Rigour could be considered as the depth, detail, thoroughness, and critical robustness inherent in a process of creative enquiry or investigation, as embodied or manifest within the practice that constitutes an output.

In discussing rigour in practice research notions of tacit or embodied knowledge may be important, as discussed by Barrett & Bolt (2007) in relation to Michael Polyani’s work in the 1960s. Polyani’s work is rooted in the idea that ‘we can know more than we can tell’

(Polanyi, 1967, p4), and Barrett & Bolt (2007, p4) discuss how an approach to research which embodies tacit knowledge can have the capacity to innovate by bringing into view ‘particularities that reflect new social and other realities either marginalised or not yet recognised in established social practices and discourses’. They posit that ‘since creative arts research is often motivated by emotional, personal and subjective concerns, it operates not only on the basis of explicit and exact knowledge, but also on that of tacit knowledge.’

Nelson (2013, p52) considers interpretations of rigour in sciences and arts, pointing out that in sciences, ‘questions of rigour in research method and of validity and trustworthiness are […] frequently posed, ignoring the fact that the warrant of that standpoint has itself been called into question’ and that ‘once it is accepted that the methodology of the sciences is not sacrosanct we can begin to consider what constitutes rigour in other warrantable research methodologies’. He posits an ‘iterative process of “doing-reflecting-reading-articulating-doing”’ (ibid., p32), citing Smith and Dean (2009) in suggesting a process comprising ‘cycles of iterative processes which involve an interplay of ‘practice-led research’, ‘research-led practice’ and ‘academic research’ (Nelson, 2013, p45).

Barrett & Bolt (2007, p4) discuss Bourdieu’s logic of practice (1990), and how the ‘alternative logic and processes of practice are subsumed into rational analysis of the product and are thus often forgotten’; they refer to Bourdieu’s examination of the relational aspect of knowledge and that this moves ‘beyond traditional objective/subjective, empirical/hermeneutic binaries’. They suggest that ‘both approaches and categories of knowledge have their place and co-exist. Within this schema, the researcher is required to articulate knowledge which is robust enough to be objective and generalisable, but at the same time accounts for individual subjective thought and action.’ (Grenfell & James, 1998 cited in Barrett & Bolt, 2007, p5).

Borgdorff (2012, p46-7) is concerned to balance process and outcome: ‘art research focuses on art objects and creative processes. This can involve aesthetic, hermeneutic, performative, expressive, and emotive points of view. If the focus of investigation is on the creative process, one should not lose sight of the result of that process – the work of art itself. Both the material content and the immaterial, non-conceptual, and non-discursive contents of creative processes and artistic products may be articulated and communicated in the research study.’

In processes of review and evaluation of research quality, judgments will be made by reviewers about rigour that may need to be substantiated across arts, humanities and science disciplines as part of wide-ranging calibration exercises. In this context, the inclusion of supporting material beyond the output itself may help illuminate elements of rigour inherent in the process and outcome of the research.

Barrett, E. and Bolt, B. eds., 2007/2010. Practice as Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry. London: Tauris.

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

<https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/18704> [Accessed 7 July 2018]

Bourdieu, P. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Stanford University Press.

Grenfell, M. & James, D. 1998. Bourdieu and Education: Acts of Practical Theory. London: Falmer Press.

Nelson, R. 2013. Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Polanyi, M. 1967. The Tacit Dimension. New York: Anchor Books.



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