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Guidelines for Research Journals


Research workbooks are an important part of creative art inquiry. These books are more than sketchbooks. They are similar to the field study books used by natural scientists and social scientists but also have the sketchbook/idea-generation component associated with art. 

The research journal is a place to: 1) record information gathered during the investigation; 2) brainstorm and develop ideas; 3) convey ideas and information visually and verbally; 3) express feelings and interpretations of the subjects investigated; 4) experiment with ideas, techniques and materials; 5) record reflections on the subject of the investigation, the process of learning about it, and the thinking that took place.



The research workbook enables a student to chronicle his or her learning, thinking and idea generation over time. In that way, it helps to build metacognition. It is also personal and, therefore, meaningful. The book also promotes creative inquiry—a shift away from making isolated hands-on art projects toward constructing conceptual threads among art activities and projects (a trail). Furthermore, it encourages learners to see themselves as artist-researchers and scholars. Above all, research books can integrate learning across the curriculum—building literacy skills and making cross-disciplinary connections.



Complexity of the books increases with each grade level. With k-2, the books are an introduction to an inquiry way of thinking. These books are simple and primarily visual. Kindergarten teachers can add children’s words into the books. First and second grade teachers can encourage writing in a child’s home language and, if necessary, include English translations. It is important for children to work in their books often on a regular basis. 


The Research Journals 

The research workbooks/journals augment and chronicle the projects. They provide an ongoing account of the research, learning and creating the children are doing in the art projects, but they are not limited to that. We recommend including curriculum materials directly connected to the art projects. If a teacher wants to expand the books to include other studies, that’s good too. It will draw attention to the links among all the things children are exploring in school. 

The books should include for each project:

  1. Generative Questions. These can be typed questions that children glue into their books.

  2. Guiding Questions with answers. These can be typed questions with pictures for answers and words written by the teacher or the child 

  3. Reflection Questions with answers. These can be typed questions with pictures for answers and words written by the teacher of the child. 

  4. Concept maps and other drawings that show thinking and observation

  5. Documentation of the artwork. The original 2D artwork; photos of the 3D artwork

  6. Documentation of Process:  Photos of the artist(s) at work


The books should also have a summary of the project trail and what was explored and learned on the trail. This can be a map of the trail of projects with a short explanation. It can come at the end of the book or be inserted on the first page after all the projects are completed.

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