Book review: Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences – A Practical Guide

The book ‘Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide’, authored by Helen Kara, introduces creative research methods to social science researchers. This is because, as the author puts it, ‘Doing research is an inherently creative activity at all stages of the process. The more methodological tools a researcher is able to use, the more effectively they are likely to be able to address the kinds of questions that arise today in social science research’ (page 1).


IMG_9259This is a really interesting and promising proposition because dealing with complex problems benefits from having a multidisciplinary perspective. For instance, in a research project that I was involved in, looking at commercial and governmental surveillance, the team drew on insights from marketing, strategy, information systems, human geography, and organisational behaviour. You can read more about our experience of working in a multidisciplinary team, here. As various disciplines have their own methodological traditions, knowing about those traditions helps researchers ‘vault out of silos and leap over (disciplinary) boundaries’ (page 3).


But even when we are studying a fairly narrow problem, there are advantages in looking at the problem from a different methodological tradition. One example would be research looking at social media as a source of consumer insight (for instance, sentiment analysis). Given that social media users increasingly draw on imagery to express their feelings and record their behaviours (be it using emojis within text-based updates, or simply posting pictures or video), we might benefit from incorporating research methods from other fields that traditionally use visual inputs.


Helen Kara’s book looks at four separate ‘types’ of creative methods:

  • Arts based research methods such as creative writing or the visual arts.
  • Research using technology and, thus, adding new dimensions to the research.
  • Mixed-methods research
  • Transformative research


Kara provides an overview of the various methods, rather than an in-depth discussion. She also provides links to further resources, if you want to know more about a particular method. Though, I must say that these links are not always very easy to follow.


I found chapter 9, entitled ‘dissemination and implementation of research, and knowledge exchange’, a really interesting addition to the book. Kara writes that ‘Dissemination is not an optional extra, it’s an integral part of research’ (p. 177), and I could not agree more. And even if you do not share Kara’s (and mine) passion for bringing the findings from your work to as wide an audience as possible, it is important to read this chapter because there is (at least in the UK), an increasing emphasis on public engagement and in demonstrating the wide impact of your work. In this chapter, Kara looks at the practical, as well as the ethical issues, around using ‘non-traditional’ means for disseminating academic content, such as via blogs, or YouTube. To me, this chapter was a refreshing (and very useful) addition to a Research Methods book.


I actually received a copy of this book last Spring. So, I am very late to the party, as far as reading / reviewing this book is concerned. This is because I couldn’t really read it in one go. The book does not go in depth into each topic, but it does cover such a wide range of topics that you really need to take your time to think about the various ideas being proposed, and to explore some of the various additional resources suggested by the author. I am now looking forward to experimenting with imagery and storytelling as a way of collecting data.


Have you worked with people in other fields or disciplines, and been intrigued by their different approach(es) to research?

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