Since the formal recognition of practice-led research in the 1990s, many higher research degree candidates in art, design and media have submitted creative works along with an accompanying written document or ‘exegesis’ for examination. Various models for the exegesis have been proposed in university guidelines and academic texts during the past decade, and students and supervisors have experimented with its contents and structure. With a substantial number of exegeses submitted and archived, it has now become possible to move beyond proposition to empirical analysis. In this article we present the findings of a content analysis of a large, local sample of submitted exegeses. We identify the emergence of a persistent pattern in the types of content included as well as overall structure. Besides an introduction and conclusion, this pattern includes three main parts, which can be summarized as situating concepts (conceptual definitions and theories); precedents of practice (traditions and exemplars in the field); and researcher’s creative practice (the creative process, the artifacts produced and their value as research). We argue that this model combines earlier approaches to the exegesis, which oscillated between academic objectivity, by providing a contextual framework for the practice, and personal reflexivity, by providing commentary on the creative practice. But this model is more than simply a hybrid: it provides a dual orientation, which allows the researcher to both situate their creative practice within a trajectory of research and do justice to its personally invested poetics. By performing the important function of connecting the practice and creative work to a wider emergent field, the model helps to support claims for a research contribution to the field. We call it a connective model of exegesis.