The term, practice-based research (PBR), as a research methodology has become widely adopted by a number of non-creative disciplines such as health, social work and education. There is a certain amount of slippage often associated with the term, as Candy (2006, p. 3) notes, it has yet to be 'characterised in detail' where its use is agreed upon across disciplines. However, practice-based research can perhaps be understood in general terms as research that is conducted in order to elicit new knowledge through the means and outcomes of the practice itself (Candy, 2006).
Outlined below, are definitions of PBR in several non-creative disciplines.......
Practice-based research plays an important role in the health sciences, and provides an opportunity for medical and allied health professionals to 'bridge the divide between research and practice' (Crooke & Olswang, 2015, S1871) in clinical, laboratory or public health settings. In this context, PBR can be defined as a systematic enquiry into '...the systems, methods, policies, and programmatic applications of [...] health practice', where the result produces 'generalizable knowledge to improve the outcomes of practice or to inform policy making' (ASPH Council, as cited in Potter et al., 2006, p. 2). Furthermore, PBR can utilise research-inspired principles and data gathering techniques to try and answer questions that emerge from the practice as a means to inform the practice (Epstein, as cited in Crooke & Olswang, 2015).
Another key aspect of PBR in the health sciences are the community of practice networks that exist. These 'practice-based research networks' (PBRNs) provide an outlet for practitioners and academics to collaborate by sharing knowledge to improve health outcomes in a way where they can '...ask and systematically answer clinical and organizational questions central to primary health care' (Crooke & Olswang, 2015, S1872).
In the context of social work, practice-based research is a research process undertaken by practitioners to inform their clinical practice. It usually begins with a 'practice problem' and focuses on '....immediate practical applications by practitioner-researchers' (Dodd & Epstein, 2012, p. 5). PBR commonly integrates research based concepts and theories with clinical techniques and interventions to measure and evaluate treatment outcomes of patients.
In contrast to traditional theory-based research, PBR provides service providers a more practical opportunity to self critique their practice and evaluate what works and what doesn’t in a more meaningful way. Therefore, the knowledge generated from PBR provides a solid foundation to enhance practice, implement service changes to meet patient needs more effectively as well as support continued professional development (Wade & Neuman, 2007).
Practice-based research in the field of education has been defined as '...a method of studying ones’ own teaching that draws on action research, design-development research, and transformative research (Lammert, 2021, p. 2). Where educators traditionally apply best practice from theory-based course content, PBR invites educators to reflect on ones' own practice and share ideas, knowledge and solutions within professional communities.
Also described as reflective teaching, PBR can function as '...embedded professional development. As teachers become more systematic, reflective, and efficient, the quality of student learning improves' (Lammert, 2020, p. 232). Similarly, PBR can provide educators with a toolkit to further advance academic knowledge and transform practice in the field.