The Production and Dissemination of Knowledge: A Scoping Review of Arts-Based Health Research

  • Katherine Boydell University of New South Wales
  • Brenda M. Gladstone University of Toronto
  • Tiziana Volpe The Hospital for Sick Children
  • Brooke Allemang University of Western Ontario
  • Elaine Stasiulis The Hospital for Sick Children
Keywords: scoping review, arts-based health research, knowledge creation, knowledge dissemination, knowledge translation and exchange


The use of arts-based research is shifting our understanding of what counts as evidence and highlights the complexity and multidimensionality involved in creating new knowledge. A scoping review of arts-based health research was undertaken to identify the breadth of peer-reviewed literature, summarize findings and identify gaps. A literature database search identified 71 original studies meeting our criteria for review. Studies were characterized by diverse art genres, designs, and substantive health topics. The arts in qualitative research were considered an opportunity for enhanced engagement of participants and audiences alike, a way to enrich communication and make research accessible beyond academia, and a method for generating data beyond the scope of most interview-based methods. Three central gaps were identified: the need for critical dialogue regarding the impact of arts-based health research, the need to focus on how the quality of such projects is judged, and the need to address the ethical challenges of engaging in this work. We suggest that the broadening of qualitative methodologies to include arts-based approaches offers more than simply adjuncts to typical data collection and dissemination approaches, and instead, presents different ways of knowing. We believe that this may be a significant moment in the field in which to question whether or not we are witness to a paradigmatic shift in the ways we approach inquiry into the social world and/or the emergence of an innovative set of techniques that researchers can draw upon to enhance traditional methods of conducting qualitative inquiry.



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Author Biographies

Katherine Boydell, University of New South Wales
Katherine M. BOYDELL is a senior scientist whose program of research focuses on child and youth mental health. Her academic background is in community health epidemiology and qualitative sociology and she has an interest in studying arts-based forms of knowledge translation and exchange.
Brenda M. Gladstone, University of Toronto
Brenda M. GLADSTONE is an adjunct lecturer in the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto where she teaches graduate courses in qualitative methodology. She is also a research manager at the Community Health Systems Resource Group at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her research involves the use of critical discourse analysis and ethnography with respect to children of parents with a mental illness.
Tiziana Volpe, The Hospital for Sick Children
Tiziana VOLPE is a research manager at the Community Health Systems Resource Group at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her research interests are focused on the use of photography with young people identified as at risk for developing psychosis.
Brooke Allemang, University of Western Ontario
Brooke ALLEMANG is a student at the University of Western Ontario with an interest in combining research and the arts.
Elaine Stasiulis, The Hospital for Sick Children
Elaine STASIULIS is a research manager at the Community Health Systems Resource Group at the Hospital for Sick Children. She is pursuing doctoral studies at the Institute of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral work involves the use of institutional ethnography in the context of an early intervention for psychosis clinic.