Action research comprises a family of research methodologies which aim to pursue action and research outcomes at the same time (PAR, action learning, soft systems methodology, etc.). It therefore has some components which resemble consultancy or change agency, and some which resemble field research. The focus is action to improve a situation and the research is the conscious effort, as part of the process, to formulate public knowledge that adds to theories of action that promote or inhibit learning in behavioural systems. In this sense the participatory action researcher is a practitioner, an interventionist seeking to help improve client systems. However, lasting improvement requires that the participatory action researcher help clients to change themselves so that their interactions will create these conditions for inquiry and learning”. Hence to the aims of contributing to the practical improvement of problem situations and to the goals of developing public knowledge we can add a third aim of participatory action research, to develop the self -help competencies of people facing problems.

The principles of action research can be seen to underpin the development and improvement of practice in all the fields of inquiry within this site. The concept of “learning by doing” in which learning is perceived as experiential and reflexive (see ../change & learning/) is fundamental to this approach. It recognises that people learn through the active adaptation of their existing knowledge in response to their experiences with other people and their environment. Moreover, the process of building on experience is a natural one for most people and action research provides a framework for formalising and making this process more effective. By making explicit and documenting the processes by which individuals carry out their activities and problem solving processes allows for the fine tuning and improvement of these processes. And while action research is inherently a collaborative approach, it is also useful as an approach to one's individual work.

    • The role of action research in environmental management In this paper Will Allen outlines the underlying concepts of action research in more detail. Some differences between action research and mainstream science are then explained, particularly to justify its use as an appropriate methodology to address social and institutional issues related to improving environmental management. Some more practical details of practising action research are then discussed. Finally the process of critical reflection in action research is highlighted, and an illustration of how it's use in practice can help in getting people to think more deeply about the use of environmental practices is outlined.

The following links provide access to a number of sites which contain quite substantive information on action research and its practice.

    • Action Research International a refereed on-line journal of action research. See Paper 1: Pam Swepson (1998): Separating the ideals of research from the methodology of research, either action research or science, can lead to better research; and Paper 2: Yoland Wadsworth (1998) What is Participatory Action Research?

    • Action Research Resources This recently updated site by Bob Dick provides comprehensive links and material to key action research, action learning and related resources. This site also acts as home to Areol, action research and evaluation on line, which is a set of on-line learning sessions provided (as a 15-week public on-line course offered each semester) as a public service by Southern Cross University and the Institute of Workplace Research Learning and Development.

    • PARnet A major web resource for students, faculty, and other practitioners involved in social research for social change. This site has recently been redesigned to encourage the sharing of information (available literature, new tools, web resources) among practicioners.

    • Action Research Electronic Reader (AROW) site at the University of Sydney. Home to a number of on-line action research learning resources including a reading list, links to recent publications, the Action Research Electronic Reader, and links to other resources on the Web.

      Action Research Resources A comprehensive collection of on-line papers and other resources hosted by the Denver campus of the University of Colorado

    • Organizational Development and Action Science The aim of this site from the Action Science Network is to accurately describe and efficiently demonstrate the theory and practice of Action Science, a strategy of organizational development -- defined and vigorously advanced primarily by Dr. Chris Argyris over the past 50 years. (In the field of Organizational Development, Action Science is also known as Action Inquiry, Action Research, and Organizational Learning.) The Network also maintains a comprehensive bibliography of books and articles by Chris Argyris.

Useful papers on the history and application of action research include:
    • A Set of Principles for Conducting and Evaluating Interpretive Field Studies in Information Systems This paper by Heinz K. Klein and Michael D. Myers discusses the conduct and evaluation of interpretive research in information systems. While the conventions for evaluating information systems case studies conducted according to the natural science model of social science are now widely accepted, this is not the case for interpretive field studies. A set of principles for the conduct and evaluation of interpretive field research in information systems is proposed, along with their philosophical rationale. The intention of the paper is to further reflection and debate on the important subject of grounding interpretive research methodology.

Action research is becoming increasingly popular as a methodology for student projects. Sites with practical tips on how best to conduct and write up a successful action research project include: Some useful links on other social research resources and methodological approaches include:
    • QUALPAGE Judy Norris' guide to on-line resource for qualitative researchers.

    • Knowledge Base Home Page an online hypertext textbook on applied social research methods that covers everything you want to know about defining a research question, sampling, measurement, research design and data analysis.

    • Qualitative Research in Information Systems This site aims to provide qualitative researchers in IS - and those wanting to know how to do qualitative research - with useful information on the conduct, evaluation and publication of qualitative research. Qualitative researchers can be found in many disciplines and fields, using a variety of approaches, methods and techniques. In Information Systems, there has been a general shift in IS research away from technological to managerial and organizational issues, hence an increasing interest in the application of qualitative research methods.

    • Summary Notes of Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article A thought provoking piece that reflects upon the essence and the philosophy of writing, and the fears, anxieties, joys and frustrations involved in the process, in a down to earth tone.

    • How to do research Aimed at post-graduate students who may have no formal training in the processes of research. The objectives of this material are to allow new researchers to immediately increase their knowledge of the research processes and get started on their projects sooner.

Discussion groups, on-line journals and bibliographies can be accessed from:
    • action research list

    • References on Action Research Part of the ISWORLD network. After a brief introduction which suggests those works which are essential reading for newcomers to the field, the list is organized into two parts: the first part lists some important citations related to the approach in other disciplines (including the source disciplines), the second lists citations related to the approach in Information Systems.