Investigation and research through practice

Practice-led and practice-based research

What is practice-based research?

In context of creative arts, practice-based research is an approach to research that involves creative practice and the reflection on the outcomes of that practice. For example, the outcomes may involve art and drawing, music, poetry, performance, or other creative making. Inquiry and observations are critically documented and combine with the artefacts, the outcomes of practice, to help prompt new thinking, help generate new ideas and new insight. This knowledge and understanding may implicate new creative practice for researchers and for others. In practice-based research, the outcomes form part of the research.

What is practice-led research?

Candy (2006a) describes the main difference between practice-based and practice-led as the latter can be documented wholly in written language, documenting investigation into practice, where the practice does not form part of the final documented research. However, the phrases practice-based and practice-led are often interchangeable and both are about practice informing inquiry that informs further practice. Practice-led research is about gaining new knowledge about a given practice and that practice is a component of the research.

Christopher Frayling (1993 p8) comments that creative research is beneficial, it is, ‘nourishment for the practice and teaching of art, craft and design’. He is enthusiastic about practice research but qualifies the difference between research for personal practice and professional academic research. He continues to define three categories of art practice research; research into art and design, research through art and design, and research for art and design

It is also relevant to distinguish between personal research and academic research. Academic research is for sharing, being critiqued; it will be a transferable contribution to knowledge for a professional community rather than personal motivation, and expression.

Candy (2006b) summarises, ‘If a creative artefact is the basis of the contribution to knowledge, the research is practice-based. If the research leads primarily to new understandings about practice, it is practice-led.’


Candy, L., (2006a) Practice based research: a guide [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 18 April 2019] p2

Candy, L., (2006b) Practice based research: a guide [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 18 April 2019] p3

Frayling, C., (1993) Research in Art and Design [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 23 April 2019]