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.
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 following links
provide access to a number of sites which contain quite substantive
information on action research and its practice.
- 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.
Useful papers on
the history and application of action research include:
- 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?
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
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.
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
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.
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:
- 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.
on-line journals and bibliographies can be accessed from:
- QUALPAGE Judy Norris' guide to on-line resource for qualitative
- 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
- 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.
- 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.