Doing research together: Reflections from the Purple Research Group

Accessible summary 

  • This blog was written by the ‘Purple Research Group’. 
  • We are a team of disabled and non-disabled researchers. 
  • We work together to do research about what it’s like to go to Purple Patch Arts.
  • Our research themes for the year have been ‘People’, ‘Arts and Variety’ and ‘Accessibility and Support’. 
  • We think more people should include people with learning disabilities as researchers!

Doing Research Together 

Collaboration in research can have many benefits, including the opportunity for researchers with different views, expertise and experiences to work together. Participatory research is one way that researchers can work together with people who may not usually be involved in research, such as disabled people. Participatory projects aim to include disabled people as researchers in their own right, supporting them to design and deliver research that is both relevant and beneficial to the disabled community. The Purple Research Group aims to do exactly this, by bringing together disabled and non-disabled researchers to explore the experiences of participants involved in arts-based lifelong learning at Purple Patch Arts. There are not many projects that involve people with learning disabilities as researchers, and fewer still that reflect on what this process is actually like for the individuals involved. So, after reflecting on our experiences so far, we’d like to share with you what it’s like to do research together as part of the Purple Research Group.   

This blog has been written collaboratively by the Purple Research Group.  

Who are Purple Patch Arts? 

Purple Patch Arts are a Yorkshire-based organisation that provide creative lifelong learning experiences for autistic adults and adults with Learning disabilities. Purple Patch Arts aim to improve the lives of participants by supporting them to access new learning opportunities and experiences, using their ‘Purple Patch approach’, which includes music, drama, art, movement and sensory activities. 

Who are the Purple Research Group? 

We are a team of researchers who all go to and/or support someone who attends the Purple Patch Arts Lifelong Learning Programmes. We have been working with a postgraduate researcher from the University of Leeds, Melissa Kirby, to do some research about our experience at Purple Patch Arts – together we are the Purple Research Group. We think teamwork is really important for doing research, John says “You’ve got to get a good team. We do have a really good team who tries to help. We will help each other when we’re stuck”. 

The Purple Research Group

 

What is our research about? 

We are doing this research find out what people think about Purple Patch Arts and to share our experiences. We want to help people understand how Purple Patch Arts helps disabled people and we want to understand what people who go to Purple Patch Arts get out of arts-based learning. We have also been thinking about exciting ways we can share our experiences at Purple Patch Arts with other people, such as through art, stories, videos and blogs! We also have our own personal reasons for wanting to do research. Ella says, I want more people to know about Purple Patch and I want people to know when they leave college there is something they can move on to”. 

How did we become researchers?  

A screen shot from one of the interactive research videos

We became researchers in August 2020. Melissa created some interactive animated videos all about research, and we were asked if we would like to watch them and try out some of the activities we might do as researchers. After we’d watched the videos, we all decided we would like to be researchers, and we filled out a consent form to say ‘yes’ to becoming part of the Purple Research Group! Since then, our team has met twice a month to plan and do our research.

What are our research sessions like? 

All of our research sessions take place on Zoom. Every session is different, and we do different activities depending on what part of the research we are working on. In our first meetings, we picked out three themes for the year to help us decide what kind of research we would like to do, these are: ‘people’, ‘arts and variety’ and ‘accessibility and support’. For each theme, we look at research other people have done and then pick out our research questions. We do lots of brainstorming and group discussions to share our ideas. We then collect evidence to answer our research questions using lots of different methods, including arts-based methods (like creating posters and other artwork and writing stories), questionnaires, and by sharing our experiences with the group. After we’ve collected our evidence, we analyse our data. So far, we have done some adapted thematic analysis where we pick out important parts of our work, and then think about how we might be able to put our ideas into groups. Finally, we think about what we have learned from our research and talk about how we can share our findings with others.   

What is it like to be a researcher? 

For most of us, this is our first-time doing research! At first being a researcher was new and a little confusing. John says, “at the start we didn’t know what we were doing, it was a new world, but we know now what research is”.  We’ve learned research skills, like the different ways you can collect and analyse evidence, and we’ve all been learning how to do research online by using Zoom! We’ve also learned a lot from each other. Melissa says, “everyone in the research team brings something different. We all have different strengths, experiences and expertise that we can learn from”. 

Doing research is fun and we think it makes us think more. We’ve been thinking about our own experiences at Purple Patch Arts as well as how research can be more inclusive. Tracey says, “we’re all different people with different disabilities so we need to make sure everything’s accessible for everyone”. We’ve been making videos to share our research findings and using lots of different arts-based methods to make sure everyone in the Purple Research Group is included.  

There are some things about being a researcher that can be difficult. We still feel a bit nervous sometimes when there’s something new, and finding information and putting all our research together can be challenging, but this is also one of our favourite parts! Janine says, “we’ve been learning how to take the important points out of something we’ve found in our research”. 

‘Purple Patch World’ by Charlie and Jo

What’s next for the Purple Research Group? 

We’re currently working on our last theme of the year, which is all about ‘accessibility and support’. We’re looking forward to sharing the findings of our research soon. A few of us would like to do more research in the future and we think it’s important for people to know that people with learning disabilities can be great researchers. Liam says, “If there’s a student who’s planning to ever do some research, ask and do it with disabled people because you’ll learn so much more”. 

If you’d like to find out more about the Purple Research Group, you can contact Melissa at mc13mlk@leeds.ac.uk or read about us on our research page – https://purplepatcharts.org/research/