Creative Writing research can take many forms, but at its heart are the activities of writing creatively. That is, those engaging in Creative Writing research are active creative writers, producing creative works as key parts of their research explorations.
In addition, Creative Writing researchers often consider critical questions concerning Creative Writing practice and the results of this practice; for example, structural or stylistic questions, questions of form and function, or questions of authorship. Equally Creative Writing research might be driven by thematic or subject-based ideas, concerns with cultural conditions, the psychology or emotive context of Creative Writing, or explorations of Creative Writing aesthetics. Some Creative Writing researchers might be interested in the types of knowledge that Creative Writing entails and offers; others may have an interest in the audiences for Creative Writing, its distribution or reception. These are just a few examples.
Since the 1970s in North America, and from the beginning of the 1990s in Britain and Australasia, universities have been offering creative writers the opportunity to study for a doctoral degree in their subject. This has been in addition to a considerable of Masters level degree programmes that have a research element – practice-led research and/or critical research – at their core.
At present, thousands of creative writers worldwide are writing not only with the aim of perhaps publishing their work, or seeing it performed or produced, but also with the aim of exploring some particular topic or idea, through creative and critical research in Creative Writing.
Different educational systems have produced different versions of both Masters level and Doctoral level degrees in Creative Writing. And yet there are many similarities and a deal of shared territory in both the creative practices and in the critical explorations that are undertaken. In essence, a wide variety of “sites of knowledge” are being mined. There are sometimes meeting points and there are sometimes shared experiences. There are unique, but sometimes connected, discoveries being made. Finally, there is a lively variety of creative and critical works being produced. All this is to be celebrated.
Given the vast range of subjects that academe supports, and has supported, it is pleasing for those who engage in the writing arts as a way of investigating the world, that Creative Writing is one of academe’s oldest partners. That is, even a “university” as old as Plato’s Academy (C.387 B.C.) could be seen to form the first point of contact between the act of writing creatively and formal higher education.
In 2008 the Higher Education Committee of the National Association of Writers in Education, the national subject association for Creative Writing, produced the first specific Benchmark Statement for Creative Writing teaching and research in universities and colleges in the UK. You’ll find a copy of that Benchmark here on the NAWE website. NAWE has since worked with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) on an official Creative Writing Benchmark to be published in 2015.
As one of the UK’s creative arts subject associations, from 2005-2008 NAWE was represented on the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Steering Committee on Practice-led Research, mapping practice-led research in Creative and Performing Arts across the UK.