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About this book

A guide to the modes and methods of Creative Writing research, designed to be invaluable to university staff and students in formulating research ideas, and in selecting appropriate strategies. Creative writing researchers from around the globe offer a selection of models that readers can explore and on which they can build.

Table of Contents


The development of creative writing as a research discipline in universities and colleges has not yet been well documented, even though many teachers and students pursue it and many degree programmes incorporate forms of creative writing research. Research Methods in Creative Writing aims to address this lack by offering a diverse account of conceptions of research in the discipline as well as a selection of models that readers can explore and on which they can build.
Jeri Kroll, Graeme Harper

1. Poetics and Creative Writing Research

Chapter Summary
One of the key challenges of creative writing research lies in successfully articulating the relationship between the creative work and the critical context, thinking, and outcomes associated with its production. The prospect of providing an introduction, commentary, or some other critical discourse related to their work often leaves students struggling to know how to address this relation.
This chapter suggests the concept of poetics as a useful way of tackling this issue. While the term ‘poetics’ has referred to the study of principles and forms of literary composition since Aristotle wrote his treatise in 330``BC`, coming later to refer specifically to the study of poetry, here, ‘poetics’ refers to the means by which writers across a range of genres formulate and discuss a critical attitude to their own work. This formulation recognises a range of influences: the traditions they write within and against, relevant literary, social, and political contexts, and the processes of composition and revision undertaken. Such a concept of poetics offers a means by which writers in the academy can develop an ethos towards their work in order to gain perspective on the interrelated aspects of practice and theory, and the critical and creative activities involved in the act of writing, helping them to express the knowledge gained through practice-led research.
Drawing upon the image of the triptych, whose three interconnected panels allow the two outer panels to hinge, folding over the central one in a dynamic movement involving close touching, I suggest that poetics might usefully become the anchoring panel at the centre of research practice that sets out to produce creative work in knowing close connection with critical and theoretical influences.
Kim Lasky

2. Non-Fiction Writing Research

Chapter Summary
Although non-fiction writing has been a core part of such disciplines as history, journalism and literature (in the form of writing articles, essays and books), creative writers often find the instructions given regarding researching and writing non-fiction in these disciplines inadequate to serve the increasingly complex procedural and ethical challenges they face. In response, as more writers, undergraduate students, higher degree candidates and teachers of writing publish or study non-fiction, how to conduct research in, and about, this genre has become a prominent area of interest in creative writing studies. In the wake of a number of recent ‘scandals’ around non-fiction publications, moreover, the ethical issues involved in producing non-fiction texts have also come to the forefront as a concern for writers. At the same time, the recognition of such work as valid research in the university context, and the justification for this classification, is also important. This chapter defines research in the context of the discipline of writing generally and non-fiction writing more specifically. It focuses on the different ways non-fiction creative writing is researched and how this research can be validated. It also highlights the ethical issues involved in researching and writing non-fiction texts, and how the writer of non-fiction can approach and deal with these challenges.
Donna Lee Brien

3. Modelling the Creative Writing Process

Chapter Summary
Consciously or not, people often model the process of creative writing based on personal experience. This mental construct accounting for how creative writing works then underpins research into the writing process and needs to be examined and compared with other theories on the creative writing process.
Much pioneering research on the cognitive processes of writing was conducted using psychology research methods. One groundbreaking study by Linda Flower and John Hayes developed a complex cognitive process model of the writing process, challenging the idea that writing occurs in sequential stages. Unfortunately, this research was conducted in an artificial laboratory environment, and was not aimed specifically at creative writing. In later research into the lives of renowned creative people, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed a model of the creative process. My own research used these seminal empirical studies as the foundation for more context-bound interviews with successful publishing novelists in South Africa.
The cornerstone of the Flower and Hayes model was the subprocess of goal setting, similar to Csikszentmihalyi’s emergence of problems as a crucial component of any creative process. In my interviews, it emerged that this could indeed be the driving force of the entire creative writing process. This is possibly the place where the world of the writer and the world being created in their fiction are most closely mapped onto one another and could be a primary factor in understanding writer’s block. Find the right match between worlds, and you may be able to avoid this dreaded hurdle.
This chapter will discuss research on both the writing process and the creative process that was synthesised to form a conceptual framework for interviews with published novelists in South Africa. Within the traditional framework in South African universities’ language departments, creative writing is studied as a product in literature courses, rather than as a process. The focus is on the world created in a text or the socio-political world in which the text is situated. Studying the writing process itself is a relatively new field of enquiry; studying the creative writing process even more so. The interviews conducted with contemporary writers sought to broaden this perspective so that the process of creating textual worlds in a particular context could be investigated. Ways in which these interviews provided insights into altering existing models of the creative writing process, including a new perspective on ‘writer’s block’ and the reiterative nature of creative idea generation and critical judgement, are presented as part of the application of the research methodology.
Marguerite MacRobert

4. New Modes of Creative Writing Research

Chapter Summary
As university creative writing programmes mature, creative writing research has the potential to develop its own new and distinct theoretical frameworks. Non-traditional and interdisciplinary modes of research may help researchers to address the myriad questions creative writers face — questions of process versus product, audience versus profit, quality versus marketability, theory versus output, criticism versus creativity, inspiration versus analysis, etc. This chapter presents the epistemology of statistical market research as a detailed example of one possible kind of ‘new’ creative writing research and challenges creative writing researchers to construct additional theoretical frameworks by utilising processes of interdisciplinary induction and innovation.
Kerry Spencer

5. The Creative Writing Laboratory and its Pedagogy

Chapter Summary
Writers in the academy are researchers within an institutional community whose goal is the production of new knowledge. Asking key questions about the ontology of what I am calling the ‘Creative Writing Laboratory’ — the where, what, why and how of creative writing research — leads to an understanding of the outcomes writers produce and how they are shared with diverse audiences. Exploring parallels between scientific and artistic practice reveals how conventional research definitions can apply to creative knowledge generation and its epistemology. The terms ‘local’ and ‘global’ research distinguish between research that only enriches a project and the type that produces transferable knowledge. Especially at postgraduate level, a theoretical framework requires writers to confront their assumptions about knowledge and language as well as suggests appropriate methods for their goals. The dynamic relationship between practice, methodology, theory and artefact that exists can be conceived of as a rhizomatic system (see Deleuze and Guattari), which illuminates conventional, innovative and collaborative projects. An indicative reading of W. H. Auden’s poem, ‘Musée des Beaux Arts,’ reveals the multiple entry and exit points that can aid students at all levels to learn to ‘read like a researcher.’ In the twenty-first century university, the writing workshop has been crossed with an experimental site to produce a hardy hybrid — the Creative Writing Laboratory — where members research, test hypotheses, innovate and produce results, generating work that contributes to the collective stock of knowledge and culture.
Jeri Kroll

6. The Generations of Creative Writing Research

Chapter Summary
Research through, and in, creative writing offers substantial opportunities for the creation of new knowledge, both for the individual creative writer undertaking that research and for us all, generally. However, choosing to engage in such research is a choice not a requirement of being a creative writer. That said, such a choice could relate to our ability to provide new knowledge on which future generations might build; knowledge for others as well as knowledge for ourselves. Research in creative writing therefore has a relationship to ideals of sustainability. As we determine our methods of approaching creative writing research we are drawn to consider possible avenues of investigation. These avenues are many, and they are varied. In this regard, the clue to modes and methods of research is that creative writing is action. That is, while we can certainly think about it, creative writing cannot exist without us actually doing something. How we respond before, during, and after that doing incorporates what we currently know, and can incorporate what we seek to find out.
Graeme Harper

7. Forward, Wayward: The Writer in the World’s Text, at Large

Chapter Summary
All writing lives in intertextuality. That being the case, one of the most significant aspects of anyone’s creative writing is its relationship with reading. What we read, how we read, for what purposes we read. The kinds of texts we find in the world bridge time and space, offer exchanges between one writer and another, between writers and readers. Researching for content brings about new knowledge just as it does in any other field — in the case of creative writing, of course, that content research might find its way into a poem or story, and that creative work may be a combination of personal voices as well as facts. This kind of research has knowledge value and this knowledge is such that it is certainly worthy of funding by organisations that fund research in and around academe, even if frequently it remains difficult to convince such funders of its value. Knowledge in creative writing is also not necessarily the knowledge found in other fields. It is the knowledge of two minds, that of the writer and that of the reader, actively engaging in exchange and in the kind of understanding that cannot be reduced to the abstract. All this can inform the teaching of creative writing, encourage and support individuality, and contribute to originality in the work that emerges from creative writing workshops and programmes.
Katharine Coles

8. Creative Writing and Theory: Theory without Credentials

Chapter Summary
Theory has been dead for well over a decade. But what was/is theory? And what lessons can we learn from its apparent demise? This chapter reassesses the significance of theory for creative writing research. It argues against a favouritism towards any one theory, for there are special affinities between creative writing and certain theories, particularly those underpinned by poststructuralist theories of language. This is partly because creative writers read and research differently from theorists and critics. While many theories highlight the textual specificity of creative writing research, they also highlight that, at its core, the object of creative writing inquiry is twofold, namely process and processor.
By focusing on the case of psychoanalysis, this chapter argues for a privileging of a ‘theory without credentials’, one that would disrupt our certainties and thus open up creative possibilities that can in turn be theorised. A psychoanalytic understanding of subjectivity sheds light on the creative process and on the very concept of knowledge production in ways that are not envisioned by other models of subjectivity. Conversely, an examination of writing and research processes can help illuminate and expand on psychoanalytic understandings of subjectivity. Psychoanalysis is useful in that it suggests that both writing and the subject are constructions in the making. This has direct pedagogical implications: by grappling with the theory itself, new teaching methods and methodologies arise.
Dominique Hecq

9. Transcultural Writing and Research

Chapter Summary
This chapter will discuss creative writing and its role as a practice-led research discipline in relation to forms of cultural identity. What kinds of research are involved in a postgraduate degree in creative writing and how does an international and transcultural writing community give them a special resonance? How does research in creative writing relate to other forms of academic research and how do its artistic outputs relate to readerships both inside and outside the academy? How can notions of culture help us to understand and locate literary works as manifestations of new understanding or configurations of knowledge?
Graham Mort

Further Ideas, Selected Reading

Research Methods in Creative Writing offers a number of perspectives on creative writing research. As the contributors in this book make clear, their individual approaches to research draw directly from their lives as creative writing practitioners as well as teachers. Chapters reveal how each conceives of practice and, in particular, what techniques, methods and understandings were necessary for the projects they describe.
Jeri Kroll, Graeme Harper
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