Methodological Practices in Research on Arts-Based Programs in International Development: A Systematic Review

  • Vicki-Ann WareEmail author
  • Kim Dunphy
Original Article


International development initiatives increasingly use programmes involving arts participation to facilitate desired outcomes, such as improved psycho-social wellbeing and conflict resolution. Research into the effectiveness of these interventions has increased commensurately. However, this research has not necessarily been of high quality. This article reports a systematic review of 67 studies of arts-based international development initiatives, to examine the research methods used and the quality of their application. Methodological strength and integrity were analysed against criteria important for research quality in this field, including use of participatory methods, clarity of research question, methodological rigour and system, supportable claims of causal links and supportable generalisations. The findings indicate that only one-third of studies employed robust methods. Challenges include inappropriate selection of research methods to match stated research questions, lack of adequate reporting of data to allow readers to assess the validity of claims, and overly strong claims made with insufficient support.


International development Participatory arts Systematic review Research methods Arts-based international development 

Les initiatives du développement international font de plus en plus appel aux méthodes artistiques participatives dans leurs programmes pour apporter les résultats souhaités, tels que l’amélioration du bien-être psychosocial et la résolution des conflits. La recherche sur l’efficacité de ces interventions a augmenté de façon proportionnelle. Cependant, cette recherche n’est pas nécessairement de haute qualité. Cet article présente une revue systématique de 67 études d’initiatives de développement international axées sur les arts afin d’examiner les méthodes de recherche utilisées et la qualité de leur utilisation. La force et l’intégrité méthodologiques ont été analysées selon des critères importants pour la qualité de la recherche dans ce domaine. Ces critères comprennent: l’utilisation de méthodes participatives; la clarté de la question de recherche; système et rigueur méthodologiques; des revendications de liens de causalité ainsi que des généralisations défendables. Les résultats indiquent que seulement un tiers des études utilisaient des méthodes robustes. Les défis incluent : le choix inadéquat des méthodes de recherche par rapport aux questions de recherche énoncées, le manque de données rapportées pour permettre aux lecteurs d’évaluer la validité des affirmations, et des affirmations trop fortes avec preuves insuffisantes à l’appui.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


N.B. Articles marked with an asterisk were included in the systematic review

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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and EducationDeakin University Melbourne-Burwood CampusBurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.Creative Arts Therapy Research Unit, Victorian College of the ArtsUniversity of MelbourneSouthbankAustralia

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