In 2005 the Arts and Humanities Research Council initiated a review of practice-led research in art, design and architecture. The purpose of the review was to develop a ‘comprehensive map of recent and current research activity in the area’. What quickly became obvious to the team that won the bid to run the review (led by the three authors) was that to map activity one first had to attempt to define it. The term ‘practice-led research’ means many different things to different people and so immediately raises debate. The positions range from those who believe that the act of making or designing alone constitutes research, to those who believe that research (as analytical activity) is incommensurable with design (as synthetic activity). For the former, the knowledge contained within the artefact is self-evident and beyond the need for additional explication; for the latter, knowledge resides outside the artefact and in the realm of its dissemination and interpretation. The importance of the AHRC review is not that it will settle these arguments, but that it will provide a much firmer context in which to place them.