Cut It Up and Put It Back Together: Cut-up and Collage as Tools to Overcome Academic Deadlock


  • Anna Bager-Elsborg Aarhus University
  • Daphne Loads University of Edinburgh



messiness, teaching, collage, creative research methods


This ‘On the Horizon’ paper concerns creativity in the research process as a way to overcome unhelpful pre-understandings and ‘false clarity’. This paper gives an idea of how we can allow research to be as complex and messy as reality. Cut-up and collage are introduced and suggested as a way of letting go of rational analysis and allowing subconscious observations to come forward. The research example is from a project examining the disciplinary characteristics of academic law in a research intensive university.

Author Biographies

Anna Bager-Elsborg, Aarhus University

Anna Bager-Elsborg (M.Sc. Political Science) is a PhD student at Centre for Teaching and Learning, School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University. Anna’s PhD project is about lectures’ attitudes towards teaching in academic law and business management. During spring 2015 she was visiting fellow at the Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh.

Daphne Loads, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Daphne Loads is a member of the Learning and Teaching team at the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh, where her responsibilities include support and development for academic staff who teach. Daphne is currently researching arts-enriched professional development.


Burroughs, W. (1961). The Soft Machine. London: Paladin.

Burroughs, W. (1962). The Ticket that Exploded. London: Paladin.

Burroughs, W. (1964). Novas Express. London: Paladin.

Chilton, G. & Scotti, V. (2014). Snipping, gluing, writing: The properties of collage as an arts-based research practice in art therapy. Journal of the American Art Therapists’ Association, 31(4), 163-71.

Cran, R. (2013). ‘Everything is permitted’: William Burroughs’ cut-up novels and european art, Comparative American Studies, 11(3), 300-13. doi:

Eisner, E. (1997). The promised and perils of alternative forms of data representation, Educational Researcher, 26(6), 4-10.

Kay, L. (2013). Bead Collage: an arts-based research method, International Journal of Education and the Arts, 14(3), 1-18.

Leavy, P. (2009). Method Meets Art: Arts-based research practices, New York: Guildford Press.

Loads, D. (2010). ‘I’m a dancer’ and ‘I’ve got a saucepan stuck on my head’: metaphor in helping lecturers to develop being-for-uncertainty, Teaching in Higher Education, 15(4), 409-21. doi:

McArthur, J. (2012). Virtuous mess and wicked clarity: struggle in higher education research, Higher Education Research & Development, 31(3), 419-430. doi:

Vaughan, K. (2005). Pieced together: Collage as an artist’s method for interdisciplinary research, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 4(1), 27-51.

Walford, G. (2001). Doing Qualitative Educational Research. A personal guide to the research process. London: Continuum.

Walters, Jr R. (1962). In and Out of Books, New York Times Book Review.






On the Horizon