Katherina Manolessou: multimedia PhD research

Katherina Manolessou, PhD student

Katherina studied for her PhD at Anglia Ruskin University, where she is now a Senior Lecturer. She is a highly successful illustrator who’s worked for numerous well known clients including the Guardian, Random House, Ted Baker and the London Symphony Orchestra. 

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It's very interesting that everyone has Instagram - images, wherever you found them, you can instantly upload them, share them. But when it comes to research, you cannot - I say, why?

Katherina completed a practice-based PhD in 2012. Her research explored animal character development in picture-book illustration. As part of her PhD practice she authored and illustrated a children’s picture-book which has now been published, by Macmillan Children’s Books, called Zoom Zoom Zoom.

As an artist practitioner and illustrator Katherina approached her PhD thesis from a creative position. She wanted to reflect her practice in the construction of the thesis itself. As a picture-book author and illustrator her practice involves telling stories through pictures with snippets of text. In picture-books the text should not tell the reader what they can see in the image and the image should not illustrate exactly what is written in text, they should work together each adding something unique to the story. She reflected this in her thesis by producing a text-based thesis accompanied by a volume of illustrations. This innovative thesis was designed in such a way that both volumes hold equal weight and should be read together, side by side, each adding something different to the research. There is also a third part of the thesis which is the finished picture-book, Zoom Zoom Zoom, which cannot be published online as the publishers hold the copyright.

Illustration by Katherina Manolessou

When Katherina started her PhD in 2004, there were not many other illustration or practice-based PhDs, and she found little specific advice for her in creating her thesis. Katherina took seven years to complete the PhD, having two children in that time, and during that time, many universities had introduced requirements for students to deposit their thesis into the online university repository. As the images she planned to use did not have copyright permission to go online they had to be redacted, affecting the quality and readability of her thesis.

She became aware of this issue only when attempting to submit the finished thesis to her university library – and for this reason the finished thesis is not yet readable online. Katherina would like to have received appropriate training in copyright and the use of images for artists and illustrators doing PhDs in the course of her studies so she could have sought re-use permissions at the right time. Her option now is simply to include the text volume of her thesis without the illustrations, with an indication that researchers can see both printed volumes together by appointment in her university library. Katherina feels this could harm the integrity of the thesis, and limit its value as a research resource for future researchers since few people will make the trip to her university to see the full thesis as it was intended.

Search EThOS now to access over 400,000 UK theses

Key points

  • The nature of PhD theses is changing - the outputs from practice-based PhDs include artistic performances, exhibitions, works of art and creative writing
  • Openly available theses make fantastic research resources, helping researchers avoid repeating research and offering inspiration and models for future ideas
  • The Library's EThOS thesis service lists thousands of practice-based theses.