Volume 14 Issue 2 (2018)
Main Articles

To Write or Not to Write? The Contested Nature and Role of Writing in Arts Practice Research

Helen Phelan
University of Limerick
Mary Nunan
University of Limerick
Published February 1, 2019
  • arts practice research,
  • autoethnography,
  • creative writing,
  • epistemic practice,
  • narrative inquiry,
  • practice-based research,
  • reflexive journaling
  • ...More


One of the most contested areas of arts practice research concerns the nature and role of writing. For many artist-scholars, research predicated on artistic practice does not require written contextualization. For those who engage in writing, questions as to the nature, mode, register, and purpose of writing abound. The growing body of publications addressing this question illustrates two broad responses. On the one hand, the ethnographic tradition attempts to capture phenomenological aspects of the artistic and reflexive experience. On the other, writing itself is approached as an integral part (a generative strand) of an artist’s creative process. In this article, the development of arts practice research at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland is reviewed and it serves as a point of departure to discuss an engagement with writing that invites a dialogue between ethnographic and generative approaches, the balance of which is ultimately decided by the research question, and the approach taken to answer the question.