Grant Writing Advice

So you’re wondering whether you can do research.

Arts therapists and practitioners often do not see themselves as researchers, especially if they associate research with statistics and quantitative data.  So the first thing to realise is that research can take many different forms and that researchers do not need to work in ivory towers but can be hands-on practitioners.  Reflection, curiosity, questioning – research is just a more formal way of approaching these.

There are of course skills and knowledge to be acquired in order to carry out a research study.  For those practitioners relatively new to research, HEMF’s stream 2 offers the opportunity to develop a project with the support of a mentor.

Below are listed some considerations around developing a research study and the writing up of a research grant application.

Developing My Question

Is it about UNDERSTANDING – your own practice, a specific aspect of DMT/TD/DW in general or with specific groups, what it means to the participants?

Is it about PROVING the effectiveness/validity of your practice? (to employers, to other professional disciplines, to funding bodies). 

Or it may be a combination of those two?

Your purpose will have some influence on the methodology you select, i.e., how you go about answering your question.

Search the relevant literature in your area of interest (e.g. ageing, children with disabilities, DMT/TD/DW practice issues).

What are the key research questions that have been asked by other researchers and what have been the findings?

Has your question already been sufficiently studied and developed? Will your study merely repeat what has already been done or will your study expand on it (and therefore be worth doing)?

Or, does your study fill a gap – address an issue that has not yet been studied?

It is also important to read some of the literature in the field of study (e.g. disability, medical etc.) so that you can place your study in context.

This study of the literature is a vital part of the process of focussing your question.

Would be researchers usually start off with a broad question or even several questions, but the final study question needs to be much more focussed. The temptation, for the beginning researcher, is to try to answer too many questions in the one study. Not only does this lead to rather intellectually vague project submissions, but it becomes methodologically and practically impossible to carry out. You need to frame a question that can be addressed in the given context, within the timeframe, resources etc. available. So keep your question simple, and your aims modest. Every research study ends with suggestions for further study – nothing is ever answered in one go.

Do not underestimate the time and thought that needs to go into developing your question!

Methodologies are grounded in particular world views, and this will influence the research question and also the different methods you use to answer that question. The context within which you wish to conduct your study and to present it also influences the question and methodology, for example are you seeking acceptance within a particular professional context. If you have not studied research methods, this is where previous research studies in the literature and advice from others who have done research may help. 

The traditional research methodologies (quantitative) are often still the preferred mode in medical fields particularly, but there is a long tradition of other research methodologies (qualitative, arts-based etc.).  Some researchers choose to do a mixture (mixed methods) to answer the questions relevant to them as practitioners while including the kind of data acceptable to the other professionals they work with. 

HEMF’s listing of Research Resources gives you information on research carried out by local dance movement therapists. There is also much information online that gives brief overviews of the different methodologies, one or other of which may be a useful framework for your research.

The methodology section of your application should include the following:

Who is participating in the study? How will they be recruited?

Description of the research context – e.g., one-hour session once a week over 6 weeks.

What will count as “data” for this research?

Data Collection: What methods you will use to collect the data – observation, interview, journal, etc.

Data Analysis: How you will analyse the material you have collected.

Ethical considerations

Ethical considerations are very important and need to be taken into account when developing your methodology, e.g. informed consent, safety issues, etc. This is one aspect HEMF reviewers will look at carefully in terms of:

Ethical conduct towards/protection of participants in the research. Work within ethical guidelines (DTAA Code of Ethics and Conduct).

Your study methodology, for example: Does it fit with ethical practice? Have you included all the areas relating to data collection for which you have asked for consent?

Informed Consent. You need to spell out every aspect that participants should give consent. It is important that there is no vagueness and no loopholes that would allow you to use data for which the participant has not given ‘INFORMED’ consent.

In institutional settings, certain patients, residents, and clients may be considered unable to give informed consent, necessitating obtaining consent from the relevant family member/guardian. You should still aim to include the person in the decision-making process.

Download the Informed Consent Template Here.


Last but not least, it is important to consider:


In an organisation where you already work?

In an organisation that is willing to let you do your research with their clients and in their space?

In a community space?

Physical requirements?

Availability of private and otherwise appropriate space

Video or other equipment.

What kind of support will you have in managing the project?

If you are doing this within a health/welfare organisation you already work in, will you have support from them in terms of:

Providing research participants

Providing a space

Back up – e.g. having a staff person assisting

If you are doing this independently in the community:

How will you find your group/individual?

Are you able to ensure your own safety and that of participants (especially important in community settings and if you are working alone) through adequate in-session support, supervision, etc.?

Do you have to follow up provisions for any client who may experience difficulties during or after the research study?

Are you covered for Public Liability and Professional Indemnity (This is a HEMF grant requirement).

Having considered the above and the grant criteria, you can access and fill out the HEMF application form which provides a clear framework for writing up your grant application.

For further information/enquiries, contact: Heather Hill, email