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Your Thesis: literature, ethics, methods and publishing

Introduction

While there is obvious overlap with a conventional thesis (e.g. formulating a research question, conducting a literature review, etc.), students undertaking a thesis by creative work plus exegesis also need to consider questions unique to this kind of research.

This page provides some background information about creative theses, and some suggestions that may assist you to pursue your creative practice in a research context.

Advice about how to access creative thesis examples at Deakin (as well as elsewhere in Australia and internationally) is available earlier in this guide here.


What is a thesis by creative work plus exegesis?

Deakin's published advice to examiners provides a useful introduction to the thesis by creative work plus exegesis. (The complete document, Advice to Examiners of Higher degrees by Research: Doctor of Philosophy and Masters Degrees in Creative Writing, is available here.)

This form of thesis demonstrates and conveys the outcome of independent research in two voices. The first involves original writing that itself contributes to the extension and inventiveness of the field of creative writing and its practices. The second articulates, for the field, extended expert knowledge (MA) or original knowledge (PhD) concerning writing or the practices of writing, in the form of an exegetical component. The exegesis may take a number of forms, including but not limited to a critical or theoretical engagement or a practice-led research engagement.

The thesis overall is comprised of these two components, both of which concern a main overarching thesis (that is: a position or proposition or “place where it stands”). Both components test, develop or contend this thesis or area of practice-based or theoretical inquiry. Each component addresses this same shared thesis using, respectively, the methodologies of creative practice in writing and then the methodologies of practice-led research and/or critical/theoretical writing and research more common across the humanities and social sciences.

A 2013 report, Examination of doctoral degrees in creative arts: process, practice and standards (led by the University of Canberra and funded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching) identified widespread agreement that a creative doctorate should align with AQF standards for a doctoral degree, i.e. it should be "driven by a research question, underpinned by a methodology, and capable of contributing new knowledge to the field" (18).

The report also found that creative thesis examinations demonstrated "both agreement and contradiction", in that examinations were based on "a diversity of processes and standards across institutions, but also...homogeneity in the values and practices that examiners bring to the examination process" (50).


Creative practice as research?

It is common for established and/or experienced creative practitioners to question whether exploring their craft in an academic context will benefit or restrict their creative work.

Australian author Sophie Masson described in her recent article, "Imagination’s afterlife: influences on and transformations of literary creative process within a Creative Practice PhD" (2018),

It has been illuminating, as I advance through the work, to see not only how an early concern that academic expectations might lead me to 'over-think', thereby losing spontaneity, has not eventuated, but instead how the intellectual aspect has complemented the imaginative aspect in a number of ways.

An increasing body of scholarship addresses this intersection between the academic and the creative. Contributions to the field offer personal examples of creative practitioners who have experienced tension or felicity between creative and research priorities, advice on managing supervisory relationships in this dualistic context, and practical strategies for the exegesis or creative artifact that may help to address potential problems.

Some examples include:


Textbooks for creative works?

While creative practice tends to be thought of as an individuated enterprise, texts devoted to the craft of one's discipline may be helpful either for general interest or as sources of inspiration. They can also be analogous to or inform a practice-led research exegesis.

Here are some examples of creative practice texts accessible through the Library.