What is a research journal?
The research journal is a tool which supports research-based learning. It can be used to:
- Generate initial ideas.
- Track your thinking.
- Identify where your inspiration comes from.
- Show how you are going to make use of the information.
- Develop your concepts.
- Explore potential outcomes.
- Evaluate how successful they are.
- Indicate what you could take forward to inform your future practice.
Why keep a research journal?
Your research journal will help you to:
- Learn from your experiences.
- Improve your thinking skills.
- Develop problem solving skills.
- Apply theory to practice.
- Generate ideas/enhance creativity.
- Develop your own 'voice'.
- Improve communication skills.
- Explore and experiment with ideas.
- Move your project on.
- Make creative links to develop your own line of reasoning.
- Support your response to the brief.
- Make your processes visible and track your thinking through each unit.
- Talk about your work.
- You might return to it and make use of it in later projects.
What form might it take?
Your research journal (or learning log) should take the form that suits your style of working:
- Sketch book.
- Ring binder.
- Video/photographic/digital record.
- Design journal.
- Other media.
The content is not fixed. It could include:
- Any annotated research material.
- Personal responses to your own work.
- Notes from tutorials.
- Selected extracts from lecture notes.
- Notes from gallery visits.
- Extracts from relevant critical texts.
- Annotated photocopies and downloads.
- Your own thoughts.
- Your own sketches and visual exploration.
When writing, you do not have to write formally. You could:
- Use notes.
- Use slang.
- Write in the first person.
- Use mindmaps or spider diagrams.
- Write poetry.
- Annotate images.
Leave blank pages or spaces so that you can go back to reflect review and revise - this enables you to track your progress.
Use your journal to identify anything you could incorporate into your own work (such as techniques, materials, approaches, theory) and contextualise the work of others and your own work
Get into the habit of regularly documenting...
- Your evaluation of the previous project.
- Your initial ideas in response to the brief.
- Your thoughts and feelings about your studio practice.
- Feedback from tutors.
- Creative links.
You might choose to:
- Make an entry every day or once a week.
- Record and evaluate every piece of research you do.
- Record the progress of an experiment in the studio.
- Jot down ideas that you cannot pursue immediately for future reference.
- Record the responses you make to any research material you use.
Be objective and try to form judgements about your responses:
- Consider feedback from previous assessments.
- What have you learnt?
- How can you apply this?
- Are there other ways you could have responded to the project?
- Are there other ways you could have made use of your research?
- Are you receptive to change?
- Are you making assumptions?
- Analyse your approach to your project.
- Revisit previous entries, for example, read the previous few pages.
- Ask questions, for example, 'how does this new idea/approach relate to what I already know?'
- Identify gaps in your knowledge. Hints and clues from your previous research will help you with this.
Extend your horizons
- Look at examples of artists' journals, for example, the diary of Frida Kahlo (available in UCA library).
- Be open to everything as a possible source of ideas:
- Extract meaning from it.
- Make sense of how you could use that meaning.
- Extrapolate, for example, how far can you take the idea?
- Consider multiple perspectives.
- Consider the wider context.
- Find your voice
- Don't be afraid to have an opinion.
- Develop your own style.
Outcomes of using a research journal
- Analysis: you can improve your analytical ability by looking beneath the surface, deconstructing meaning, problem-solving, considering context and relevance.
- Synthesis: you are able to synthesize selected theories and practices, to reassemble familiar things in different ways, and through lateral thinking to make creative and original links between ideas.
- Evaluation: you are able to identify outcomes (anticipated and unanticipated), rationalise decisions and selections, validate results and make informed judgements.