The phrase ‘Research in the Arts’ demonstrates the importance of chosen preposition in shaping the wider debate of practice research. A preposition indicates the nature of relation; it is a word that tells you where or when something is in relation to something else – for example the choice of preposition determines how one understands the relation between research and art. Consider the following prepositions: about, into, through, for, on, in. In his 1993 paper "Research in Art and Design”, Christopher Frayling identified three categories for arts research: research into art (e.g. historical, aesthetic or perceptual research), research through art (e.g. materials research, development work, action research), and research for art (e.g. visual, iconic or imagistic communication). Henk Borgdorff, in his book The Conflict of the Faculties (2012) employs this trichotomy, but with a twist: (a) research on the arts, (b) research for the arts, and (c) research in the arts. “Research on the arts is research that has art practice in the broadest sense of the word as its object. [...] Research for the arts can be described as applied research in a narrow sense. In this type, art is not so much the object of investigation, but its objective. [...] Research in the arts [...] concerns research that does not assume the separation of subject and object, and does not observe a distance between the researcher and the practice of art. Instead, the artistic practice itself is an essential component of both the research process and the research results.” Borgdorff, 2012, p.96
Drawn from ‘Art as Research’ section of James Bulley & Özden Şahin (eds.) Practice Research - Report 1: What is practice research? and Report 2: How can practice research be shared?. (London: PRAG-UK, 2021), p.20.