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9 Easy Ways to Get Creative With Your Research

When it comes to working on essays and assignments at university, the research is the necessary part you often leave to the to-do list, especially if your course is a more creative one.

Whether you’re anything from a budding TV producer or a fine artist, the often mundane nature of researching can leave you feeling somewhat uninspired. After all, it can be hard to get those creative juices flowing when you’ve been sat in a wooden library booth for 16 hours staring at page after page of books you’re not even sure are going to be helpful to you yet.

But, what about if there was a way to make research more exciting? Maybe even as exciting as your practice…

Well, behold just a few easy ways to make things just a bit more pleasant.

1. Get out and about.

The world is your oyster when it comes to researching, so don’t feel restricted by your university’s resources or those you can access online. Look into any relevant exhibitions, heritage sites or talks that you could go to, especially as many of them will be free if not discounted for students. If you’re really clever about it, you can turn a trip somewhere for research into a weekend away. Say for example, a theatre student goes to Edinburgh for the weekend, said student could see one show per day, and spend the rest of the time exploring the city. This balance of research and pleasure will also make your research feel like more of a lifestyle than a chore.

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2. Remember: research doesn’t just mean reading books.

Jack Kerouac wrote that the best teacher is experience, so if you can, try to incorporate new experiences into your research. Who is to say that a festival’s visuals aren’t the best research for a design student or that a spoken word event isn’t incredible research for a writer? Nobody. These are all valid forms of research, all you have to do is explain why.

3. Go shopping.

Seriously. In a lot of creative degrees we reflect on the consumer element of what we are creating. What would be wrong with therefore seeing products themselves as points of research? As a fine artist interested in pop culture, how about going out and collecting key pieces like the latest fashion statement piece, the CD of the band that everyone is talking about, and treating them as hubs of information. You could write profiles on the image and assess their importance to what you are exploring (and obviously you get to go shopping for cool things which is always a bonus).

4. Don’t underestimate social media.

Social media is often considered kryptonite to the researching student. How many times have you been distracted by your Facebook feed when you’re supposed to be working on your research? However, social media can actually be rather helpful at times. Now, I’m not saying use your friend’s Instagram snap of their Sunday roast as evidence for your project, but what I am saying is that, quite often, platforms like Instagram and Twitter are underestimated for their ability to allow you quick access different networks. Follow your favourite creative geniuses and look for other emerging talents, create your own network on Twitter and send direct messages to relevant leaders in your field. Maybe they’ll reply, maybe they won’t, but if they do, how great could a quote from them be for your research?

5. If you haven’t already, join a society affiliated with your degree.

There might be a society for creative writers or an architecture group that meets to discuss their plans and bounce ideas off of one another. It’s often these things we don’t know exist at first that help us the most with meeting the right people. It’s also nice that you often make amazing friends from these places and you can do all of the weird and wonderful stuff you’re both interested in together.

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6. Get involved in some workshops.

Sometimes, working in a way we aren’t used to can change the way we work for the better. If you’re a painter for example, why not attend a free film workshop and see how this can affect the way you paint. Not only will this give your mind a break from what you’re working on, but it can also provide the most unexpected inspiration.

7. In fact, why not get hands on experience?

This doesn’t have to mean a ten week internship or a full time job; it can simply be volunteering at your local theatre or getting a part time job as a runner in the fashion industry. Whatever you do, it’s the kind of thing that will benefit you infinitely, helping your present self and also your future self. Both research and experience all rolled into one bundle of convenience. It might seem a lot but you will thank yourself later.

8. Utilise the people around you.

Need to go over a script or event plan and dreading the three hour editing process? Why not invite your peers over and discuss things over a glass or two of wine? You may even feel it’s enjoyable enough that you want to do it more and more (hopefully anyway).

9. Branch out into a different field.

Creative industries all feed into each other in weird and wonderful ways. So why not try some of the above methods of research in an area different to your own? You never know what you might find to be helpful, as well as what will make your work stand out from everyone else’s.

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So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get experimental with your research. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! If it wasn’t already made clear enough throughout the above list, great research can often rely on other people, and luckily, creatives have a beautifully open outlook when it comes to helping each other along. This is what it all comes down to: fusing your creativity with others to bring that idea to life.

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