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PARIP Symposium
10 - 11 November 2001 | University of Bristol

©University of Bristol: Peter Metelerkamp


What is practice as research? How might we construct practice as and practice-based research in terms of ‘originality’ and ‘a contribution to knowledge’? What constitutes a ‘substantial new insight’? Does it reside in new performance modes or in the research imperatives informing the work?

Rapporteur: Dan Rebellato, University of London, Royal Holloway

It was agreed that to preserve the value and meaning of the notion of research, it was important to define practice as research. It was clear from the group that it is not acceptable to say something is research simply because you believe it to be the case. The group also thought that there’s an important distinction between practice as research and practice. One of key distinctions is to some extent governed by university norms and we need to fit in with what the academy demands of research. Traditional research is an original contribution of knowledge, and originality is demonstrable within the research through the academic apparatus of bibliography, abstract, literature review, citations, etc. All of this is made manifest in traditional research but not necessarily made manifest in performance or other forms of practice. Therefore, it seems necessary to insist that making the decision that something is practice as research imposes on you a set of protocols, as Simon Shepherd termed it, which fall into: 1) the point that you must necessarily have a set of separable, demonstrable, research findings that are abstractable, not simply locked into the experience of performing it; and 2) it has to be such an abstract, which is supplied with the piece of practice, which would set out the originality of piece, set it in an appropriate context, and makes it useful to the wider research community.


Caroline Rye: The phrase ‘to some extent’ is telling. What are the other extents?

DR: I suppose that softens the blow. By the end of the meeting we agreed that it should be entirely governed. Practice as research has to be governed by university norms.

Robin Nelson: But those protocols aren’t fixed. They are institutionalized and it’s no good having an idealistic aim without recognizing that. We need to move them on but recognize their existence. Originality we found a problematic term — conceptual frameworks are perhaps useful.

Christopher Bannerman: The notion of being of use to the community might be dangerous as it frames a utilitarian notion of research. It also places us in the context of a culturally constructed notion of community, which negates potential future use of practice as research in different context.

DR: I only chaired, but might we say that this formulation — that makes you a candidate to be of value — is a minimal claim. We all know that you can still get a PhD that is original, which no one reads.

John Adams: We haven’t really looked at professional, practice-based PhDs in this context, as they are currently attracting funding.

Unidentified speaker: This isn’t just the question of PhD research — we were looking at research generally.

Unidentified speaker: Also, there are retrospective PhDs for published work, not framed as a research project. What are the implications in the context of practice as research?

Christopher Bannerman: That‘s my comment about ‘of use to community’ — beyond the PhD.

©University of Bristol: Peter Metelerkamp

Workshop Home

Transcribed by Angela Piccini, 1 February 2002


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