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Session 10: The Research Journey

What Does Research Mean?

Research seeks the answer to a question or a solution to a problem; it is rooted in theory, and contributes to the existing body of knowledge on a topic. Researching can be carried out through many methods such as interviews and focus groups, surveys, secondary literature, observation and diaries, visual methods and practice-based research.

The research cycle consists of starting with a problem/idea which generates a research question, defines the research methodology, finds a research outcome and solves the problem/idea.

1. Initial ideas

  • manageable; within the given word count and considers time restrictions

  • original; sheds new light or provides new insights and avoids well-trodden routes

  • relevant; within the field of graphic design, and furthers study or career

2. Framing a question

  • research isn't a vernal exploration of. subject area

  • focused inquiry on a particular aspect or angle

  • locates a specific question about the topic within your research territory to frame the focus of the research

  • considers preliminary reading, takes a fresh angle and keeps the scope narrow

3. Review the literature (books/journal articles)

  • what has been written about the topic to date?

  • what are the relevant theoretical frameworks?

  • what are the key texts or studies in that field?

  • what methods have been used?

4.Choose your method

  • the choice of method must fit the research question

  • how well does it measure what its meant to?

  • must. be appropriate to the scale of the project

Three Key Methodologies


  • study of media and artefacts

  • deconstruction and evaluation of films, comics and graphic novels, games, adverts, or any other visual artefact using theory to frame analysis

  • applying theory is a bit like applying a filter (e.g. feminism, semiotics, narratology)

  • enables deconstruction of visual artefact

Social science

  • approaches used in sociology, cultural studies, psychology etc to understand humans and their interactions

  • quantitative (surveys, counts, questionnaires, represents the whole of target population, roots in sciences, good for snapshots/trends, but cant answer how or why)

  • qualitative (interviews, focus groups, conversations, diaries, deeper insight, recognises complexity of humans in cultures and wider society, values individual perspectives, good for asking how or why, but difficult to generalise)


  • based in the processes of field

  • the research method is creative practice itself (e.g. critical self-reflection)

Below is an example of a research/topic question with my ideas for methods or approaches that could be used to research it:

Researching the history of the various tools would give a good base to work off to begin the essay, introducing the reader to why they were created in the first place and the intended uses. Getting the opinions of various designers would also inform me as to what they believe are the best tools and whether the tools produce different effects. ​I also believe conducting a practices-based experiment would be highly informative as it would give a working example of not only how the tools are used by different designers but also how those choices might be effected by the designers age, background, design style, and maybe even if it is influenced by the way they where taught design in school. In addition it would show the differences between them based on the outcomes of the brief; whether one method produces a better result than the other.



  • Gray,C. and Malins, J. Visualizing research: A guide to the research process in art and design (pages 9-16)




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