Whilst there is a long informal history of artistic practice research, its formalisation within academic institutions is relatively young. Whilst doctoral projects involving practice were emerging from the 1970s in the UK, it is really in the 1990s that the momentum for practice research begins to gather – through public funding; an increase in individuals undertaking PhDs; changes to the structure of UK higher education, where former polytechnics became universities and practice research began to be included in research assessment exercises, alongside the emergence of a burgeoning discourse generated through events and publications. So, on the one hand, as a field of enquiry and expertise, practice research is still relatively new and emerging, especially compared to the much longer histories within other fields. On the other hand, it is not new – there is an established landscape of practice, discourse, debate which one is already situated within as soon as one begins a practice research project. However, over its relatively recent history, a complex network of terms has emerged for describing practice research, each of which has its own specific flavour or inflexion: including Research in the Arts, Practice-based research, Practice-led research, Practice as research, Thinking through Art, Arts-based research, Artistic Research, Performative Research, Research creation and more.....


Whilst ‘practice research’ is an attempt (in part by the Practice Research Advisory Group, PRAG-UK) to propose an umbrella term to gather and identify the commonalities within this rather messy and muddled landscape of affiliated terms, it can also be helpful to understand something of the flavour of the different terms, as their meanings can differ and are nuanced. For the individual researcher, whilst Practice Research could be used to describe the overall strategy, the literature and language related to specific terms may well have more or less resonance and relevance. Accordingly, getting a sense of the nuance of these various terms can help focus one's field of reference, the specificity of one's context and help identify an approach for navigating this ever-expanding field.