identity and agenda. The paper therefore elucidates complex, intricate relationships between form and content, the represented and the representation or performance, researcher and participant, and the self and other. This benefits understanding of phenomena including personal experience, sensitive issues, empowerment, identity, transition and liminality. Observations are relevant to qualitative and mixed methods researchers and a multidisciplinary audience, with explicit identification of challenges, opportunities and implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-159
Number of pages13
JournalElectronic Journal of Business Research Methods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

© Author


  • aesthetics
  • arts
  • arts-based research
  • authenticity
  • knowledge
  • polyphony
  • reflexivity
  • visual narrative inquiry


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