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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

From Research Into Practice – Chapter 14

Reflections on chapter 14 (the final chapter) of Creative Research Methods by Helen Kara


This final chapter which explores dissemination and implementation, was probably my favourite, as a communications consultant in my day job – effective dissemination of content is always my focus. Likewise, I am an ‘deeds not words’ kind of person, and love to see theoretical concepts or ideas implemented in practice.


Kara begins by emphasising that ‘research dissemination is essential to inform people of your findings and conclusions, and to build the global knowledge base. There is a strong argument for its being unethical not to disseminate research, especially any research that is publicly funded’ (page 215). I found this point slightly hilarious, not because I don’t completely agree with Kara, but because it reminded me of a debate with my ex, after I asked him why he wasn’t interested in public dissemination of his research – he believed that it should be reserved for an elite audience of experts because the general public ‘wouldn’t understand’. On this point, Kara writes ‘academics are often seen as people who communicate in a rarefied and specialist way that is accessible only to other academics – for example, through expensive conferences or subscription-only academic journals that require impenetrable language to be used in particular ways. Yet more and more academics are taking a creative approach to dissemination using popular media’ (page 216). I am definitely in favour of making research and knowledge more accessible, especially in a society where education is becoming so expensive and unaffordable to many, we are in danger of creating a knowledge hierarchy which excludes people from lower socio-economic backgrounds from accessing valuable research findings.


Kara describes dissemination as ‘an ethical act in itself’ and advises that ‘you should plan a dissemination strategy at the start of your research project so as to ensure that your findings reach as many members of suitable audiences as possible’ (page 216). This is something I have already thought about with my research project, also to clarify to participants how and where their stories will be shared. My aim is to create visual and textiles artworks, a video documentary and potentially a printed book with written excerpts. These will be presented in exhibitions and disseminated online across my social media channels and if possible, I will try to obtain some media coverage. This strategy matches Kara’s advice for ‘multi-modal’ dissemination; ‘several methods of dissemination can be used within one public exhibition, installation or production – and that can then be further disseminated using technology’ (page 225).


Kara cautions that ‘arts-based methods have the potential to convey authentic truths and facilitate dialogue (Bartlett 2015: 758) and are a powerful way to communicate research findings (Bartlett 2015: 766). However, they can also unbalance dissemination if audiences pay more attention to the arts-based outputs in their own right than to the research findings (Bartlett 2015: 762-3). This may be more likely if the arts elements are made to professional standards’ (page 216). I think this is a very valid point, and especially regarding the “hype” that is generated by the media and culture around art-world “celebrities” can mean that poor-quality research is given undue attention, whereas high-quality research by a lesser-known artist will be dismissed. Addressing the lack of meritocracy is one of the big challenges the art sector needs to face, but probably never will.


On the topic of blogs, which is obviously pertinent to all of us MA Fine Art Digital students, Kara writes: ‘without readers, you are not actually disseminating your work or ideas’ (page 217). Since the primary purpose of our student blogs is self-reflection and development, I think the dissemination aspect is not that important to us. However, if the purpose of your blog is to disseminate research, then obviously building up a readership is key. I am quite aware that some of my blog posts have well over 200 views and the reason for this is that I have shared a link to those specific posts on my social media where I have a sizeable following. This has made me quite conscious when publishing posts that there is potentially a public audience reading what I write – so, I decided that some posts which contain sensitive information which I do not want publicly disseminated have been ‘protected’ and are only available to certain readers.

Kara makes some observations about blogs and other social media platforms, ‘alongside Twitter and other social media, blogging enables conversations to be conducted regardless of geographical location, time zone, discipline or status. This can be enormously useful for the pursuit of knowledge’ (page 217). This has been especially true in the case of my ‘Brexiles’ research project, where I connected with British citizens living across the EU member states. I couldn’t have done this project without social media (primarly Facebook) which allowed me to find and communicate with them.


I found Kara’s insights on mainstream media coverage particularly interesting – as I have done a lot of media interviews myself and feel like I have quite a lot of experience with regards to gaining press attention. ‘If you want to disseminate research through the mainstream media, you will need to be able to write a press release (for newspapers, radio and TV) or a pitch (for magazines). A press release is a one-off piece of writing that can be sent to as many newspapers, radio and TV stations as you like, all at the same time. A pitch should be individually written, or at least carefully tailored, for each magazine that you send it to (page 219). She gives specific and very helpful guidance on writing pitches, ‘if you want to disseminate your work through a magazine you should be prepared to write an article yourself’ (page 219) and ‘do not send your pitch to ‘The Editor’, which is a sure sign of an amateur. Identifying the appropriate person and contacting them by name makes it much more likely that they will take your idea seriously’ (page 220). I recently wrote an article for Yorkshire Bylines after sending them a press release about my Brexiles exhibition, which took place in Sheffield in September. My intention hadn’t been to “pitch” them an article, but I was very happy to write one when they suggested it.


On the topic of preparing a press release, Kara gives some essential advice: ‘Aim for 250 words, 500 at most’ (page 221). This is a rule I absolutely swear by – no journalist is going to read more than one-side of A4 (preferably half that). If you have ever had an email exchange with a journalist you will know that they are very pressed for time, this is evidenced in their communications which usually consist of one-line emails, no greetings and often no punctuation wither. Yet, I had an argument last year when writing a press release about an exhibition I was organising with a team – who wrote a two-and-a-half-page press release full of superfluous information. I told them over and over again that it was too long, but I was ignored. In the end the only press coverage we received was an interview for inclusion in a documentary series commissioned by the British Film Institute, which was to be used in schools ie. Not very helpful promotion for our exhibition.


Kara writes, ‘if a newspaper, radio or TV editor takes up your press release, they will prepare the story themselves… they are likely to edit your work – sometimes to the point where it’s almost unrecognisable – and they may, in the end, not use it after all (Crofts 2002: 91-2)’ (page 222). This is something I am very familiar with - journalists have a nasty habit of twisting your words and taking your work completely out of context to fit their narrative – usually in an attempt to generate a click-bait headline (for example, when a Torygraph journalist fed me a line so that he could write a headline claiming I believe the EU to be undemocratic). If you want to gain media coverage for your work, this is something you have to be prepared to experience.

Kara also discusses a dissemination strategies which I hadn’t come across before; ‘virtual quilts have been used online for purposes as diverse as reconciliation between nations and fundraising for charity. A virtual quilt exists on a website, with a front page that looks like a quilt (usually a grid of square blocks), and clicking on any block or ‘patch’ leads through to another page (sometimes called the ‘stuffing’ or ‘batting’) that holds information and perhaps other links’ (page 223). I found this concept interesting and wonder if it is something I could utilise on my own website.


On the topic of disseminating video content, Kara writes ‘one problem with disseminating research online or through DVDs is that the output is viewed remotely, which does not give the researcher much opportunity to gather reactions from their audience’ (page 227). I genuinely wonder how many people still have DVD players – because I don’t – I don’t even have a TV! I think screenings, however, are really important when disseminating video content and it is something I was trying to do with my documentary ‘The Future is Europe’ (I managed two screenings; London and Berlin) before the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered my dissemination strategy. Currently the video sits on my YouTube and has 1,400 views which is decent but not that impressive. The two screenings I organised, however, were a great way of gauging reaction and receiving feedback on my work.


Kara makes a distinction between dissemination of conventional and transformative research. ‘Conventionally, research is concerned to disseminate research as far and widely as possible, outwards from those involved in the research process. Conversely, transformative research is particularly concerned to disseminate research among the participants of that research and their communities (Vaugh et al 2012: 30)’ (page 227). Since, my intention is for my research project to be ‘transformative’, I want to focus on dissemination within my own and my participants audiences. This is something I discussed at length with my most recent recruit, an Indian woman living in France, who is really keen to use the project to start a discussion about migrant rights and inclusion on her social media channels. I am extremely happy for and have encouraged her to do this.


Kara makes another point which is worthy of consideration, ‘If research is conducted simply to increase knowledge for its own sake, then dissemination alone is enough. However, research designed to identify ways to improve a situation will be wasted if the knowledge generates is not used in practice ‘Implementation’ means ‘putting research into practice’,’ (page 229). Obviously the intention of my research is to foster more inclusive societies and inspire active citizenship – so, I need to consider how my research can be implemented in a way which actively achieves these aims.


Kara then explores this issue of ‘implementation’ with regards to expectations from funders of ‘impact’; ‘major research funders around the world demand evidence of likely research impact. Such impact may be:

·      Economic, such as saving money;

·      Social such as stronger communities;

·      Health, such as reduced disease;

·      Environmental, such as less pollution;

·      Cultural, such as increased tolerance of difference;

·      Professional, such as publications and awards’ (page 232).

I have received funding for a few projects, which have been somewhat lax in terms of reporting and presentation of impact. However, I understand that other funding bodies, such as the Arts Council England are very stringent with regards to delivering impact. I honestly think this is a weakness of mine; defining impact in funding applications – it’s something that I hate doing, which I need to work on. With regards to my MA research project, I think my primary impact concerns are; social and cultural.


Kara concludes this chapter, ‘without dissemination, research has little value or relevance… it is advisable for any abstract of a journal paper, or executive summary of a research report, to contain at least one sentence summarising each key finding. Equally, any drama performance or film should include one or more soundbites giving the same kind of summary’ (page 233). I think this is sound advice and something which I try to do in my own practice. I don’t have much experience writing academic papers, however, in my books reporting on arts projects, I write an introductory page which covers all the key points that the publications is trying to communicate. With regards to the documentary films I have made (and am currently making), I have in a way produced a “trailer” (under 2 mins 20 for Twitter) with the most impactful clips /sound bites to promote the longer video on social media platforms.




In her conclusion to the book, Kara makes a final point which I want to note; ‘research is a political activity… More than once in my research career I have suggested a creative research method and been told, ‘No, we’d better play it safe’ – which implies that creativity is dangerous’ (page 237). Be bold, be brave, be creative.




I edited a fun reel with footage of Boudicca attacking the book (infuriated that I was reading instead of playing with her), which I posted on Twitter, tagging Helen Kara’s account. To my delight she retweeted the video and we had a little exchange in which we decided our cats could collaborate on research – to be peer reviewed by my Dad’s dog.

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