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Academic Skills Essentials: Exegesis

What is an exegesis?

An exegesis is the written component that accompanies your creative product. At undergraduate level, an exegesis is structured much like an essay, but the content is different. 

The focus of an exegesis is on your creative work, such as:

  • a painting,
  • a novel,
  • poetry or short stories,
  • a film script,
  • photomedia portfolio,
  • a dance piece,
  • a musical composition, or
  • a costume / set design.

In your exegesis, you will need to critically examine this creative product in terms of contemporary theory and practice, demonstrating how this creative component may be considered a piece of research. At the same time, you critically reflect on your own practice as a way of gaining insight into your individual process. 

What does an exegesis include?

An exegesis is a formal piece of writing so it should be carefully formatted, grammatically correct and use a paragraph structure.  An exegesis can take many different forms, so always check with your lecturer what format is appropriate. However, there are some key components:


This section briefly describes the work itself, why it is important to you and to your reader, and provides a road map for what follows.


This section discusses how the form, content and materials of the creative work relate to the purpose and function of the work.

In doing so, it may explore the following questions:

  • What processes have you used and why?
  • In what way was your process in making the work one of systematic research?
  • How have your initial ideas been shaped or changed by practical considerations?

Space may be given to thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of different materials and methods, and whether any technological limitations and advances have influenced the project. If a theoretical lens (feminism, Marxism) is employed, it can be discussed here.


This section discusses the work in terms of the contemporary artistic, cultural, theoretical and historical context. It may also discuss the personal context of the artist and how this has shaped the research question. This section normally includes a literature review and /or a practice review. 

Discussion / Findings

This important section discusses the creative work in detail, and closely analyses individual aspects of the work in relation to the ideas and theories outlined in sections 2 and 3. This section is often the most substantial part of the exegesis.


This section should not normally include any new material.