This resource originates from an interdisciplinary research residential funded by the ISRF, held during week commencing 21st August 2017. It brings together community arts-based practice, criminology, social research and sociology to interrogate and yield new insights into the processes, practicalities and realities of adopting participatory styles of research with vulnerable, marginalised and/or hard-to-reach groups, with a particular focus on ‘offenders’.

The benefits of participatory styles of research for engaging marginalised groups are relatively under explored outside of education. Moreover, there has been a recent resurgence in interest in participatory approaches, particularly in health research, party motivated by an explicit requirement by funding bodies (in the United Kingdom at least) for public and patient involvement (PPI) (Cook 2012).

The reference to a participatory style is deliberate and distinguishes it from participatory action research (PAR), which involves cooperation from research respondents, as they work alongside researchers in the co-production of knowledge, at all stages of the research process from research planning, data collection, analysis and interpretation to the publication of findings (Kemmis and McTaggart 2005). Here, a participatory style incorporates creative/arts-based methods, which share attributes in common, notably giving respondents a voice to address, challenge and rebalance power relationships (Clarke et al., 2005; Coad et al., 2009; Parsons and Pettinger 2017, Poudrier and MacLean, 2009). Moreover, participatory styles that incorporate creative/arts-based methods emphasise the importance of democracy, equality, flexibility and reflexivity in the research process, which changes the nature of the traditional research relationship, and can make the researcher more of ‘an outsider in the academic community’ (Bergold and Thomas 2012). Indeed, there are ongoing debates regarding the principles of participatory, creative/arts based and action research methods and these will also need to be teased out in the context of existing and future research problems.


Bergold and Thomas (2012) Participatory Research Methods: A Methodological Approach in Motion, Forum Qualitative Social Research, Special Issue on “Participatory Qualitative Research”, Volume 13, No. 1, Art. 30 http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1801/3334

Coad, Jane (2007). Using art-based techniques in engaging children and young people in health care consultations and/or research. Journal of Research in Nursing & Health, 12(5), 487497.

Clarke, Juanne; Febbraro; Angela; Hatzipantelis, Maria & Nelson, Geoffrey (2005). Poetry and prose: Telling the stories of formerly homeless mentally ill people. Qualitative Inquiry, 11(6), 913-932.

Cook, Tina (2012). Where participatory approaches meet pragmatism in funded (health) research: The challenge of finding meaningful spaces. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 13(1), Art. 18, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1201187

Kemmis, Stephen & McTaggart, Robin (2005). Participatory action research. Communicative action and the public sphere. In Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd ed., pp.559-603). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Parsons, J.M. and Pettinger, C. (2017) ‘Liminal identities’ and power struggles, reflections on the regulation of everyday foodways at a homeless centre and the use of creative participatory research as a tool of empowerment and resistance, in Bleakley, A. Lynch, L. and Whelan, G. (eds) Risk and Regulation at the Interface of Medicine and the Arts: Selected Papers from the Association for Medical Humanities’ 2015 Annual Conference ‘Dangerous Currents’, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp 171-189.

Poudrier, Jennifer & Mac-Lean, Roanne Thomas (2009). “We’ve fallen into the cracks”: Aboriginal women’s experiences with breast cancer through photovoice. Nursing Inquiry, 16(4), 306-317.