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Research in which practice is a central focus can be divided into two main types:  practice-based and practice-led.

1.   If the research includes a creative artefact as the basis of the contribution to knowledge, the research is practice-based.

2.     If the research leads primarily to new understandings about the nature of practice, it is practice-led.

In some cases both types of research appear together but there is usually one that is more dominant.

Practice-based Research is an original investigation undertaken in order to gain new knowledge partly by means of practice and the outcomes of that practice. In a doctoral thesis, claims of originality and contribution to knowledge may be demonstrated through creative outcomes in the form of designs, music, digital media, performances and exhibitions. Whilst the significance and context of the claims are described in words, a full understanding can only be obtained with direct reference to the outcomes.

Practice-led Research is concerned with the nature of practice and is directed towards generating new knowledge that has operational significance for that practice. In a doctoral thesis, the results of practice-led research may be fully described in text form without the inclusion of a creative work. The primary focus of the research is to advance knowledge about practice, or to advance knowledge within practice. Such research includes practice as an integral part of its method and often falls within the general area of action research.