Arts-based Methods in Socially Engaged Research Practice: A Classification Framework


  • Qingchun Wang KU Leuven (University of Leuven)
  • Sara Coemans KU Leuven (University of Leuven)
  • Richard Siegesmund Northern Illinois University
  • Karin Hannes KU Leuven (University of Leuven)



Arts-based research, Socially engaged research, Qualitative methodology, Literature review, Classification


Arts-based research has recently gained an increasing popularity within qualitative inquiry. It is applied in various disciplines, including health, psychology, education, and anthropology. Arts-based research uses artistic forms and expressions to explore, understand, represent, and even challenge human experiences. In this paper we aim to create order in the messy field of artistically inspired methods of socially engaged research. We review literature to establish study and distinguished three major categories for classifying arts-based research: research about art, art as research, and art in research. We further identify five main forms of arts-based research: visual art, sound art, literary art, performing art, and new media. Relevant examples of socially engaged research are provided to illustrate how different artistic methods are used within the forms identified. This classification framework provides artists and researchers a general introduction to arts-based research and helps them to better position themselves and their projects in a field in full development.

Author Biographies

Qingchun Wang, KU Leuven (University of Leuven)

Qingchun Wang is a PhD student affiliated to the Faculty of Social Sciences (social research methodology group) of KU Leuven. Her research interest is in the development of qualitative research methods, mainly in the area of visual research methods. She currently plugs her methodological experiments into a series of studies on acculturation processes of international students.

Centre for Sociological Research,

Faculty of Social Sciences,

KU Leuven,

Parkstraat 45  - box 3601, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.

Tel: +32 16 32 33 09.



Sara Coemans, KU Leuven (University of Leuven)

Sara Coemans is a PhD student affiliated to the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (laboratory for education and society) of KU Leuven. She explores the potential of arts-based and multi-sensory methods for community-based research projects. Her focus is on the relationship between people and their environment.

Education, Culture and Society Research Group,

Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences,

KU Leuven,

Andreas Vesaliusstraat 2, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.

Tel:  +32 16 37 31 50.



Richard Siegesmund, Northern Illinois University

Richard Siegesmund is a visual artist and associate professor at the School of Art, Northern Illinois University. He resided at the Faculty of Social Sciences, KU Leuven in the period the paper was produced. His research interest is in articulating methods and methodologies of visual inquiry. He is particularly interested in curricular applications in K-12 schools and assessment strategies that meaningfully report student growth and learning. 

Karin Hannes, KU Leuven (University of Leuven)

Karin Hannes is associate professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences (social research methodology group) of KU Leuven. Her main research interest is in developing, applying, and refining approaches to qualitative research. She is most known for her academic contributions in the area of qualitative evidence synthesis. Centre for Sociological Research,

Faculty of Social Sciences,

KU Leuven,

Parkstraat 45 - box 3601, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.

tel. +32 16 32 62 20.




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How to Cite

Wang, Q., Coemans, S., Siegesmund, R., & Hannes, K. (2017). Arts-based Methods in Socially Engaged Research Practice: A Classification Framework. Art/Research/International:/A/Transdisciplinary/Journal, 2(2), 5–39.