Arts-informed research is a mode and form of qualitative research that is influenced by, but not based in, the arts. The methodology infuses the languages, processes, and forms of literary, visual, and performing arts into scholarly inquiry for purposes of advancing knowledge. The main purposes of arts-informed research are: to enhance understanding of the complexities of the human condition through alternative processes and representational forms of inquiry; and to reach multiple audiences by making scholarship more accessible.
Companion research methodologies include: arts-based research, art-based inquiry, a/r/tography, image-based research, visual ethnography, lyric inquiry, and so on. Within education this movement of methodological innovation gained momentum and inspiration from Elliot Eisner who, in his 1993 Presidential Address to the American Educational Research Association speculated about the future of educational research witnessing an expanding array of research methods to acknowledge and account for the range of forms and modes of understanding that comprise human development.
Bringing together the systematic and rigorous qualities of research with the artistic, disciplined, and imaginative qualities of the arts acknowledges the power of art forms to reach diverse audiences and the importance of multiple and diverse languages and processes to gain rich and deep insights into human experience and the social condition. Tied to moral purpose, arts-informed research is an explicit attempt to make a difference through research in the lives of ordinary citizens and in the thinking and decisions of policy makers, politicians, legislators, and other key decision makers. Bringing art into research makes it possible to connect the work of the academy with the life and lives of communities through research that is accessible, evocative, embodied, empathic, and provocative. The defining elements of arts-informed research are generally guided by the questions: How can inspiration from the arts inform the conceptualization of research efforts? How do the arts inform the research process? and, How do the arts inform the research representation?
Companion research methodologies emphasizing the role of the arts in advancing understanding reflect subtle but significant perspective- or discipline-based differences. Taken together, however, all of these arts-related approaches share a common conviction and belief in the power of the arts to deepen understandings of and commitments to social concerns and human experience.
The Mount Saint Vincent University Library and the Arts-informed research group at Mount Saint Vincent University would like to thank Jaimie Fedorak, who created the initial verison of this Libguide as part of her practicum with the Dalhousie School of Information Management, and with input from the Arts-informed research group.