1.5 Narrowing down your research topic

The purpose of the exercise was narrow down on the research question.

There were three parts:

  1. Review all of the research so far and highlight potential starting points
  2. Turn each starting point into a series of research questions
  3. Make a full resources list in response to your research question

Potential research starting points

Primary research qualitative

The purpose of the primary qualitative research is to gather the experience of illustrators, artists and people working in other areas of the creative arts to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are two objectives:

  1. The first is to gather stories/experiences/insights to help frame my pandemic diary project. This research is exploratory and fairly open ended (at least at the start), in that I don’t know what the links will be or how the line of questioning will develop.
  2. The second is to test the hypothesis that working with constraints (such as the catastrophic effects of the pandemic), have a positive effect on creativity.

Primary research quantitative

The purpose of the primary quantitative research is to gather metrics to demonstrate the exponential increase in attendance of life drawing and figure drawing classes and workshops during the pandemic using tools such as Zoom and social media platforms.

There are two objectives:

  1. Measuring the number and range of classes offered by a sample of suppliers before and during the pandemic. Measuring attendance at the classes before and during the pandemic.
  2. Measuring the number and range of creative workshops before and during the pandemic including attendance.
  3. Measuring the volume of work done by individuals i.e. number of drawings per week. This is quite a crude measure but my own experience tells me that the numbers could be high.

Secondary research

The purpose of the secondary research is to explore a number of areas in order to add depth, colour and academic rigour to my arguements.

There are currently a number of objectives, and I can see that these are likely to evolve as the shape and scope of the critical review become clearer.

The secondary research includes:

  • Artists and/or the creative arts response to the pandemic
  • Academic research into the effects of the pandemic on creativity
  • A historical context – looking at how previous pandemics impacted artists/the creative arts

Research questions

Qualitative research questions

These will need to be refined and framed depending on how they will be used:

  • How do you describe yourself as a practitioner and the kind of creative work that you do?
  • In general terms, how would you describe your experience of the pandemic?
  • Did the pandemic change HOW you make work?
  • Did the pandemic change WHAT you make work about?
  • Did you experience lockdown restrictions in a positive or negative way?
  • Has the pandemic given you any new insights/learning?
  • Will the pandemic have a lasting impact on your work?
  • What are the lessons from the creative arts during and coming out of the coronavirus pandemic that should be passed onto future generations so that they are better prepared for the next pandemic?

Quantitative research questions

These will need to be refined and framed depending on how they will be used. A similar approach can be used for creative workshops.

  • How did you deliver life/figure drawing classes before the pandemic?
  • How frequent were the classes?
  • How many students attended?
  • What type of artists typically attended?
  • How much did you charge each student?
  • How much did the model earn?
  • How long were the sessions?
  • Where were the classes held?
  • How many different models did you use?
  • How did you use social media and/or the internet in relation to your classes?
  • How did the pandemic change the way you delivered life/figure drawing classes?
  • Did the frequency of classes change?
  • Did the number of students change?
  • What type of artists typically attended?
  • How much did you charge each student?
  • How much did the model earn?
  • How long were the sessions?
  • Where were the models based?
  • How many different models did you use?
  • How did you use social media and/or the internet in relation to your classes?
  • How do you think the classes you offer will change post pandemic?
  • What are the positive things to come out of the pandemic?
  • What are the negative things to come out of the pandemic?

Theoretical research questions

  • What has been the impact of coronavirus/ lockdown restrictions on creativity?
  • What are the things that have a positive impact on creativity?
  • What are the things that have a negative impact on creativity?
  • Are there any lessons that should be taken forward?

Artist research questions

  • How have the creative arts been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic?
  • How have artists responded to the coronavirus pandemic?
  • How have artists responded to previous pandemics?
  • How have the impacts of previous pandemics made their way into popular culture?
  • What can we learn from previous pandemics?
  • What can we learn from the coronavirus pandemic?

List of resources

Primary research qualitative resources

  • A list of potential research participants and their contact details. Note that I am not publishing the list here because of Privacy concerns
  • The questions for interviews
  • A questionnaire for participants not interviewed
  • A mechanism for publishing the questionnaire and collecting the results. I’m thinking of using SurveyMonkey because I have explored this service before and it’s free. This would also allow me to reach a lot of potential participants quickly

Primary research quantitative resources

  • A list of potential research participants and their contact details. Note that I am not publishing the list here because of Privacy concerns
  • The questions for interviews
  • Depending on how much take-up there is of face-to-face interviews, it might be necessary to use email to carry out some of this research

Secondary research resources

The following resources are an initial list of starting points that have been skim read only. A more detailed reading will lead to further areas of investigation. Some will be rejected as the scope and shape of the critical review takes shape.

Academic papers

Glaveanu, V. P. and de Saint Laurent, C. M. B. (2021) ‘Social media responses to the pandemic: What makes a coronavirus meme creative’ In: Frontiers in psychology 12 p.492.

Heyer, C. H. et al. (2020) ‘Design through vulnerability: Designing presence in a time of pandemic’ At: http://ls00012.mah.se/handle/2043/32782

Lopez-Persem, A., Bieth, T., Guiet, S., Ovando-Tellez, M., & Volle, E. (2021, March 16). Through thick and thin: changes in creativity during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/26qde

Spiro, N. et al. (2020) ‘The Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown 1.0 on Working Patterns, Income, and Wellbeing Among Performing Arts Professionals in the United Kingdom (April-June 2020)’ In: Frontiers in psychology 11 p.594086.

The giant pause and the new now (s.d.) At: https://news.columbia.edu/news/carol-becker-lessons-learned-from-the-pandemic (Accessed 03/04/2021).

Artist’s responses to the pandemic

From various points of view:

Grayson’s Art Club (s.d.) At: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/graysons-art-club (Accessed 03/04/2021).

Karwowski, M. et al. (2021) ‘Creative Lockdown? A Daily Diary Study of Creative Activity During Pandemics’ In: Frontiers in psychology 12 p.600076.

Lee, V. (2020) Vic Lee’s Corona Diary 2020. (s.l.): White Lion Publishing.

Lewis, H. (2021) ‘Where Are the Iconic COVID-19 Images?’ In: The Atlantic 24/02/2021 At: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/02/where-are-iconic-images-covid-19-pandemic/618036/ (Accessed 07/03/2021).

Mathew, S. (2020) Corona Diaries: Perspectives During Quarantine. (s.l.): Independently Published.

Shock Waves (s.d.) In: BBC At: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000sqs8 (Accessed 17/03/2021).

Tavares, G. M. (2020) ‘My plague diary’ In: TLS. Times Literary Supplement p.14+.

Wilkinson, A. (2021) The Plague Prophets. At: https://www.vox.com/culture/22289454/pandemic-year-contagion-world-war-z-station-eleven-rest-relaxation (Accessed 30/03/2021).

Historical context

Bowyer, S. (2020) Pepys and the plague. At: https://wellcomecollection.org/articles/Xn4chRIAAK03rFsj (Accessed 03/04/2021).

Outka, Elizabeth. Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature. Columbia University Press, 2020. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/outk18574. Accessed 3 Apr. 2021.

Lotz-Heumann, U. (2020) ‘Diary of Samuel Pepys shows how life under the bubonic plague mirrored today’s pandemic’ In: The Conversation 24/04/2020 At: http://theconversation.com/diary-of-samuel-pepys-shows-how-life-under-the-bubonic-plague-mirrored-todays-pandemic-136222 (Accessed 03/04/2021).

Pandemics: Now and then (s.d.) At: https://www.historytoday.com/archive/behind-times/pandemics-now-and-then?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB (Accessed 21/03/2021).

[Paris] #BookTalk: Viral modernism, the influenza pandemic and interwar literature (s.d.) At: https://globalcenters.columbia.edu/content/paris-booktalk-viral-modernism-influenza-pandemic-and-interwar-literature (Accessed 03/04/2021).

The City of Edinburgh Council (s.d.) ECA Diary Archiving COVID 19 Guidance. At: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/download/14455/eca-diary-archiving-covid-19-guidance (Accessed 17/03/2021).