Writing 300 word statements part 2: looking for examples and writing a draft

The REF2014 website makes public all the research outputs that were submitted for the last REF, including the 300 word statements. On the website: http://results.ref.ac.uk/, click on ‘results and submissions’; you can then select a particular institution, or a Unit of Assessment (UCA submitted solely to UOA34, Art and Design: History, Theory and Practice in REF2014, and is likely to do so again). There are several routes in: you are looking for ‘Research Outputs’ (REF2). Clicking on an individual output brings up exactly what was submitted into the REF form, including the 300 word statement, which is under the ‘Additional Information’ heading.

It’s worth exploring some examples. Unfortunately, we don’t know which outputs received a high ranking, being judged to be 4* (world leading) or 3* (internationally excellent). The REF only publishes its results as a quality profile of all the outputs submitted by a single institution to a single UOA. However, looking at a really successful submission, where almost all of the outputs were judged to be 4* or 3*, will bring up statements for outputs that are very likely to have been highly ranked. An example is the University of Westminster’ submission to UOA34, where 85 per cent of outputs were ranked at 3* or 4*, and nothing fell below 2*.

Find some examples and note how the research is described: how directly does the statement address the criteria of originality, significance and rigour? What evidence does it give? Find examples in your discipline that do a good job of describing the research against the criteria.

The following questions should be useful in drafting 300 word statements:

Originality

What were the contexts to the research? What had other people done before? What did you do that was different? (think in terms of a literature review, contextual review, or scoping exercises)

Significance

So what? What has changed in your field (however narrowly defined) as a result of this research? (new knowledge, contribution)

Rigour

What were the research questions? What were your aims? What processes did you follow? What were the theoretical frameworks? (methods, sources, procedures)

Don’t waste words describing the research: for non-text outputs, for instance exhibitions, there is another box for this (‘title and brief description’), where you can explain exactly what form the research took. If this applies to your output, draft this text too (provisionally up to 100 words).

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Writing 300 word statements part 1: what are they and why are they needed?

For REF2014, individual research outputs were assessed on the basis of three types of evidence:

  • the output itself
  • a supporting portfolio
  • information about the research process and/or context

For the last of these, universities were able to submit 300 word statements. Although these were not compulsory, almost all submissions of research outputs included such statements, using the 300 words to explain succinctly how the output met the criteria against which REF outputs are judged: originality, significance and rigour.

The 300 word statements were particularly importantly for practice-based research. It’s arguable that a written output (eg a book, chapter or journal article) should already contain a clear and concise explanation of its originality, significance and rigour—although there is nothing to be lost by summarising this in a short additional statement. However, for practice-based research, the 300 words statement is essential to set out the basis and merits of the research.

This is how the REF defines each of the criteria used for judging outputs:

Originality

A creative/intellectual advance that makes an important and innovative contribution to understanding and knowledge. This may include:

  • substantive empirical findings
  • new arguments, interpretations or insights
  • imaginative scope
  • assembling of information in an innovative way
  • development of new theoretical frameworks and conceptual models
  • innovative methodologies and/or new forms of expression

Significance

The enhancement of,

  • knowledge
  • thinking
  • understanding
  • and/or practice

Rigour

  • intellectual coherence
  • methodological precision and analytical power
  • accuracy and depth of scholarship
  • awareness of and appropriate engagement with other relevant work

There has been no indication that these criteria will be revised for REF2021, or that the facility to submit 300 word statements will change. As part of preparations for REF2021, we need to start generating 300 word statements for all individual research outputs that are likely to be submitted.

Research Outputs – Artefacts

As well as books, journal articles, and papers, research outputs in the arts also include other types of outputs. These include:

• Artefacts
• Devices and Products
• Performance
• Exhibition
• Composition
• Design
• Software
• Website content
• Digital or visual media

KRblacklacestillforwebIn this post we are going to look at Artefacts. This may include physical artefacts such as textiles, ceramics, collages, glass vessels, soundscapes, artwork, sculpture. These artefacts are often exhibited, but the exhibition is not the research output, it is the artefact in the exhibition that is the research output.
The curator of the exhibition could submit the exhibition as their research output.

Listed below are examples of the Research Outputs from UCA REF2014 that had physical artefacts as the research output. You can click on the link to find out more about the research that led to these outputs.

Black Lace, commissioned site-sensitive video and sound installation
Box 1 and Box 2, two pieces of textile quilt
Fall, mural, monoprints
Gango series I-III, three ceramic vessels
Handkerchiefs, site-specific textile installation
Homage to ‘Hay on the Highway’
Line and Damaged, two textile artworks
Metamorphosis and Transformation, twenty-one interrelated clear glass vessels
Notes from Home, an installation of five hand-made photobooks
Robing Peter to Pay Paul, textiles
Stains and Stories: Latent narrative in worn clothing, textiles
Ten Steps to Heaven – part of 14 Artists’ Interventions at the Swedenborg
The Search for Andy Warhol’s Voice, curated sound installation
Untitled, 7 new pieces, created especially for a solo exhibition

Q&A: Outputs

  1. What does “effectively shared” mean in relation to the research outputs?

A research output is a product of the research activity, first brought into the public domain during the REF publication period. We anticipate that the REF 2021 publication period will be 1 January 2014 – 31 December 2020. Click here for REF 2014 definition of research.

2. Will certain output types score more than others?

No, in their guidance UoA 34: Art & Design: History, Practice and Theory state that they would ‘neither advantage nor disadvantage any type of research or form of output, whether it’s physical or virtual, textual or non-textual, visual or sonic, static or dynamic, digital or analogue.’

3. What kind of outputs were submitted to REF 2014 within UoA 34?

For full details on the types of outputs submitted to UoA 34, please refer to the Overview report by Main Panel D, p.86.  It identifies three evident features:

1) the number of artefacts, in the form of physical objects, was only 11% of the total submission.

2) Published material remained core to the sector and formed  57% of the submission. It included authored books, edited books, chapters in books, and journal articles.  Considerable amount of submitted text came from art and design practice.

3) Exhibition activity increased since RAE 2008. This activity was spread relatively evenly across all discipline areas.

4. Will certain publishers or exhibition venues  advantage or disadvantage the outputs?

No, all outputs will be assessed regardless of where they’ve been published or exhibited, as long as they meet REF definition of research.

5. I am working on the revised version of the output that I submitted to the REF 2014. Can I submit it to REF 2021?

According to REF 2014: Panel Criteria and Working Methods (p. 85, para. 55) you can submit an output which includes significant material in common with an output published prior to the REF publication output. The submission should explain how the earlier work was revised to incorporate new material. We expect this to remain same in REF 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

Output Assessment

In REF 2014 the criteria for all outputs, whatever genre or medium, was that they met the definition of research.  We expect this to remain the same for REF 2021, subject to confirmation in July 2017.

UoA 34: Art & Design: History, Practice and Theory was very clear in its guidance that it would “neither advantage nor disadvantage any type of research or form of output, whether it’s physical or virtual, textual or non-textual, visual or sonic, static or dynamic, digital or analogue.”

Research outputs may include, but were not limited to the following: books (authored or edited); chapters in books; journal articles; working papers; published conference papers; electronic resources and publications; exhibition or museum catalogues; translations; scholarly editions; creative writing and compositions; curatorship and conservation; databases; grammars; dictionaries; digital and broadcast media; performances and other types of live presentation; artefacts; designs and exhibitions; films, videos and other types of media presentation; software design and development; advisory report; the creation of archival or specialist collections to support the research infrastructure.

Criteria for assessing outputs

Outputs in REF 2014 were assessed in terms of originality, significance and rigour

  • Originality: a creative/intellectual advance that makes an important and innovative contribution to understanding and knowledge. This may include substantive empirical findings, new arguments, interpretations or insights, imaginative scope, assembling of information in an innovative way, development of new theoretical frameworks and conceptual models, innovative methodologies and/or new forms of expression.
  • Significance: the enhancement or deserved enhancement of knowledge, thinking, understanding and/or practice.
  • Rigour: intellectual coherence, methodological precision and analytical power; accuracy and depth of scholarship; awareness of and appropriate engagement with other relevant work.

Please refer to Panel Criteria and Working Methods (pp.82-88) for full details.

Practice Based Research: main points

According to REF 2014 definition, research is a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared.

In the next series of our posts we will be focusing on research and research outputs, with particular emphasis on research in Art & Design.

Breaking down the REF definition in smaller components of ‘process of investigation’, ‘leading to new insights‘ and ‘effectively shared‘ may offer a useful means to study this definition more closely. This post will look at the ‘process of investigation’ and ‘leading to new insights’

‘Process of investigation’ or a process of inquiry is mainly concerned with research strategy and methodology. More traditional research methodologies are characterized by well-established and widely shared strategy and procedures, using very clear research methods (Haseman and Mafe, 2009). For example, let’s try to map the above REF definition with social research paradigm:

process of investigation’ needs to:

  • Have clearly stated aims, that are
  • Related to existing knowledge and needs, and that are
  • Investigated within limitations imposed through time, money and opportunity
  • Use precise and valid data collected and used in a justifiable way

new insights’ need to:

  • Contribute something new to knowledge
  • Produce finding from which generalizations can be made (Denscombe, 2002)

Artists and creative practitioners do not always operate within conventional research strategies and methodological assumptions, although some traditional methodologies may meet some of the artists’ needs (e.g. reflective practice, action research , grounded theory and participant observation).  Practice based research is a distinctive and widely established research strategy with the methods stemming from long-standing and accepted working methods and practices of the creative disciplines (Haseman and Mafe, 2009)

What is Practice based research?

Carole Gray in Inquiry through practice: developing appropriate research strategies proposes the following definition and sets out two aspects:

‘… firstly, research which is initiated in practice, where questions, problems, challenges are identified and formed by the needs of practice and practitioners; and secondly, that the research strategy is carried out through practice, using predominantly methodologies and specific methods familiar to us as practitioners in the visual arts.’

Gray’s definition offers practice as a focal point of the research process: the questions are informed by the practice and the investigation is carried out through practice. The main quality of the methodology seems to be responsiveness, driven by the requirements of practice and the creative dynamic of the artwork.

According to Gray, practice and theory are reciprocal. Critical practice generates theory and theory informs practice. One of the characteristics of practice-based research is the use of visual and multi media methods of information gathering, selection, analysis, synthesis, presentation/communication.

Some of the specific research methods used within practice based research are:

making art/design work; observation and drawing (in all forms);sketchbook/notebook, idiosyncratic notation/symbol;  visual diaries/self reflection/personal narrative/ critical writing; photography, video, sound;  models/maquettes, experimentation with materials; concept mapping, diagrams; use of metaphor and analogy; organisational and analytical matrices, flow charts, story boards; multimedia/hypermedia applications; modelling/simulations, soft systems; electronic databases, visual and textual glossaries and archives. These have been augmented with useful social science methods, usually adapted in some way, e.g.: case study, participant-observation, personal constructs, interviews, questionnaires, multidimensional analysis, evaluative techniques like semantic differential, multiple sorting.

 

References:

Denscombe,M.(2002) Ground Rules for Good Research: a 10 point guide for social researchers, Maidenhead: Open University Press pp.2-3

Gray, C.(1996) Inquiry through practice: developing appropriate research strategies, available at: http://carolegray.net/Papers%20PDFs/ngnm.pdf [accessed on 23 May, 2017]

Haseman,B. Mafe, D.(2009) Acquiring Know-How: Research Training for Practice-led Researchers. In: H.Smith, R.T.Dean,ed., Practice-led Research, Research-led Practice in the Creative Arts, 1st ed. Edinburgh:Edinburgh University Press Ltd., pp.211-228

 

Spotlight on UCA Impact Case Studies

Following on from the previous post providing an anaysis of REF 2014 impact case studies, here’s a spotlight on UCA’s three case studies submitted to REF 2014.

Eco-Design and Eco-Innovation Into Business

Impact type: product sustainability, eco-innovation and design, circular economy

Main beneficiaries: Small & Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) 

Professor Martin Charter has directed The Centre for Sustainable Design ® at UCA since 1999. During this time he has developed a body of research concerning sustainable and eco-innovation, and sustainable and eco-design, with a particular focus on organisational implementation within business. This has led to a widespread programme of dissemination and application to SMEs through funded projects, publications, consultancy and training.

Lost in Lace

Impact type: Economic. Audience Development, Curatorial Innovation

Main beneficiaries: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Crafts Council

Lost in Lace was an exhibition curated by Professor Lesley Millar MBE at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG), between 29 Oct. 2011 and 19 Feb. 2012. The project was presented by BMAG and the Crafts Council (CC) as the inaugural exhibition of the CC biennial Fifty:Fifty partnership programme. An independently commissioned evaluation reports that significant economic impact, audience development and curatorial innovation resulted from this work. BMAG and the CC were the principal beneficiaries of this impact in that the exhibition and its associated programme of activities fulfilled their stated strategic aims and ambitions for the specific project and wider organisational goals.

 

Communities of Practice in Contemporary Craft

Impact type: Curatorial innovation

Main beneficiaries: Craft practitioners

The University for the Creative Arts has a longstanding commitment to the history, practice, and theory of craft. The research of the Crafts Study Centre (CSC) and Anglo-Japanese Textile Research Centre (AJTRC) has long championed the work of craft practitioners in order to find new ways of thinking through creative practice. This curatorial work, public facing in nature, has contributed to the personal, professional and creative development of a range of craft practitioners by offering an enquiry-led platform for the exploration of craft as profession. Though this research has brought numerous benefits to a wide range of people and organisations, this case study explains specific qualitative and quantitative benefits brought to a number of craft practitioners by this work.