Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Philosophy and Theology)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Angela McCarthy


Following a series of economic and political changes beginning in the late 1980s, art/design schools and performing arts academies were incorporated into the university system. The disciplines these schools offered were then faced with the requirement to justify some of what they did as academic research.

As a result, a new methodology was developed called practice‐led research. This methodology has two key foundations. The first is the recognition that artistic practice is a site of academic research and the second is that the results of that practice–the creative output–are a legitimate carrier of knowledge. Practice‐led research recognises the validity of both explicit/propositional knowledge and embodied/tacit knowledge. Practice‐led research is a methodology that answers a research question through two or more ‘languages:’ through the written word and through the relevant practice and corresponding output of the researcher.

Being a Christian also involves a life in two languages: the acceptance of a set of intellectual beliefs and the lived life–the practice–of being a Christian through prayer, worship and ritual. The parallels between practice‐led research and a Christian life are acknowledged in the thesis and the methodology ‘translated’ for use in theological research.

The thesis achieves three primary tasks. Firstly, practice‐led research lacks a detailed history of its origins and development. The thesis traces foundational historical themes, understanding the methodology as a part of a long‐standing debate on the nature and role of the creative disciplines.

Secondly, practice‐led research lacks a clear definition of the methodology. The thesis develops a detailed broad‐based definition clarifying key elements of the 9 methodology. The definition may be used in a theological context as well as by practice‐led researchers in other disciplines.

Thirdly, the thesis develops a comprehensive and clearly articulated model for the use of practice‐led research. The thesis goes further by applying practice‐led research into a new area, theology, as a tool Christian researchers can use to incorporate their practice as a part of their research.

The thesis presents a fully articulated and flexible model of practice‐led research for use in a theological context, but widely applicable in other disciplines.

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