Context in relation to practice research can be considered as the theoretical and practical framework within which research is taking place. Borgdorff argues that ‘Artistic practices do not stand on their own; they are always situated and embedded. Artworks and artistic actions acquire their meaning in interchange with relevant environments. Research in the arts will remain naive unless it acknowledges and confronts this embeddedness and situatedness in history, in culture (society, economy, everyday life), as well as in the discourse on art; herein lies the merit of relational aesthetics and of all constructivist approaches in artistic research’ (2012, p 165).

The AHRC offers the following guidelines on context when applying for funding: ‘You should describe the research context for your project. Why is it important that these questions or issues are explored? What other research is being or has been conducted in this area? What contribution will your project make to improving, enhancing, or developing creativity, insights, knowledge or understanding in your chosen area of study?’ (AHRC guidelines, 2018, p 77).

Contextualising practice research involves identifying current theory and/or practice within the field of study and detailing gaps that exist. It could also include re-contextualising research, placing it in alternative contexts and frameworks. For Gray and Malins, the research context should highlight how other research has been carried out and what implications there are for the researcher’s chosen methodology and specific methods (2004, p23). Elaborating the research context can demonstrate how the practice, extends, enhances, critically re-works, interprets, synthesises, unfolds, illuminates, or otherwise builds upon existing practices in or beyond the field. A driver for world-leading research as defined by the REF is ‘that research which expands the range and depth of the current research and its application’ (REF 2014 report, p 9). Identifying, naming and claiming a range of pertinent critical and artistic contexts assists the researcher in arguing for how their research makes an original contribution to knowledge (Haseman and Mafe, 2009, p215).

Art and Humanities Research Council, 2018. Research Funding Guide – Version 4.3. Swindon: AHRC. Available at: <; [Accessed 7 July 2018]

Borgdorff, H. 2012. The Conflict of the Faculties: Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia. Leiden: Leiden University Press. Available at:

<; [Accessed 7 July 2018]

Gray, C. & Malins, J. (2004) Visualizing research: a guide to the research process in art and design. Aldershot, Hants, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Haseman and Mafe in Smith, H. & Dean, R. T. (2009) Practice-led research, research-led practice in the creative arts. Research methods for the arts and humanities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

REF, 2015. Research Excellence Framework 2014: Overview report by Main Panel D and Sub-panels 27 to 36. Bristol: REF. Available at: <; [Accessed 7 July 2018]


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