Method is Impact is Outputs: Non-linear Approaches to Impact Generation in Practice Research

Some thoughts from applied ethnomusicology and research development offered by Dr Muriel Swijghuisen Reigersberg 

On the 20th May 2016 I had the great pleasure of presenting at the Coventry Impact Summit on practice research and impact. The summit aimed to:

(a) understand how to improve the impact of research;

(b) raise awareness of impact-generating practices and techniques

(c) consider how one might translate this learning into discipline-specific practice in order to deliver stronger impact;

(d) facilitate the sharing of experiences and expertise.

The event happily included a number of representatives working in the arts and humanities as well as interdisciplinary and STEM fields. The audience in attendance was a healthy mixture of academic and professional services staff from a variety of disciplines.

Using non-specialist language, I explored my own academic practice research methodologies in my presentation Method is Impact is Outputs: Non-linear Approaches to Impact Generation to Practice Research. I high-lighted some of the debates that are circulating in practice research spheres, whilst showing that ethnomusicologists can be practice researchers and some of us are especially capable of generating Impact.

Although being affiliated to a Psychology department, I am not a psychologist, but an applied, medical ethnomusicologist: for simplicity’s sake, an anthropologist of music who uses applied, culturally appropriate methods to promote wellbeing through the making of music. Colleagues of mine, particularly in the USA, work on projects related to HIV, Malaria and water sanitation.

I believe that some of our collaborative, performative, ethnographic approaches might be useful to other forms of practice research, as a way of evidencing impact and documenting the research process.

My own research question was: How does Christian choral singing impact on the construction of Australian Aboriginal identities? To answer my question, I facilitated an Indigenous Australian choir in Hopevale, Cape York in Australia, singing at prisons, Indigenous rehabilitation centres, for tourist audiences and for community events as well as regional artistic ventures, such as the Queensland Music Festival. We performed. We practiced together, and I researched with the help of my singers. I found that if done in culturally appropriate ways, choral singing has a positive impact on identity constructs. It showed the wider world that, in the words of one of my singers: ‘more than drunks come out of Hopevale’.

The choir and I appeared on radio and in the local news. We even made a little bit of income which was set aside in the bank for future choir initiatives.

My method: choral facilitation, led to outputs: performances, concerts and rehearsals, a radio appearance, mentions in the local news and invitations to perform at festivals.

The impact: wellbeing for the singers and their relatives in rehab or prison and a heightened awareness of Australian Aboriginal diversity amongst tourist audiences in Outback Australia.

About my impact: impact did not occur after my research. It occurred during my research and in turn led to new questions arising. The Impact was non-linear. This non-linear creation of impact is not well-understood by the sector at large currently. Practice researchers have a role to play in helping shape better policies and administrative procedures by sharing their views constructively on this subject.

To conclude, practice researchers should consider ethnography, auto-ethnography and philosophy as ways into investigating impact and co-creation. In ethnomusicology we have addressed the challenge of writing about music (i.e. the textual/ experiential debate) by using philosophy. Hermeneutics, phenomenology, existentialism and intersubjectivity in particular have allowed us to explore how the co-creative process of performance leads to the creation of new knowledge and how best to convey this new knowledge on paper. Philosophy has encouraged ethnomusicologists to question to what extent it is possible to comment accurately on other people’s experiences of creative practice (an exciting area of enquiry in neuropsychology too) and to think about what this means for studies of impact.

This philosophical background combined with musical practice is then supported by the ethnographic evidence: interviews with performers, audio visual examples of performances and the co-creative processes. Where possible ethnomusicologists then validate their interpretations of the co-creative experience by involving musicians in the academic analyses. If the researcher is the creator, then auto-ethnography is employed. We share with our co-creators what we have written about them and the processes of creation, ensuring that the presentation of this new knowledge avoids ethnocentric biases and acknowledges context-specific responses to creative processes. In some cases, ethnomusicologists have also been drawn to poetics and creative writing as a means of representing their intersubjective, embodied musical experiences on paper.

These approaches not only allow ethnomusicologists to problematize the concept of ‘impact’ as it pertains to practice research and its outputs, but within the written ethnography and ethnographic method there lies ample opportunity to discuss with artists and musicians how the creative process might be understood to be impactful beyond the academe and how this might be best evidenced, using appropriate techniques that are discipline-specific.

My belief is that the combination of approaches used in ethnomusicology is transferable to other areas of practice research and if this approach resonates with you then I would be interested to discuss this further so do contact me.


Dr Muriel E. Swijghuisen Reigersberg is Research Development and Policy Manager in the Research Office and a Visiting Research Fellow in the Music, Mind and Brain Centre, Department of Psychology, at Goldsmiths, University of London



Twitter: @MurielSR


Can Composition and Performance be Research? Critical Perspectives at City University

On Wednesday 25 November,  City University invites you to join a group of panellists to discuss the relationship between practice and research centring on John Croft’s article ‘Composition is not Research’ (Tempo, 69/272 (April 2015), pp. 6-11) and a response by City’s Head of Performance  Ian Pace. Croft called for an end to the integration of composers into existing research structures of universities, and a return to the idea of ‘research equivalence’ instead.  The December 2015 issue of Tempo will feature two articles in response, one by composer Camden Reeves, the other by City Head of Performance Ian Pace, entitled ‘Composition and Performance can be, and often have been, Research’.  There are links to a number of other responses lower in the blog.


  • Christopher Fox (Professor of Composition at Brunel University and editor of Tempo)
  • Ian Pace (pianist and Lecturer in Music at City University)
  • Miguel Mera (composer and Head of the Department of Music at City University)
  • Annie Yim (pianist and DMA student at City University)
  • Christine Dysers (PhD student in Music at City University)
  • Camden Reeves (composer and Head of Music, University of Manchester)


Further event details.  Contact:

Media Practice Research Symposium – 3 November 2015 – Goldsmiths Media & Communications

upcoming Media Practice Research Symposium forms part of the long-term ambition to support innovative and creative practice research in Goldsmiths’ Department of Media and Communications and you are welcome to participate in this free half-day event.

Our Media Practice Research Symposium has leading researchers  and colleagues sharing experiences of practice research across a wide range of creative and professional media practice.

Our Guest Speakers: Dr. Kion Ahadi (Creative Skillset), Joanna Callaghan (University of Sussex), Prof. David Hendy (University of Sussex), Prof. Diane Kemp (Birmingham City University), and John Wyver (University of Westminster).

Abstracts & Speaker Biographies – Media Practice Research Symposium

Date: Tuesday 3rd November 2015
Start/End Times: 1.00pm – 5.00pm (followed by drinks)
Venue: Room 314, Professor Stuart Hall Building (links to map), Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths

Everyone is welcome though space is limited;  register your attendance click on this link to Eventbrite (links to Eventbrite).

Enquiries to Richard MacDonald, Department of Media & Communications, (links to email)

“Be vociferous, Be strong, Be loud”: podcasts, slides and notes from the 4 June Symposium

As a reminder of our symposium, all of the materials from the event are now available to download.  The slides, notes and podcasts are organised by session and speaker.  You are welcome to share the materials and please reference the speaker and event.

Symposium programme (including names of attendees): Symposium programme (0.16MB)

Welcome & Introductions by
Pat Loughrey (Warden, Goldsmiths): Pat Loughrey: Podcast  (85MB)
Ben Johnson (Research Policy Adviser, HEFCE): Ben Johnson: Podcast (49MB)
Mark d’Inverno (Computing, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise, Goldsmiths): Mark d’Inverno: Podcast (34MB)

Different Perspectives I
Talk 1. Anne Tallentire (Art, Central St Martins, University of the Arts London):
Anne Tallentire: Podcast (133MB)
Talk 2. Steven Hill (Head of Research Policy, HEFCE):
Steven Hill: Slides (3MB); Steven Hill: Podcast (148MB)
Talk 3. Bruce Brown (Design, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Brighton): Bruce Brown: Podcast (146MB)

Different Perspectives II
Talk 4. Lauren Redhead (Music, Canterbury Christ Church University):
Lauren Redhead: Podcast (114MB)
Talk 5. Stella Hall (Festival director and consultant): Stella Hall: Podcast (151MB)
Talk 6. Sally Mackey (Applied Theatre, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama):
Slides – Sally Mackey (12MB); Sally Mackey: Podcast (116MB)
Talk 7. Janet Hodgson (Centre for Fine Art Research, Birmingham City University) and Helen Wickstead (Art/Archaeology, Kingston University): Janet Hodgson and Helen Wickstead: Podcast (180MB)

Q&A Panel chaired by Andrea Phillips (Art, Goldsmiths):
Q&A Panel: chaired by Andrea Phillips: Podcast (366MB)

Breakout Session I: Present and Future:
Breakout Session I: Present and Future – All groups (0.05MB)

Breakout Session II: The Environment:
Breakout Session II: The Environment : All groups (0.05MB)

Plenary session chaired by Simon McVeigh (Music, Goldsmiths):
Breakout sessions: Synthesis (0.08MB)

Audience in LG02, Goldsmiths

Practice Matters: Arguments for a ‘Second Wave’ of Practice Research

Dr Rachel Hann, Lecturer in Scenography in the School of Arts at University of Surrey invites your submissions to ‘Practice Matters’, an online section of Studies in Theatre & Performance (STP):

My attendance at the Goldsmiths event confirmed two things. Firstly, that I was not alone in wanting to move on from the defensive positions cultivated over the last 20 years. The proposal to focus on the future chimed with my own belief that the argument that ‘practice matters’ had been won (at least administratively). Secondly, the move away from the micro-politics of practice as/through/based/led was particularly welcome. I am therefore an out and out convert. ‘Practice Research’ works for me. It focuses on the wider issues related to how researchers share, apply and critique knowledge borne of practice.

Equally, the discussions on June 4th were particularly timely. My colleague Dr. Victor Ladron de Guevara (Plymouth University) and I had undertaken a similar debate at the Theatre & Performance Research Association’s (TaPRA) annual conference nine months prior. An outcome of this discussion was to approach the editors of Studies in Theatre & Performance (STP) and set up a new section devoted to sharing and promoting Practice Research projects. Details of our vision were outlined at the start of the year in our formal announcement published within the journal (Hann and Ladron de Guevara 2014). Our agenda was simple: in order for Practice Research to evidence its knowledge claims, we require a peer-reviewed archive of related projects.

The result was ‘Practice Matters’. An online section of STP that would host a range of media content that clearly evidences excellence in questions of documentation and communicating research imperatives, as much as it offers new critical insights and original approaches. Importantly, Victor and I had both undertaken PaR PhDs at Royal Holloway and the University of Leeds respectively. We were both among the first to graduate, based on this particular methodological approach to doctorial study, having argued our findings through practice and, most importantly, had these findings assessed through a combination of, what Robin Nelson describes as, ‘complementary writing’[1] and documentation of the practice. This ‘portfolio of evidence’ was fundamental to our experiences as PhD students. While in Theatre & Performance documentation has remained a point of contestation following Peggy Phelan’s famous dictat that performance ‘cannot be saved, recorded, documented’ (1993: 146), for the purpose of my doctorate exam multi-media material was gathered and ‘effectively shared’[2]. I use the language of the REF’s definition of research here deliberately.  For, I would argue, the system of submitting Practice Research portfolios in ‘boxes’ for the eyes of a panel of experts only would appear, to me at least, contrary to the ethos of research.  Research should be shared.  In sharing research we enable others to grow their own perspective and, ultimately, that of the discipline overall.  Reducing this ‘sharing’ to a few lucky enough to witness a conference presentation, performance or other temporal event denies the project a sustained legacy: one that may feed future researchers work and enter into the ‘discourse’.  If, as individuals such as Nelson have argued, the ‘know-how’ of practicing a particular craft or action can produce new disciplinary knowledge, then their relegation to an administrative exercise seems negligent.

Of course, I am aware that materials submitted as part of a Practice Research submission may include peer-reviewed articles and material hosted on accessible websites. But the ‘portfolio of evidence’, as submitted to the REF, exists for the most part as a whole object only for the purpose of this exercise. In order to assess the range of styles and approaches to composing these portfolios, it would appear that you need to be on the panel. In my role as a PhD supervisor, it is most frustrating to inform students when they enquire about examples of documentation (or the format of a portfolio submission) that there is currently a ‘throw-away’ culture when it comes to Practice Research. Because it is hard (expensive) to share multi-media content or politically problematic (see Phelan), it would seem that there has been a collective reluctance to ensure the long-term legacy of the particular conditions of knowledge borne through practice.

The main concern of, what I propose as, the ‘first wave’ of Practice Research was to win the right to conduct research through practice from the administrators (university management, HEFCE).  The end game of this perspective is, I would argue, that it sustains a culture where Practice Research is conducted for the purpose of administration: for evidencing an individual’s research profile to be assessed, holistically, by exercises such as the REF.  Consequently, the discipline at large remains in the dark. Unable to access and assess the material for the most part, the legacy and accessibility of these projects is reduced to hearsay. It is no wonder that with no clear archive of material from which to assess the claims of Practice Research more broadly, there remains a suspicion from our disciplinary colleagues: a suspicion that Practice Research lacks the intellectual rigour and significance of other (more well trodden) methods of research.

The current situation is not good enough. The Goldsmiths event confirmed the need to move beyond the administrative focus of Practice Research.  Indeed, in the sessions I attended there were recurring themes on questions of accessibility and evidencing excellence.  As scholars, we need to be able to assess a range of projects that clearly evidence their research imperatives. We need to collectively share our knowledge of these issues through processes such as peer review (a subject that Victor Merriman has outlined succinctly on this blog). Indeed, the question of peer review is paramount. While the REF panel is centred on this activity, peer review works best as a feedforward exercise: it is not best positioned after the project has been completed, but occurs as a procedural developmental tool. When done correctly, peer review is intended to make the work ‘better’.  Practice Research is no different from any other scholarly area. We need to collectively share ‘good practice’ and sustain a narrative of excellence that our wider disciplinary areas can access and assess. We need to ensure the legacy of our knowledge insights in order to revoke the critique that Practice Research lacks scholarly integrity. The best way to achieve this is by promoting an archive of ‘portfolio’ examples. This is the premise of our section for STP ‘Practice Matters’.

 In terms of the technical matters aligned with a multi-media archive, our perspective is that trying is better than avoiding the issue. Indeed, we have been in conversation with Prof. Yvon Bonenfant about his work on Experiments & Intensities (E&I) an online edited collection series published by Winchester Press ( Collaborating with Prof. Bonenfant, we have an outline of the basic requirements involved in hosting an online platform and we are currently in discussions with Routledge (the publisher of STP) about the best way to proceed.   For instance, we are aware of services such as figshare (, which offer much in terms of hosting and referencing individual items of media content. Nevertheless, what we are focused on is archiving the ‘full’ portfolio in a manner that allows the knowledge claims to be assessed. The narrative of the research project is paramount. Yet, it is also to be concise and to the point – we are not, necessarily, interested in two hour long videos (see submission statement below). It is likely that the interface will be straightforward in the first instance and focused on the clear communication of research imperatives. Equally, as outlined on June 4th, I do not personally conceive of Practice Research as being innately concerned with creative practice. Accordingly, while we understand that a well-designed and multifunctional interface is attractive to artists, our first concern is to focus on functionality and sharing the work as part of a peer review community.

Moreover, we recognise that each project will no doubt have its own particularities with regards the relationship between medium and content. We are open to suggestions in that regards, as outlined as part of our submission process. I would, however, suggest that the possibilities of an online format allow us to frame the idea of complementary writing with integrated media content. In particular, we might consider the notion of ‘integrated writing’ as a more holistic method of arguing how the content relates to the medium (and vice versa). While I personally am not keen on the use of video as the only curatorial strategy, the use of short video clips alongside and in dialogue with text (and other media) seems to me to offer one useful (and attainable) way forward. Importantly, our vision for the ‘curated portfolio’ submission is that, at the proposal stage, individuals submit a contextual and curatorial statement. It is vitally important that these documents offer a clear organisational principle and allow individuals to move in and out of particular sections. Ideally, a reader should be able to skip content in a logical manner, as well as pick up from when they left off. The experience should not be too far removed from the manner in which we are able to navigate a book. Nevertheless, the focus must remain on evidencing the knowledge claims. Additional information relating to a full documentation of a performance, for instance, is supplementary. The relationship between our mapping of these contextual and curatorial statements is outlined in the submission guidance included below.

In summary, I believe that the ‘second wave’ of Practice Research will be focused on questions of accessibility and quality. We need to share our findings more openly and we need to point to a clear narrative of excellence. In undertaking this not inconsiderable challenge, the idea is to evidence to our broader communities the innate value of practically borne knowledge, so that we, as a grouping of disciplines, can enter into a shared ‘discourse’.  The idea that a Practice Research project has a shelf life is no longer good enough. Accordingly, we need to ensure that the new insights acquired through our collective processes of craft, action and dialogue are sustained beyond any one individual or event.  The work – the knowledge – must be accessible by future experts and non-experts. Practice Research is not an administrative task.  Overall, the future of Practice Research is access and signposting quality.

Download STP Submission Guidance.

The material included below was published in Studies in Theatre & Performance, Issue 35.2. A further articulation of our vision for the section can be found in our original announcement in STP 35.1 (Hann and Ladron de Guevara 2014).

[1] ‘People might say things as, ‘if I could put it into words, I would have to dance it’. While I have considerable sympathy with this point of view, it can be unhelpful. […] I believe the complementary writing of artists might afford access to the complex process of making to non-specialists’ (Nelson 2013: 36-37).

[2] ‘For the purposes of the REF, research is defined as a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared’ (REF 2011: 48).


Hann, Rachel. and Ladron de Guevara, Victor. 2015. ‘Addressing Practice: Introducing a new section for STP’, Studies in Theatre & Performance 35.1: 3-6.

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

Phelan, Peggy. 1993. Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, New York & London: Routledge

REF. 2011. ‘Assessment framework and guidance on submissions’, REF 2014. [accessed 14/07/2015] URL:

Practice as Research Festival – Saturday 18 July

The University of Surrey are hosting a Practice as Research Festival at the Ivy Arts Centre this Saturday from 10.30am until late.

Speakers, sessions and performances include:
Practice as Research Now – A Roundtable with Professor Christopher Baugh, Professor Yvon Bonenfant and Dr Libby Worth
Arguments for a PaR Charter of Good Practice – A paper by Rachel Hann
The End of Choreography – Lecture & performance by Antje Hildebrandt
Whirling Dervishes, Intercultural Theatre, and Practice-Based Research– A workshop with  Hannah McClure
A Duet Without You – Performance plus post-show discussion by Chloé Déchery
Two Earnest -Performance plus post-show discussion by Jaq Bessell

Admission free but booking essential at: