Skip to Main Content
Armacost Library
Ask Us

CREATIVE WRITING: Understanding Research

An introduction to Creative Writing research for University of Redlands students

This page will help you...

  • Consider how research relates to the creative process (and other everyday life situations)
  • Recognize how the library resources mentioned in this guide (books, articles, databases, etc.) relate to a broader research process

What is research?

Research is what you do when you find yourself in a situation where you need outside information to solve a problem or accomplish a goal. It involves:

Icon of a thinking person with a question mark
Looking inward
understand your situation
define your goals
describe the question(s) you need to address.
Icon of three people discussing an idea around a round table
Looking outward
listen to the ideas and perspectives of others
engage in conversations relevant to your questions.
Icon of a thinking person with gears spinning in their head
Making sense
how has the encounter with other ideas changed you?
Icon of a person presenting to three people in the audience
find some way to share what you have learned

Research in everyday life

Before coming to University of Redlands, you may have learned about research as something related to school assignments, in which you cite authoritative, scholarly sources in a formal paper or presentation while complying with a style guide such as MLA or APA. This is one important situation in which you'll engage in research as a student.

However, this understanding of research as applying outside information to address a problem also relates to situations in everyday life, such as:

  • Learning how to help care for a family member with health issues
  • Deciding how to vote on ballot measures in an election
  • Solving a problem with a team of coworkers

The time you spend honing your research skills as a student will repay you many times over after you graduate!

Creative research

I am encouraging you to think of research as open-ended, driven by your interest in a problem and the availability of relevant information, rather than solely limited to certain kinds of academic assignments. This is especially meaningful when you're taking arts classes where most of your assignments are about creating or interpreting art.

Works of art carry interpretive meaning for artists and audiences; they are shaped by agreed-upon conventions such as form and genre; and they are often inspired by real-world places, events, people and details. Arts research explores each of these aspects.

What might research look like in these situations?

  • Creating a nonrepresentational painting for an art class
  • Revising a short story with richer details in a creative writing class
  • Composing music for an unfamiliar instrument in a music class
  • Designing the set for an upcoming production in a theatre class

Research skills are relevant to creativity in all of the arts. They help you find inspiration, engage with larger traditions and concepts, and ultimately produce better, more informed work.

The ABCs of research

Research is a process with several stages. As you move through the research process, you can expect to see changes in three areas or dimensions of learning:

Alphabet block letter "A"
What you feel
Alphabet block letter "b"
What you know how to do
alphabet block letter "c"
What you know about your research topic or problem

Several factors influence how you experience the research process, including the amount of time you devote, what you are studying, what kind of question you're posing, and how you approach learning new things. Growing as a researcher is about deepening your understanding of yourself and the world, and becoming more flexible in the strategies that you can apply to address your research questions.

Below are images of several ways that librarians have depicted the research process.

What does your research process look like?

How to use the rest of this guide

The other tabs on this guide will help you get started searching or browsing for information in the library, link you to recommended databases for research in this subject area, and help you learn how and why to cite sources according to formal style guides.

Finding information and citing sources are just two pieces of the overall research process. To see the overall big picture and go into more detail about skills useful at different stages of the research process, see my open educational resource, Introduction to Library Research in the Arts.

Learn more about research

Visit this open educational resource to learn more about research.

For more on "looking inward" see the chapter Developing Your Topic

For more on "looking outward" see the chapters Finding Information and Evaluating Sources

For more on "making sense" and "communicating" see the chapter Using Information Ethically

Lifelong learning

Project Information Literacy, a nonprofit research institute, found that college graduates most commonly needed information to learn life skills such as how to manage money, make household repairs, or advance in their career. Check out this infographic summarizing their findings:

University of Redlands participated in the study. Here's what the study found out about University of Redlands graduates:

Research process (Humanities)

Image of the research process by Allison Carr

Credit: Allison Carr, CSU San Marcos

Research process (Sciences)

Academic inquiry process in the sciences

Credit: Paige Mann, University of Redlands

Key points

  • Research is a process of drawing on outside information to help you learn about a goal or problem and share what you find.
  • Research is relevant to creative work as well as traditional academic situations.
  • Finding information from the library is only a part of the broader research process.