NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Practice-led Research and the Myth of Rigour

The process of determining creative works as rigorous productions of new knowledge is complex. As artists-academics, we assert that practice-led research is distinct from other disciplinary research, in the very form of rigour and evaluation processes in which these creative works require … We therefore, emphasise creative research as holding its own creative rigour, encompassing complex intersections of academy and industry.

By Mark Scholtes and Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz

The process of determining creative works as rigorous productions of new knowledge is complex. As artists-academics, we assert that practice-led research is distinct from other disciplinary research, in the very form of rigour and evaluation processes in which these creative works require. Contextually, our premise is underpinned by broader university implications of creative research being measured against the criteria of traditional research, with its quality metrics often preferencing the Sciences (Eisner 2015). We therefore, emphasise creative research as holding its own creative rigour, encompassing complex intersections of academy and industry.



For the practice-led researcher to be successful, they need to possess not only a highly nuanced and rigorous research practice, but to mirror that rigour in their creative practice, and their ability to publicly exploit the outcomes of creative practice.

Typically, the notion of rigour in research is linked to the readers’ ability to audit the processes and actions of the researcher in light of their outcomes (Meyrick, 2006). Traditional research comes with long established expectations for how these processes and actions are framed, in order to make the methods of research as transparent and open to scrutiny as possible (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005).  For the practice-led researcher, the very nature of situating an enquiry within the researcher’s own creative practice begins to blur existing lines established by more traditional forms of qualitative research. While the parallels remain clear to the practitioner, they are not always as evident to the outsider.

Situating practice-led research in academia, creative works are presented as institutional artefacts that are conceptually and theoretically anchored in their creative enquiry (Barrett and Bolt 2003). However, these creative artefacts also offer discoveries that are intuitive-based, experiential and subjective in their personal artistic agency. This personal agency, can carry its own criticality that takes on a broader socio-cultural resonance (Rogoff, 2008). This research skill-base can be rigorous too, as it requires, an astute intuitive and idiosyncratic self-knowledge involving risk-taking as a means of exploring the unknown (in a creative form that may also be not known). In contextualising this often unpredictable and slippery creative platform for exploring the unknown, Berridge (2006, p. 3) states: “this in-between, risky space is one where anything can happen, yet it is bounded by the rules of academe.”  If risky enough, creative research can also challenge the status quo (Freeman 2007) and expand its very notions of creative rigour, across academic and industry contexts.



Along with the shared emphasis between art making and research practice, creative research is interconnected with industry as an indicator of the creative works’ rigour, impact and esteem. Practice-led research often requires the researcher to maintain a high level of professional creative practice, and to subject that practice to a different set of expectations from industry and audience. This brings with it additional layers of review that simply do not apply to traditional research. In turn, the commercial impact and success of these research outcomes are measured by the academy as key ERA metric for assigning value. This means that for the practice-led researcher to be successful, they need to possess not only a highly nuanced and rigorous research practice, but to mirror that rigour in their creative practice, and their ability to publicly exploit the outcomes of creative practice.  



Creative rigour is multifaceted as it entails the act, critical application and artistic embodiment of the making processes. It is from this nuanced space that research discoveries are realised in the form of creative artefacts … practice-led research outcomes provoke critical discourse from both academia and industry, challenging and validating the very notion of creative rigor in practice-led research.

To address resistance to the idea that creative practice can take on a critical form, we re-assert the importance of our conceptualisation of a creative rigour within the context of practice-led research. The complexity of creative rigour is aligned with practice-led research occurring or revealing itself in the process of the artist’s creating; in the very act of doing (Haseman, 2006), or “knowing through making” (Mäkelä 2007). This method of performativity becomes the enactment of not a singular but of differing realities (John Law & John Urry in Berridge, 2006). We therefore, argue that creative rigour is multifaceted as it entails the act, critical application and artistic embodiment of the making processes. It is from this nuanced space that research discoveries are realised in the form of creative artefacts. In turn, via the public exposure and reception of these artefacts, practice-led research outcomes provoke critical discourse from both academia and industry, challenging and validating the very notion of creative rigour in practice-led research. 



Barrett, E., & Bolt, B. (eds). (2008) A performative paradigm for creative arts? Working papers in art and design 5.  Retrieved from: 

Berridge, S. (2006). Arts-based Research and the Creative PhD. Canberra; University of Canberra. Retrieved from: 

Dean, R. & Smith, H. (Eds.) (2011). Practice-led research, research-led practice in the creative arts. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. 

Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.), The sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed.) (pp. 1–32). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc. 

Eisner, E. (2015). What can education learn from the arts?  Retrieved from:

Freedman, K. (2007). Artmaking/troublemaking: creativity, policy, and leadership in art education. Studies in Art Education48(2), 204-217. Retrieved from:

Haseman, B. (2006). A manifesto for performative research, Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy, Theme issue ‘Practice-led Research,’ No.118: 98-106 

Mäkelä, M. (2007) Knowing through making: the role of the artefact in practice-led research. Knowledge and Policy, 20(3):157–163. 

Meyrick, J. (2006). What is good qualitative research: A first step towards a comprehensive approach to judging rigour/quality. Journal of Health Psychology, 11(5) 799–808. doi: 10.1177/1359105306066643 

Rogoff, I. (2008). What is a theorist? In J. Elkins, & M. Newman, M. (Eds.), The State of Art Criticism, New York; London: Routledge, 97–110.  

Schippers, H. (2007). The marriage of art and academia – Challenges and opportunities for music research in practice-based environments. Dutch Journal of Music Theory, 12(1), 34–40.

 Mark Scholtes is an ARIA nominated and APRA award-winning songwriter and recording artist. He was the first Australian artist to record for the legendary Verve record label, and his career to date has included collaborations with multiple Grammy winning producer Tommy LiPuma (Barbra Streisand, George Benson, Miles Davis), Grammy Life Time Achievement recipient and noted veteran engineer Al Schmitt (Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson), and multiple Grammy winning producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Tracy Chapman). Mark also works as an academic at the University of Southern Queensland, where he specialises in Songwritng and Music Production. 

Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz  specialises in Sculpture and is the Interim Associate Head (Research) in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Southern Queensland. She is a contemporary artist with substantial cross-university practice-led research experience in the arts. Her projects like Dark Rituals (2018-19), Antipods (2015), Tales Within Historical Spaces (2012) have secured key funding including Australia Council for the Arts (2018) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research (2015) and Arts Queensland (2011). Batorowicz has published in Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (2018) and Australian Art Education (2017) and is also a recipient of two USQ Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2016, 2018).  



More from this issue

More from this issue

I would like to explore the myth that creative artists cannot play a part in the major debates of our society. For years we have been writing, talking and presenting on what the creative arts are and how they can work in the university system … Although there is much more to do, we might be able to change course a little. I believe that we do not need to justify ourselves as much now and that we should instead address the pressing issues of our world to fulfil one of the historical roles of the creative artist,

With current trends and transformations towards an increasingly dynamic mediascape and disruptive innovations, there has never been a better time for Creative Arts research. As the new marketplace for immersive technologies and entertainment at the Marché du Film, Cannes XR demonstrates, graduates who have an understanding of how to apply their emerging media and screen production skills into creative concepts, will have a number of prospects in the job market internationally.

Now most art & design programmes have been usurped into a graduate model there is impetus for academic institutions to quantify and rank creative enquiry through endorsing practice based research outputs. In many cases, universities that champion the modality of valuing of the practice based method do so as something innovative and pioneering … adopting this approach as novel is to ignore a millennia of practices and investigations that adopt a practice based research methodology and as such devalue the approach by presenting it as up-to-the-minute rather than a valid and time honoured technique.

Myths and stereotypes surround all disciplinary groups to some extent. Images of mad scientists in white lab coats destined for careers in shiny new corporate buildings owned by SPECTRE are acknowledged as cartoon fictions, as is the belief that starvation in an attic is essential training for a good artist.